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Aug 29

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Forward Looking: Addressing Current and Future Needs


Agency Report 1016-2017

Forward Looking: Addressing Current and Future Needs

Next year, Nellie’s will be turning 45 and while 45 is a milestone worth celebrating, it is also an opportunity to look to the future and what that may look like at Nellie’s. In 2015, Nellie’s underwent a transitional planning process (outlined in the 2014-2015 Annual Report Agency Report) that would allow us to focus our scarce resources, both in terms of finances and staff time, while remaining relevant. In order to have the most impact for clients and the community Nellie’s serves,  the Board instituted a Transitional Strategic Plan focused on addressing key issues within a strategic framework focused on organizational sustainability, social justice and program priorities that matter most to achieving our mission and vision.

As a result of the transitional planning process an external consultant  was contracted in the fall of  2016 to do an independent evaluation of programs and services with the purpose of identifying the extent to which those programs and services support our mission and social justice priorities (mental health and accessibility), and the extent to which the processes used at Nellie’s to implement programs and services contribute to our success in terms of achieving intended results.

The evaluation used data sourced from Nellie’s clients, staff, volunteers and service partners and was gathered through one-on-one interviews, focus groups and an online survey available to all staff. What the data uncovered reinforced the belief of the Board and Management. Below is a condensed overview of the major points revealed through the process.


The staff identified a desire for clearer means to debrief work issues and a need for increased support as the major priorities moving forward.  In addition, Nellie’s focus on dealing with the effects of trauma means that staff has a need for ongoing training to ensure they have the correct skills to meet those needs.  Staff also identified the need for more management resources to provide support and better tools to frontline staff. In order to accomplish this, partnerships and more management resources, including being present at external tables  i.e. Harm Reduction, Housing, Mental Health and Accesibility Advocacy tables among others, was seen as needed to make this a reality.


Overall, 75% of clients indicated that the environment at Nellie’s is a very safe one.  Nellies’ is a place where clients learn, among other things, about the:

  • Cycle of abuse and how abuse and power has impacted their life and their relationships;
  • Impact of mental health on physical health and what resources to access in order to meet their needs;
  • Better skills to cope with “difficult people”;
  • Self-care when it comes to identifying and addressing stressors in life; and
  • Understanding what can happen when we, as individuals care for others at the expense of caring for oneself in terms of achieving life goals.

79% (27) of all clients engaged for the evaluation indicate that one of the key changes they experience after coming to Nellie’s is a sense of relationship and connecting with others.  Clients across both shelter and Community Support and Outreach (CSO) program services also indicate that the chance to talk to peers about problems is of paramount importance.

Social Justice

In 2016, Nellie’s started to have discussion as an organization about what makes it unique from a social justice point of view.  What emerged through that work, and is validated by the evaluation, is that Nellie’s is an expert in trauma-informed, feminist services that integrate a harm reduction approach.  The evaluation also found that all stakeholders see Nellie’s as playing a unique role in the Violence Against Women (VAW) sector that is highly valued and special. Women experience important changes in their lives after coming to Nellie’s.  This approach is a way of working with clients that involves being able to understand the impact of trauma even when clients may not identify it that way, to be able to support clients to talk about their experiences, and to be flexible and client-centered when the impact of trauma shows up in the behaviours clients may show or the challenges they may face.

The Future

The Transitional Plan offers the following opportunities for Nellie’s to strengthen its work going forward:

Programs and Services

  1. Consider a service delivery model where transitional housing staff from CSO are located within the shelter at certain times of day in order to support shelter clients to access the expertise of those staff.
  2. Consider the addition of a mental health worker in the shelter that can de-escalate crisis, assess trauma, and engage in crisis intervention as needed, to help build the capacity of the organization.
  3. Move to a more active case management model, in order to meet evolving client needs. Include in this model a more formalized assessment of trauma so staff can better connect clients to the right resources and can connect healing trauma to self-care, community engagement and life goals.
  4. Ensure events, supported by programming dollars, have an educational component that supports interventions that teach and support an analysis around VAW and systemic changes  and are open to both shelter and CSO clients.
  5. Further develop and define Nellie’s unique approach to trauma, harm reduction and mental health in order to engrain it as part of the organization’s culture,  and to share with other organizations (with a focus on organizations serving the priority populations identified in Nellie’s social justice priorities).
  6. Further develop the pathway for clients at CSO to drive the social justice priorities (mental health and accessibility) developed in 2016 can start to develop resident leadership and civic engagement training in order to do social justice work in the community).


  1. Secure resources for a new manager position, or Team Leads at the shelter and CSO, in order to provide more supports to staff and to bridge external and internal social justice work.
  1. Consider revising the data strategy for Nellie’s, in order to better capture the breadth and depth of work being done and services being provided (e.g., better tracking referrals, applications made, advocacy engagements, etc.).
  1. Revise the staff training plan for the organization, with individual staff choosing specific trainings on an annual basis where possible.
  2. Develop a relief staff training program (which could include rotating opportunities for relief staff to engage in professional development activities, a training binder/manual that relief staff are required to review on a regular basis or a mentoring/buddy system where identified full-time staff can offer professional development supports to relief staff).
  3. Continue to partner strategically against new social justice priority areas and populations.

We are looking forward to implementing the ideas that have been presented by the Transitional Plan which will constitute the starting point to develop our Strategic Plan for the next three years.  The results of that work will better position Nellie’s to meet current and future needs that will result in more successful outcomes for the women and children we serve.