Frequently Asked Questions
Please select from the topics below to find answers to our most frequently asked questions
Family Court Support & Legal Advocacy
Do I have to pay rent to stay at Optimism Place?
No! All of our services are absolutely free. For clients in our residential program, not only are you able to temporarily stay in shelter rent free, but your other basic needs are provided as well including food, toiletries, clothing, diapers, and formula. We are fortunate to have such a generous community so other items are available at times as well.
Am I allowed to leave the shelter if I am a resident?
Absolutely. Women and children are free to come and go from the shelter as they please. We do ask that all residents complete safety planning with staff before leaving the shelter as well as provide an approximate time of return.
Can my friends/family come visit me if I’m staying at the shelter? What if they are men?
Yes- even men. Please just let staff know when you are expecting family/friends/support workers so we can ensure there is a private space available on the administrative side of the building. We do not allow guests on the residential side of the building to ensure the safety and confidentiality of all our residents. We do require the name of the person/people coming and will ask that they sign a confidentiality form.
Can I access shelter if I am a trans- or non-binary person?
Yes, all trans-women and gender non-conforming individuals are welcome at Optimism Place. If you have any further questions about you gender identity in relation to accessing our services, please feel free to call our 24h crisis line 519-271-5550
Can I bring my pet to shelter?
Unfortunately, you cannot bring an animal to the shelter with you. If the animal is a certified service/emotional support animal, then yes, you can provide documentation and appropriate accommodations can be made. We understand not bringing your beloved pet with you can be a barrier to accessing shelter and we will support you in finding a safe place for your pet to stay during your residency. We have a good relationship with the Humane Society who can often assist women who are in this situation. They will also update your pets shots at no cost to you. For more information regarding this, please do not hesitate to call the crisis line.
Do I have to be on OW or ODSP to become a resident?
No, violence can and does happen to anyone, regardless of income. Women of any level of income are eligible for our services.
Will I be denied support if I use drugs?
Absolutely not. We will respect your ability to make decisions for yourself in regards to substance use. We offer harm reduction support including information regarding safe use and storage. If you would like support with sobriety, we can help you access these services. All of our staff are trained to use Noloxone, and we have this available if needed. You can access your own Noloxone kit from staff, which remains confidential. While we respect your decisions surrounding substance use, Optimism Place will not tolerate substance use on-site.
Will I have to share a room?
Yes, we have two beds per room, as well as two dressers. When possible, single women will be provided their own room however when the shelter is at a higher capacity you may be required to share a room. If you have a child/children residing with you, then no, you will not have a roommate. You and your child/children will share a room.
What should I bring with me for my stay?
You should bring any important documents such as: ID, court documents, custody agreements, asset information, etc. Please only bring enough clothing for a week or two. We ask that you pack lightly due to limited space. Staff will work with you on obtaining the rest of your items and accessing storage.
Can I bring my teenage son with me to shelter?
Yes. Optimism Place is able to provide shelter to children, regardless of gender, up to the age of 18.
How do I get referred to SHOPP?
Along with other local housing support programs, the SHOPP intake process draws from Perth County’s By-Name List and offers individuals and families experiencing homelessness services and programs that will best suit their unique needs. If you have any further questions about referrals, please contact Grant Martin at 519-271-3773 ext 401.
What is a By-Name List?
A By-Name List is a real-time list of all people actively experiencing homelessness in Perth County. Rather than being ordered by wait time, a By-Name List orders individuals and families for services and supports based on level of need, which is determined by the completion of a survey called a VI-SPDAT.
A By-Name List is considered to be an essential tool in ending homelessness.
What is a VI-SPDAT?
The VI-SPDAT (Vulnerability Index-Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool) is a pre-screening tool used to quickly determine if an individual or family experiencing homelessness has high, low, or moderate acuity (i.e. level of need). The use of this tool helps determine prioritization of services and responses to homelessness that best support those that are most vulnerable.
A VI-SPDAT should be completed with an individual or family experiencing homelessness so that they can be added to our local By-Name List.
Once my name is on the By-Name List, how long will I have to wait until I am connected to a program?
Because the By-Name List is ordered based on need and not first come first served, there is no definitive timeline for when you will be connected to a program. This depends on a variety of factors, including your circumstances and program availability. Continue to work with your current housing supports (i.e. City of Stratford Social Services, OP, Shelterlink, Salvation Army, etc.) until you hear about a program that you can be connected to.
Can SHOPP pay for my emergency motel stay?
If you are a participant of SHOPP, contact your Housing Stability Worker to discuss availability of program resources. If you are not a participant of SHOPP and are actively experiencing homelessness in Perth County, we encourage you to contact the City of Stratford Social Services Department located at 82 Erie Street in Stratford or by phone at 519-271-3773 to assist you with your emergency housing needs between 8:30am-4:30pm. Outside of these hours, you can connect with the after-hours homelessness support line at 519-272-2294.
Donations & Community Involvement
For all questions/concerns relating to donations and community involvement, please contact:
Leah Cabral, Manager of Communications and Fund Development
(519) 271-5310 ext. 122
If I come into shelter with my child, will Children’s Aid automatically be called?
No, having CAS involvement is not a requirement of staying at Optimism Place. However, if you do have CAS involvement, we may be able to advocate with you. All of our staff have a duty to report under the child and family services act which may require us to make a report to CAS in the event that there are protection concerns for your child/children. In the event that we are required to contact CAS, we will always first attempt to work with you to understand the reasoning behind the report and support you to make the call yourself, if you so choose.
Is there child care available?
Child care is available for professional appointments while you and your children are residents at OP. If you require child care while you are working and residing at the shelter the Children’s Services Coordinator can refer you to licensed day care options within Perth County.
What is available for my children at the shelter?
All spaces at OP are shared by both women and children. The spaces are welcoming, safe and child friendly. We have a playroom, and backyard for Moms and their children to enjoy. Supportive counselling is available to children as well, dependent upon their age, to help them understand the family changes that have happened and to know that the abuse was not their fault.
I live in rural Perth and don’t have transportation. I want to talk to someone about my relationship. What can I do?
You can call our crisis line at 519-271-5550 at any time to share your concerns or just talk at any time. If you are looking for ongoing support, they can make a referral to meet with our Outreach Worker in a safe place within your own community. If you live in North Perth, we have an office in Listowel. We can also meet you at places such as a library, church, doctor’s office etc – we will explore the options for a safe space to meet with you.
I want to leave my relationship, but I don’t live outside of Stratford. I don’t want to leave my job, my community supports or have my kids leave their school. What can I do?
You don’t have to reside in the shelter to use our services. We have several staff available to support you in a variety of areas including: individual safety planning, emotional support, support with custody, access and support matters, housing applications and issues related to children who witness abuse – just to name a few.
My religious and/or cultural beliefs do not allow me to leave my partner but I am very unhappy with how my partner treats me. What can I do?
You do not have to leave your partner in order to receive assistance from us. We understand the situation of each woman is unique. We can help you form a safety plan for your individual circumstances. We can discuss the barriers you are facing and provide you with ongoing support.
The person I’m seeing pressured me into giving my social media passwords by saying couples share everything. My friend tells me this is a “red flag”. I’m scared to change the password now and lose this relationship.
A red flag is an early warning sign that a partner may be abusive. Being pressured to share passwords may be an early sign this person is abusive. Other signs could include: they want to get serious very quickly; you are pressured for sex; they don’t want you to see friends/family; they are disrespectful of other women – just to name a few It is easy to ignore early warning signs when you care about someone. It is important to maintain friendships with people you trust – if your partner tries to cut you off from this friend, this will also be another red flag.
I’m concerned about my friend. She seems different with this new partner. I feel uncomfortable around this person. I don’t want to lose her as a friend by saying something against him. What should I do?
Life inside an abusive relationship can be confusing and isolating. Tell your friend you are concerned about her. Let her know what you see and remind her that you care about her and will be ready to talk when she’s ready. Let her know there are places she can call without giving her name such as Optimism Place to talk and ask questions.
I’ve left my partner before and gone back. Things have not changed. Can I still get help from Optimism Place?
You certainly can and we hope you will contact us. We realize that ending an abusive relationship is not easy and it takes more than just physically leaving. We know many women are still emotionally attached to their partner and hope for change. We can help you explore your feelings and options.
I’m afraid I’m going to lose my job because my partner calls me all the time at work and I’ve had to take time off work for appointments. Should I tell my employer what is going on?
Employers have a duty to help keep their employees safe at work under the Health and Safety Act. Your employer must protect you and your co-workers from being abused or threatened in the workplace once they know about the domestic violence. By telling your employer, you can get help before things become more dangerous. You can start by talking to someone in the workplace you trust such as Human Resources, your EAP rep or a manager. The employer can develop a safety plan within the workplace. They may even provide you with time to meet with the Optimism Place outreach worker within the workplace as part of your safety plan.
How can I obtain a lawyer for my family court issues?
You may qualify for Legal Aid if you are looking to determine custody, child support and an access schedule. To find out if you qualify call 1-800- 668-8258. If you are in, or leaving, an abusive relationship it is important to identify this when you call. Legal Aid will determine if you qualify financially for a legal aid certificate. If you do not qualify for Legal Aid there are many lawyers who practice family law that can help you once a retainer is paid. If you need help finding a family law lawyer you can call 519-271-5310 x118 to talk to our Family Court Support Worker.
What is a two hour certificate?
A two hour certificate is a certificate that can be provided to victims of family violence to obtain 2 free hours of legal advice from a lawyer who is trained in family violence issues. If you would like to learn more about this certificate please call 519-271-5310 x118 to talk to our Family Court Support Worker.
What can the Family Court Support Worker do for me?
The Family Court Support Worker can guide you in applying for Legal Aid, attend lawyer and court appointments (advocate), help document history of abuse, assist in understanding the family court/law process, provide information about custody, access and support, assist you in working with your lawyer, navigate the court system, safety plan for court dates, make referrals to other community supports.
What can’t the family Court Support Worker do for me?
The Family Court Support Worker cannot provide legal ADVICE, only information, and cannot act on your behalf in court.
24/7 Crisis Line
What can I expect if I call the crisis line?
Our crisis lines are answered 24/7 by fully trained crisis counselors on shift at the Stratford shelter location. First they will determine that you are in a safe place to talk, then they will have a conversation with you about what you are experiencing. During the phone call you may talk about things like safety, discuss the programs that are available through the shelter, refer you to appropriate resources in the community, or just listen if that’s what you need. Our crisis counselors are non-judgmental, and will support each caller's right to self-determination.