Equality and empowerment: United Way (EmpowerHER and EFRY)

A medical emergency. Car troubles. A change in employment.

For a woman who is working hard to make ends meet, these curve balls can begin a vicious cycle toward poverty and homelessness.

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Through programs supported by EmpowerHER, an initiative led by United Way and Elizabeth Fry Society, women are able to access immediate support when in crisis, as well as the opportunity to develop the life skills necessary to remain in stable housing, have a positive relationship with money and achieve their independent financial goals.

By providing small, low-interest loans to maintain housing or to pay utilities that are in arrears, the Rent Bank will be the first point of entry for many EmpowerHER clients. These loans are dedicated to women with stable rental housing who do not qualify for other types of funding; those who would otherwise fall through the cracks and, possibly, into homelessness.

“EmpowerHer is an exciting initiative for women in our community. By working together, we are able to address the gaps in women’s services to build a healthier community,” said Cassandra Schwarz, executive director of the Kamloops & District Elizabeth Fry Society.

“In the past year, EmpowerHer has prevented six women in our community from becoming homeless through the Rent Bank. This is only the beginning of the impact EmpowerHER will have for women and families in our community.”

Support does not stop at the loan.

While clients make small, interest-free payments over the course of two years, financial literacy workshops are offered to foster healthy money management habits. In addition, clientele would have access to up to $1,500 in matched savings to save for an item to better their situation — be it a laptop to aid in pursuing educational goals or a vehicle to gain more stable employment.

Clients will build a relationship with staff who act as a liaison and connect clients with various community resources. This relationship and accountability is what makes EmpowerHER a success.

A new branch being supported by the EmpowerHER umbrella is mental-health supports, which are crucial for women wanting to move forward in their lives. Partnering with United Way and Elizabeth Fry, programming through the Happyness Centre will build resilience and offer tools to cope with the stresses of everyday life.

“EmpowerHer is incredibly important to the health of the entire family and community,” said Danalee Baker, executive director of United Way Thompson Nicola Cariboo.

“Women that are empowered and supported through programs addressing financial stability and preventive mental-health tools are key to ensuring a positive path forward for families. We can change the cycle in years to come with strategic and consistent wraparound supports, caring and empathy.”

On March 8, International Women’s Day, United Way will be hosting an evening called EmpowerHER, celebrating the strength and empowerment of women.

The event will raise funds for preventive mental-health supports through an evening of mindful movement, nourishment and inspiration.

For tickets and more details, click here.


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