YWCA Saskatoon announces expansion to empower women in need

September 7, 2023
Sod turning at the YWCA Saskatoon announcement for the Hope Lives Here campaign.

Last Updated: Sep. 8, 2023

YWCA Saskatoon has announced an exciting expansion of its Crisis Shelter & Residence, with the organization embarking on a transformative journey to address the urgent need for safe and supportive housing in the community. 

The expansion project involves the construction of a new 35-unit transitional housing development, aimed at providing affordable residential units and support programming to women and their children who are fleeing traumatic and violent situations. Additionally, the YWCA is embarking on a renovation of the existing building, under the $19 million Hope Lives Here Campaign banner. The Brownlee Family Foundation kicked off the fundraising with an incredibly generous $2 million gift. 

Cara Bahr, CEO of YWCA Saskatoon, notes that the YWCA was forced to turn away more than 4,000 women, youth and children last year due to the high demand for their services and a lack of space at their facility. 

“This project will help women and children to find a safe space to call home where they’re welcome and supported and loved and connected to all the support they need to move forward in a positive way in their life,” she said.

YWCA Saskatoon's expansion will offer a range of 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom suites, suitable for both single women and women with children. These transitional housing units will provide a safe and supportive environment for women and their families for as long as they need to transition into subsidized or market housing.

Funded under the CMHC Rapid Housing Initiative Cities Stream, the project must be completed within an 18-month construction timeline and is an urgent response to the pressing needs of women in Saskatoon. Under the Rapid Housing Initiative, the Government of Canada is investing $6.7 million, the Government of Saskatchewan is investing $1.95 million, and the City of Saskatoon is investing $671,000. 

YWCA Saskatoon CEO Cara Bahr announcing the Hope Lives Here campaign.

Sarah Lipsit, intern architect with aodbt architecture + interior design, said that while there may be challenges working on a condensed schedule, there are more opportunities, such as the synergies between the team.

“We were lucky to work with such a great team,” she said. “We all recognized the importance of the project and what it will do for the community, so we have been diligent to meet deadlines and make sure the project is moving ahead.” 

Engaging the YWCA community

Nick Sackville, VP of Community Development at Big Block, at the YWCA design charette.

The YWCA, along with Big Block and aodbt architecture + interior design, engaged YWCA staff and women with lived experience early in the design process to ensure the housing units are not only safe and comfortable, but also designed to meet the unique needs of women and their children.

“The YWCA has such a wealth of knowledge and expertise,” said Sarah with aodbt. “The engagement process helped us to establish the character and look and feel of the building — the materials, the layouts, the colours. … Their clients and the community they're working with knows what makes them feel safe and comfortable and supported.”

Sarah says she and the team at aodbt hope that the project can meet all the needs of the women and children who will be staying there.

"Each suite was designed to make them feel at home and comfortable, with supportive amenities and gathering spaces on each floor," she said. "Collaborating with the YWCA, Big Block, and the City of Saskatoon, we recognized the unique conditions that can help contribute to healing and well-being, and we hope that this new addition will feel safe and supported, welcoming, and encouraging for all."

Nick Sackville, VP of Community Development at Big Block, participated in the design charette and said the experience will be key to the success of the project.

“We imagined how a person will navigate the various rooms and programming so we have a really good understanding of how to build something that responds to the needs of the women who will live there,” he said. 

Big Block VP Operations Ben Miller recording notes from conversation during the design charette.

YWCA Saskatoon is a community-based organization that has been providing preventative and emergent services to women and their families since 1910. Committed to women’s issues, they provide services, programs and advocacy to advance reconciliation, independence, wellness and equal opportunities.

By expanding the Crisis Shelter & Residence, YWCA Saskatoon aims to help more women break free from the cycle of homelessness and violence to achieve independence, and represents a significant milestone in the organization's ongoing efforts. Big Block will continue to work closely with the YWCA Saskatoon to see the project through the construction stage in the coming months.

If you are interested in working on this construction project, please get in touch with our Operations team at operations@bigblockconstruction.ca.

To learn more about the $19 milllion Hope Lives Here fundraising campaign and donate to the YWCA Saskatoon, please visit their website.

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