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How this Mississauga shelter is working to help women and children fleeing abuse

Peel Region seeing disturbing start to 2020
WATCH ABOVE: Two of the three Peel Region’s homicides have been domestic-related. Catherine McDonald reports.

On a quiet street in Mississauga is a shelter for women and children fleeing abuse that has been in operation since 2015.

It looks like every other home on the block except inside this so-called Nisa Home. Nisa means women in Arabic, and this shelter has four bedrooms catering to immigrant, refugee, and Muslim women and their children experiencing domestic abuse.

Yasmine Youssef, the national manager for Nisa Homes, said the shelter has room for 14 to 15 clients at any one time. It usually has a waiting list of at least five families and is considered a transitional shelter.

READ MORE: Almost half of all Peel Region homicides to date in 2019 were domestic-related

“If we know that their partner lives in a vicinity close by, we tell them, ‘This is not safe for you.’ We tell them, ‘It’s better to go somewhere else,'” she said.

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“If we know that their partner is, for example, actively looking for them or actively dangerous, then we will be like, ‘OK, it’s better you go to a shelter with 24-7 security and all of that’ — more than happy to have you come.”

The shelter has security cameras inside and outside as well as security guards that patrol the neighbourhood. All clients, volunteers and staff are asked to sign a confidentiality agreement.

‘She lit up all of our lives’: Friends remember woman who was fatally stabbed in Peel Region
‘She lit up all of our lives’: Friends remember woman who was fatally stabbed in Peel Region

Youseff agreed to let Global News come in and tour the facility in order to encourage women experiencing abuse to seek help, and said many of her clients have barriers that prevent them from leaving their spouses.

“I think one of the biggest barriers we have is there’s a lack of understanding, there’s a lack of knowledge, there’s a lack of information regarding the resources,” she said.

“It’s not something we talk about. A lot of them come with a lot of cultural baggage. A lot of, back home, if there’s an issue in the family, you deal with it as a family. You don’t let anyone know — you deal with it.”

As a result, Youseff explained it’s often difficult to break through that and explain to clients that it is a safety issue and not a family issue.

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“They need to get out, they need to get help and there’s nothing wrong with that,” she said.

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“There are people that understand where you’re from, that speak your language, that understand your religion and your culture, and can help you.”

Youseff said she is saddened by recent statistics in Peel Region. Two of the three homicides in 2020 have been domestic-related, according to Peel Regional Police.

In the most recent incident, investigators alleged 25-year-old Brittney Newman was fatally stabbed by her former partner in her Mississauga home.

READ MORE: Mississauga woman stabbed in home, suspect charged with murder were in past relationship: police

Also in the home were Newman and the suspect’s two children, both of whom are under six years old. They were uninjured during the incident.

Twenty-seven-year-old Abdiljibar Mahamoud was charged with second-degree murder. He was scheduled to appear in a Brampton court on Monday for a bail hearing. The allegations haven’t been proven in court.

Meanwhile, officers encouraged anyone feeling threatened by their partner to call them.

“We ultimately want to be dealing with safety here and we do that by connecting with community resources,” said Const. Heather Cannon.

READ MORE: Ex-husband wanted after woman found dead in Brampton, police say

“If charges need to be laid, and then within the courts, we’re asking for specific conditions if they are released.”

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Police also encouraged victims to create a personal safety plan and if applicable, a children’s safety plan.

— With files from Nick Westoll