About Us


Our Mandate

Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region operates two emergency shelters for abused women and their children: Anselma House in Kitchener and Haven House in Cambridge (for a total of 90 beds) plus a regional Outreach program. We are the only agency of its kind in Waterloo Region.

Guiding Principles

  • Work collaboratively to end Violence Against Women
  • Demonstrate fiscal responsibility and sustainability
  • Provide excellence in service delivery
  • Retain an exceptional team of staff, management and volunteers
  • Enhance and maintain a positive community profile.

Our Mission

In partnership with our community, Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region empowers and supports women and children to move beyond violence and abuse through the provision of safe shelter, education and outreach services.

Our Vision

A community free from violence and abuse in any of its forms.

Our Values

  • Respect, Choice & Diversity – Treating people with respect, honouring choice and valuing diversity is at the core of who we are.
  • Partnership and empowerment make us stronger and contribute to our efforts to promote the empowerment of women and children experiencing domestic abuse and violence.
  • Excellence and Leadership – Our community deserves the best and we strive to be the best in everything we do.
  • Integrity and Accountability – Doing the right thing promotes honesty and integrity and fosters accountability.

Our History

Haven House

Began in 1978 in a house on Water Street in Cambridge; it was called the Rotary Family Centre. In 1981, along with the move to Argyle Street, the name changed to Family Crisis Shelter. In 1991, a new 11 bed shelter was built at 562 Concession Rd. in Cambridge. In 1998 the name changed once again to Women’s Crisis Services of Cambridge and North Dumfries. In 2002 the Concession Road location was expanded to 30 beds, and as a result of the amalgamation with Anselma House, the final name change became Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region. The new Acorn Way 45 bed facility was built in 2016.

Anselma House

Began in 1978 in a house on Duke Street in Kitchener; it was called Anselma House and retains this name today. The demand increased and a new 20 bed shelter was built in 1989 on Ann Street in Kitchener. In 2011 a new 45 bed shelter was built on Heritage Drive in Kitchener.

Joining Together

Up until 2001 Haven House and Anselma House operated as two separate organizations. In 2001 Haven House and Anselma House merged to form Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region. At that time, the Board of Directors merged and one Executive Director was assigned to manage both facilities. In 2011, the agency’s Bylaws were updated and the Executive Director title was changed to Chief Executive Officer.

Women’s Crisis Services adapted the Dragonfly as its corporate logo along with the tag line “Moving Beyond Violence” in 2007. Fittingly and according to Carter Revard, “The Dragonfly lifts us up and encourages us to believe that human courage and ingenuity may keep alive our finest human values.”

In order to provide excellence in service delivery, we pride ourselves on unique programming; some of which is outlined below.

Through Community Capacity Building funds from the Ministry of Children and Youth (MCYS) a unique collaboration between Women’s Crisis Services and Family and Children’s Services (FCS) evolved in 2006 and remains in place today. A Clinical Support Worker position was created at WCSWR; whose duties are twofold; 1) work in concert with child protection workers through the provision of clinical intervention to clients who have been reported to FCS for domestic violence related concerns and 2) provide clinical intervention to WCSWR shelter residents until long-term therapy becomes available.

Since April 2012, two FCS workers have had offices in-house at Anselma House and Haven House. The benefits of this arrangement are countless – such as our ability to dispel the myths about FCS along with having their services readily accessible to our women and children. Many of our clients continue to have FCS involvement. This initiative, which is certainly forward thinking for our sectors and our Region, has continued to flourish over the years.

In 2011 Anselma House unveiled its music therapy program to residents of all ages. Music therapy allows clients to interact, self-express and experience a therapeutic process in a way that words alone cannot. Music therapy is strength-based, acknowledging and working towards holistic wellness. Women and children learn how to process tension, stress, and/or traumatic events and situations.

The Safe Steps Program otherwise known as “Child Witness” is a group program organized through the agency.  Community group sessions continue to run three times per year, and offer concurrent groups for mothers and their children. The program offers meals, transportation and childcare to participants.

Our Education Program delivers various educational curriculums and presentations/trainings about our organization and violence against women throughout Waterloo Region.

At both Anselma House and Haven House, the “Healthy Smiles Ontario” initiative provides dental screeners who meet with children aged 17 and under. Should further treatment be assessed as necessary, the screeners make referrals to local dentists for no-cost check-ups, fillings, x-rays and so forth.

In addition to providing nutritious, cost effective meals to residents, our Food and Nutrition Coordinators provide an educational component. This element is most advantageous in that residents learn how to purchase and prepare nutritious meals, while adhering to a fixed budget. They also learn how to feed themselves and their children (including preparation of healthy lunches) according to Canada’s Food Guide. In lieu of cooking themselves, residents are afforded more time to engage in additional programming and focus on moving beyond violence. The longstanding benefits are that once women leave the shelter they are equipped with the skills to continue feeding themselves and their children nutritiously.

Moving Beyond” is a 10-week series of psycho-educational sessions which are delivered by our Clinical staff. The topics are highly relevant to our clients’ lives by helping them understand their experience of abuse and how to move forward in their lives.

Partnering with a New Lens is an innovative project that began in February of 2014. Dr. Kathy Lawrence has over 25 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist. Dr. Lawrence meets with residents of Anselma House and Haven House, clients of our Outreach program as well as clients of our Clinical Support Worker at the shelter. This eliminates the need for transportation and has clients meeting in a setting in which they have become accustomed. Women and/or children are assessed and/or screened for mental health struggles, trauma, learning difficulties, behavioural difficulties and neurological difficulties. This helps both the client and our staff to have a better understanding of our clients’ challenges and vulnerabilities in moving beyond abuse. Safety plans are then developed with each client’s cognitive and developmental needs in mind. Many of our clients have suffered decades of complex trauma. It is imperative that they are properly assessed so that an appropriate and effective intervention can be implemented.

We are a partner in the Family Violence Project which integrates a myriad of partner agencies at one location with the goal being to provide seamless services for victims of domestic violence. We have tailored the project to fit the needs of Waterloo region. Although inspired by the San Diego model, one significant difference is the direct and active involvement of the shelter. Our initiative has Outreach workers onsite and acting as an essential part of the project.

With Waterloo Regional Police responding to over 6100 domestic violence calls per year, it was important to create a Memorandum of Understanding between Waterloo Regional Police Domestic Violence unit and Women’s Crisis Services. Whenever a criminal charge is laid, the police refer the matter to our Outreach workers, who then assume primary responsibility for safety planning with victims. This partnership is unique to Waterloo Region.