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Julie Penasse

Women’s Habitat of Etobicoke client Julie Penasse (left) with Leila Sarangi, Manager of Community Programs.

Improving public policy: This time, it’s personal

Julie Penasse knows what it takes to turn your life around. And she’s willing to share her story to help others do just that. For years, she was caught in a vicious cycle of poverty, abuse and addiction. Only when she reached out to Women’s Habitat of Etobicoke for support for her children did Julie find what she needed. She credits the shelter with saving her life and giving her new direction.

“I am so grateful. Women’s Habitat taught me I’m somebody,” says Julie. “My life has been given back to me. Now I need to give back.”

Today, Julie is transforming her experience into valuable insights that are having an impact across the city. Together with other agency clients, she’s ensuring that the unique voice of women living in poverty is heard in the City of Toronto’s community consultations on poverty reduction—an effort that United Way has also supported by training facilitators and hosting meetings.

Investing themselves in the process, these women are helping to create social policy that delivers what they need most. Safe, affordable housing, flexible child care and good jobs—and no need to choose between them.

Because, says Julie, “When you better the woman, you better the world.”