In a high-rise building at John and Burlington streets, Ines Rios welcomed 76 women and their families immigrating to Hamilton from Central America.
It’s where the Sisters of St. Joseph’s would host the women until they got settled into their new lives. That was the beginning of the Immigrant Women’s Centre.
“There were a couple of apartments in the building that were empty and the sisters decided to respond the needs of the women,” Rios, IWC executive director and then refugee co-ordinator. “On the seventh floor of this building lived a family and they hosted classes.”
It was 25 years ago, and this week the organization that offers everything from language classes to sessions on financial literacy to local immigrant and refugee women is celebrating its anniversary.
Just a month after starting out in that apartment building, Rios said they had outgrown the space. Today, the IWC operates from four locations around Hamilton and helps about 2,000 women from over 30 nationalities.
“We want this organization to be welcoming to everyone,” Rios said. “People and women feel at home here and that is the best reward I could ever get, is when they tell me, ‘Ines, this feels like my second home."