When you’re stuck in a vulnerable situation, it’s important to know where you can turn to for help. Luckily, Toronto is home to a number of women’s shelters that offer a safe space to those in need.
A 2014 StatsCan report found that homelessness, emotional and physical abuse, mental health issues, and drug or alcohol addiction are all factors that can cause some women to seek out temporary homes. However, full capacity is the biggest reason some women (and their children) are turned away.
The City of Toronto is committed to creating 1,000 new shelter beds by 2020, and recently opened a new women’s shelter at 348 Davenport Road in the wake of two deaths earlier this year.
While it can be tough to take the first step and reach out for help, it’s sometimes necessary, especially if you are in crisis. Below are 10 women’s shelters in Toronto, and how they are supporting women in need. (Note: many do not share their location for privacy reasons).
Get in touch: 416-461-1084
Who they help: This 36-bed shelter is for women and children who are escaping domestic violence or are struggling with homelessness or poverty. Those in need are welcome to stay at the shelter for up to four months (or longer if they are dealing with legal or immigration issues). Everyone staying at the shelter shares household responsibilities, including cooking and cleaning.
Support services: Nellie’s offers one-on-one counselling, a variety of recreational activities, and in-house educational programs, which touch on topics such as parenting, health, and employment. Nellie’s also has a 24-hour crisis line (which is the same number as above).
Get in touch:416-743-1733 (or call the crisis line at 416-746-3701)
Who they help: Ernestine’s provides shelter to single women or women with children experiencing any form of abuse. Every family gets a private room but families share a communal living space. Each individual’s length of stay is determined by their personal circumstance.
Support services: Counselling is offered to every person staying at the shelter to help them cope with the trauma they’ve experienced. Ernestine’s also offers housing support, legal support, youth programs, and a skills exchange. The latter is a discussion group where women exchange their knowledge and life experiences on topics such as financial literacy, healthy relationships, and so on.
Get in touch: 416-368-2642
Who they help: This 44-bed shelter is for women without children who are 18 years or older (but trans women and men are also welcome). The women who use this shelter are often homeless, refugees, or are fleeing violence in the home. On average, women stay here for three to 12 months.
Support services: Women’s Hostel, which is run by Fred Victor, offers health care services, housing support, and referrals to other resources. There’s also a psychiatrist on-site for counselling.
Get in touch: 416-693-7342 (Women’s Shelter); 416-929-3316 (Arise Shelter)
Who they help: Women and children seeking refuge from violence can stay at either shelter. They will be provided with a furnished room, meals, and given access to a clothing bank.
Support services: The staff specialize in a number of areas, including violence against women, mental health, immigration, addiction, and employment. They offer one-on-one counselling, help residents find affordable housing, and give referrals to doctors and other community resources. They also continue to offer support to women after they have left the shelter.
Get in touch: 416-252-1785 (or call the crisis line at 416-252-5829)
Who they help: Women, with or without kids, who are experiencing or are at risk of experiencing any kind of abuse can seek refuge at Women’s Habitat. Everyone is given their own bed, but shares the common spaces: living room, dining room, kitchen, kids’ play room, and so on. On average, women stay at the shelter for six to eight months, but some stay longer.
Support services: The 25-bed shelter offers a range of support services, including legal, housing, child care, and counselling. All meals are also provided free of charge and there are recreational activities and outings scheduled for kids of all ages. The staff also speaks 18 languages collectively, and can offer interpreter services.
Get in touch: 416-961-8100
Who they help: This shelter is used as a transitional home for women, age 16 and up, who are homeless or are escaping abuse. Women can stay up to two years in a private or shared room. The community at the shelter is diverse and inclusive, with women of all backgrounds, sexual orientations, and varying struggles (ie. addiction, mental health, etc).
Support services: This shelter offers counselling services to help women deal with their specific issues (ie. abuse, addiction, self-esteem, etc). They also help women with job hunting, researching programs for post-secondary school, and finding safe and affordable housing. Individual and group support programs are also offered.
Get in touch: 416-967-6060 ext. 224 (or toll-free 1-844-967-6060)
Who they help: This emergency shelter has space for 50 women in need of housing. There circumstances vary and range from poverty to illness to trauma. Street Haven provides women with beds, meals, and clothing.
Support services: Street Haven offers medical support and counselling to help women get back on their feet. They also have a Housing Within Shelters program, which helps women at the shelter find safe, affordable housing. The program also supports the women after they’ve moved out by providing help with things like eviction prevention and pre-employment struggles.
Get in touch: 416-394-2950 (or call the crisis line at 416-394-2999)
Who they help: This shelter is for women and children who are escaping violence and are in need of emergency housing and other support.
Support services: Yorktown Shelter offers one-on-one counselling to help women and kids cope with their trauma, as well as support in finding an affordable home. They also offer transitional workshops for both women living in the shelter and those who have just left. Additionally, there are homework clubs and art activity groups for kids.
Get in touch: 416-533-8538
Who they help: Redwood Shelter provides a safe space for women fleeing from an abusive home. Women (and their children) are provided with beds, meals, and hygiene necessities.
Support services: Counsellors are available to address the needs of those staying at the shelter. They are also available to give referrals and support, and will even accompany clients in meetings about child care, legal matters, and so on. Staff will also help clients with their housing and employment search.
Get in touch: 416-926-9762 (962 Bloor St. W) or 416-588-3939 (220 Cowan Ave. in Parkdale)
Who they help: Although Sistering isn’t technically a shelter, they do offer a range of services for women who are socially isolated or homeless. Women who visit Sistering may have experienced trauma, have a disability, struggle with mental health, or are immigrants or refugees.
Support services: Sistering’s Bloor West location is open 24/7, 365 days a year and offers meals, shower facilities, and clothing. They also offer counselling, peer support groups, and access to health care professionals and settlement workers.
Sistering’s Parkdale location is only open five days a week and is specifically for marginalized and senior women. They offer meals, individual case support, wellbeing workshops, and programs regarding violence against women and health education.