Sistering - A Women's Place
Our Impact Why We Exist
Sistering is a multi-service, comprehensive agency for at-risk, socially isolated women in Toronto who are homeless or precariously housed. We have been serving this community for over 30 years, mitigating the effects of poverty and offering supports to empower women to build better lives. More than half of the women we work with are survivors of trauma and 70% are consumer/survivors or substance users. Sistering’s programs include a low-barrier 24/7 Drop In, Housing and Case Support, Harm Reduction, Peer Outreach, On the Path to Employment, social enterprises Inspirations Studio and Spun Studio, and individual and systemic advocacy.
Our Story What We Do
Mitigating the effects of poverty
The Drop In is open 24/7 and provides unconditional supports and a safe space to mitigate the impacts of poverty.
- Three hot meals a day plus soup and sandwiches overnight
- Showers and laundry
- Mailing address for those without residence
- Cultural and social activities offer participants meaningful engagement with each other and the community
- Peer-led harm reduction program supports women involved in substance use and sex trade, and focuses on reducing social, economic and health-related issues
Helping people move out of poverty
- Primary healthcare contributes to physical health and well-being, including for undocumented participants
- Trauma-informed counselling addresses the impact of marginalization and equips women to take control of their lives
- Housing support services help women find and maintain housing
- On the Path to Employment offers employment preparation, workplace and business skills, the opportunity to earn supplementary income and the skills to develop a micro-enterprise
- Two social enterprises equip women with skills to earn a living
Addressing the underlying causes of poverty
We are advocates for the women who come to Sistering: we lobby for the secure housing that is rightfully theirs; low-barrier shelters and services; public services such as economically accessible transit; and a criminal justice system that doesn’t discriminate.
Our Programs How We Do It
Bloor West 24/7 Drop In
The majority of women we serve are living on the street, in shelters or unsafe housing. We provide:
- Three hot meals, soup and sandwiches overnight
- Showers and laundry facilities
- Clothing and footwear
- Telephones and mailing address
- Crisis intervention and trauma-informed counselling
- Peer support groups offered in English, Spanish, Cantonese and Mandarin
- Onsite access to primary healthcare with general practitioners, psychiatrist and nurse
At least 60% of the women we work with are survivors of domestic violence and abuse; some are fleeing it. Since opening 24/7 an increasing number of women fleeing domestic abuse are dropped off at Sistering by the Toronto Police because Violence Against Women shelters are full and there is no other safe place for them to go.
Parkdale Drop In This program is open five days a week and serves poor and senior women. The program also supports specific needs of vulnerable newcomers and immigrant women. We offer:
- Breakfast and lunch
- Well-being workshops
- With partners, health education and violence against women programs
- Individual case support
Community Support Services
The community support team assists with housing and case support needs. Services are trauma-informed, and women’s self-identified needs and goals are prioritized.
- Assistance applying for subsidized or market-rent housing
- Assistance accessing community resources
- Community advocacy and accompaniments
Housing Support Services
Housing support is central to eliminating homelessness.
- Housing outreach, case management and personal advocacy
- Services to those who require support to live in affordable housing including skills development in maintaining housing
- In partnership, we provide women with self-contained apartments in four locations
Mental Health Case Support Services
This program assists women who need help with in-depth or long-term issues.
- Help to navigate income support, health care, mental health, criminal justice and immigration systems
- Trauma-informed counselling and groups, and referrals to a range of therapies
- Accompaniment to appointments
This peer-focused initiative helps women involved in substance use and/or sex work to build resiliency and improve their overall health and wellbeing. The Harm Reduction program:
- Teaches safer sex practices to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C
- Delivers outreach initiatives that focus on areas where women have little or no access to services
- Makes and distributes safer smoking and injection kits
- Connects women to other health services and self-help initiatives
On the Path to Employment is a pre-employment readiness program helping women who have experienced trauma and violence to prepare for the workforce.
- Individualized pre-employment and employment counselling
- Job search support: resumé writing; interview skills; and career counselling
- Linkages and support for training and education
- Access to volunteer opportunities to develop workplace skills
- Paid Participant Peer Employment at Sistering
Toronto’s Vital Signs Report 2015 identified that the gap between Toronto’s rich and richest, and the rest in our Region, is the second largest in Canada. And that inequality gap is increasing at twice the national average. That translates, according to the Report, into more families on the wait list for affordable housing, more people visiting the food bank, more people experiencing poorer health . . .
The realities facing vulnerable women reflect the Report’s findings. Low levels of social assistance and disability payments, limited economic opportunities combined with chronic shortage of safe and affordable housing continues to undermine women’s efforts for independence and dignity.
Inspirations Studio is a social enterprise offering marginalized women the opportunity to learn pottery; they create one-of-a-kind pieces which they sell to earn supplemental income. Based on Inspirations success, Sistering launched a second social enterprise, Spun Studio; women learn to create sewn, woven and knitting items which they sell to earn supplemental income. Spun Studio also teaches industrial sewing skills and has developed contracts with designers and boutiques.
What You Can Do
We count on you to volunteer, provide in-kind and financial donations and to support our advocacy efforts to ensure that marginalized women have access to housing and to services that are rightfully theirs.
Your financial support will help:
- Provide a safe place to stay or drop in, with low-barrier access
- Provide nutritious meals to more than 2300 women each year
- Improve the health of women who are in crisis - living on the streets, suffering with concurrent issues of substance use and mental health
- Provide a safe place to meet, a community and family of sorts, for many who are socially isolated
- Approximately 180 women a day are safe and secure, with access to the low-barrier, harm reduction and trauma-informed services
- More than 5000 referrals were made in 2015/2016 to vital support services
- Women accessed donations – clothing, toiletries, housewares - more than 15,000 times in 2015/2016
- More than 1000 crisis-intervention supports were provided
Social Enterprise: Inspirations and Spun Studios
Financial support will help:
- Expand the Studios to accommodate more women, enabling them to increase their income and gain more autonomy over their lives
- Broaden training possibilities, with guest lecturers and entrepreneurs
- Provide more opportunities for peers to become peer workers in order to increase their income and learn new leadership skills
- Provide meaningful employment for women who often have difficulty managing to meet conventional workplace expectations
- Provide arts and business training for more women to start their own businesses
- Mitigate the impact of poverty provide greater economic independence
- Successfully engaging in the labour market improves women’s self confidence and self worth