YWCA Toronto

YWCA Toronto transforms the lives of women and girls through services and programs that promote equality, economic security and lives free from violence.

Woman stands in front of the YWCA Toronto logo, beside the words "I came to... join the movement"Our Impact Why We Exist

YWCA Toronto exists because women and girls in our city deserve the safety and support we can provide. Every six days a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner, last year, 7,300 Canadian women fled a violent household and 40% of the women living in shelters arrive with a ruined financial history. We work with women so they can break the cycles of poverty, violence and unemployment. We help women build better futures so they can thrive in our city.

Working with community groups, all levels of government and thousands of donors, we remain a tenacious organization committed to improving the lives of women and girls in Toronto.  We do this through direct service with individual women and their children while tackling the systemic issues that they bring to our attention.

In the past year, YWCA Toronto provided direct support to 11,000 people. 

Girls at the YWCA Toronto Girls Centre in ScarboroughOur Story What We Do

History of Organization

For 141 years, YWCA Toronto has stood tall in this city working with women to build a new vision for their future.  In 1873, we opened our first boarding house for women on Adelaide Street.  In 2012, we opened the largest affordable housing centre built in Canada in the last decade.

We help women and girls who are vulnerable, those who have experienced violence, those who are surviving urban poverty, those with barriers to employment and women who need mental health support.  In addition to a safe haven, we also provide programs and services to help women transform their lives and the lives of their families. We offer a range of housing options, employment programs, family support services, community support programs, as well YWCA’s Camp Tapawingo and the Girls’ Centre, which foster girls’ leadership.

We provide women with secure housing (emergency shelter, transitional and permanent housing), employment supports, girls’ programming, community connections and counselling. Our programs extend across our city, from Etobicoke to Scarborough.  We cover an area of 1,800 square kilometres in eight of the thirteen priority neighbourhoods identified by the United Way

Accolades and Accomplishments

YWCA Toronto exists to improve the lives of women and girls.  We offer over 30 programs covering a range of housing options, employment programs, family support services, and community support programs, as well as opportunities that foster girls’ leadership. In 2013, our programs served a total of over 11,000 Toronto women and their families. 

These programs are coordinated to respond to a continuum of needs from crisis intervention to long-term assistance and support.  A woman may come to us at any point in her life with pressing issues and we can help her to make the next step, whether it is permanent housing or economic stability.

  • In 2013, YWCA Toronto’s shelters and transitional housing helped 799 women and children find a safe and secure place to plan their futures.
  • In 2013, 1228 girls learned to be leaders at YWCA Camp Tapawingo on Georgian Bay.
  • In 2013, 876 people lived in the 533 permanent housing offered by YWCA Toronto.  In all of our housing facilities, we also provide community support workers to help tenants problem-solve and build healthy communities.
  • In 2013, 577 girls participated in the YWCA Toronto Girls’ Centre programs in south Scarborough.
  • In 2013, 5,647 people used our employment services and participated in over 250 free workshops.
  • The YWCA December 6 Fund offers interest-free loans to women fleeing abuse.  The loans of up to $750 are used to pay first and last month’s rent, pay arrears or assist with moving expenses.  In 2013, 98 loans helped 284 women and children flee violence.

Our Programs How We Do It

YYWCA Toronto offers over 30 programs across the GTA including: 

  • HOUSING: YWCA Toronto provides emergency, transitional and permanent housing for women and their children.
  • GIRLS' PROGRAMMING: YWCA Toronto provides a range of supports to young girls, from our Camp Tapawingo on Georgian Bay to our Girls’ Centre in Scarborough.
  • EMPLOYMENT & TRAINING: YWCA Toronto provides employment and training programs that help women (and men) improve their footholds in the job market. 
  • SPECIAL EDUCATION AT BEATRICE HOUSE: YWCA Toronto provides children with the benefits of specialized eduation, health and welfare supports at Beatrice House.

HOUSING: YWCA Toronto Elm Centre

Our safe, supportive, and permanent housing centres are social hubs where tenants come together and build communities. The YWCA Toronto Elm Centre offers 300 units of permanent housing including units of affordable housing for women and women-led families and supportive units for women living with mental health or concurrent addictions and mental health concerns.

The centre’s support programs are founded on a holistic, client-centered, harm-reduction, anti-oppression, trauma-framework that is unique in several ways. Programs are designed in collaboration with multidisciplinary team members specializing in clinical supports and community development.

Funding and Program Partners

The YWCA Toronto Elm Centre is generously supported by funders including the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care; the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network; the W. Garfield Weston Foundation; and Deutsche Bank AG, Canada Branch. Our community partners include the Jean Tweed Centre; St. Michael’s Hospital; Women’s College Hospital; Anishnawbe Health; and the Elizabeth Fry Society.

Program Impact

Last year, YWCA Toronto’s Elm Centre served 453 individuals, providing housing for aboriginal families, single women and women-led families. Amongst the women in our supportive housing units, 83%  are being provided with direct case management. Partnerships at the Elm Centre, such as the successful work with the Jean Tweed Centre, mean that more women at the Elm Centre are able to access appropriate crisis supports, especially psychiatric and mental health services.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

The Toronto Region still ranks as ‘severely’ unaffordable in a survey of 337 housing markets. A standard 2-storey house in the Toronto Region averaged $640,500 at the end of 2012.

  • 72,696 of eligible Toronto households were waiting for affordable housing at the end of 2012. That’s 3,354 more than in 2011, and a 44% increase since 2004.
  • Emergency shelter use increased in 2012 by 4.6% over the previous 2 years, as an average 2,952 people occupied shelter beds in Toronto every night.

Participant Vignette

“All of the things that have happened to me are just too much for my age. It’s hard for me to become normal. Even if I am treated well, I won’t be able to trust.”

A month after moving into the YWCA Toronto Elm Centre, E finally sat down with staff and began to tell her story. It is a story about a succession of relationships with men who sexually, physically, emotionally and financially abused her, treating her as their “object”, and their “business interest.” Her partner promised to help her, but instead arranged for her to work as a dancer and then took her money. Another partner choked her and threatened her with harm when she tried to speak about her needs and demand fairer treatment.

E eventually found her way to YWCA Toronto, “I had never seen so many women in different situations having to do with abuse. I felt a peace in my mind when I realized that I wasn’t alone. I had been at mixed shelters before, but this was different.”

She explains, “The Y was my place of safety.” She started to rebuild her life,  draw protective boundaries and eventually decided to go back to school. She describes how reassured she is by the security at the Elm Centre, how open and visible the space is, and the importance of having people around who care about her well being. She speaks of the importance of staff who understand that sometimes she has fear and flashbacks about the men who have abused her.

She speaks most highly though of the importance of being surrounded by a community of other women who understand her struggles. Here, at the YWCA Toronto Elm Centre, she began healing. 

GIRLS: YWCA Toronto Girls' Centre

In Scarborough’s priority neighbourhoods, where 55% of the residents are coping with the struggles of immigration-related poverty and the rates of violence, poverty, teen pregnancy, school drop-outs, and homelessness are high, it can be hard for girls to think of themselves as future leaders. 

At the YWCA Toronto Girls’ Centre in Scarborough, girls from nine to nineteen years of age come to our girls-only, safe environment that promotes self-esteem and physical, mental and emotional health. Canada’s first-ever full-time girls’ centre, it is a hub of activities for girls, such as last summer’s Big Ideas Science and Technology Camp.

In the past year, the Girls’ Council, (a leadership group made up of the older girls at the Centre) have facilitated YWCA Toronto Safe Sisters Facilitators’ Training sessions for nine YWCAs and four community agencies from across the province. They also participated in workshops with Symantec and Mozilla, which inspired them to share what they learned about online safety and coding with new immigrant girls in YWCA Toronto’s JUMP settlement program.

Funding and Program Partners

The YWCA Toronto Girls’ Centre has been generously supported by funders including the Canadian Women’s Foundation; United Way Toronto; the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport; the Ontario Trillium Foundation; Phyllis and William Waters; the Astley Family Foundation; the Tippet Foundation; Cameco Corporation; and Symantec. Our many partners include Central Neighbourhood House; Native Child and Family Services; North York Community House; Second Harvest; TAIBU Community Health Centre; The Mozilla Foundation; Warden Woods Community Centre; and 8 YWCAs across the province.

Program Impact

Since opening in 2005, YWCA Toronto’s Girls’ Centre has nurtured and enriched the lives of thousands of girls through numerous workshops, drop-in activities, creative outlets and leadership and community outreach opportunities. Girls’ Centre girls have participated in advocacy, using social media tools to make their young, feminist voices heard and have benefited from training in public speaking and presentations. YWCA Toronto looks forward to what these future leaders will do for our community. 

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

  • More than eight in ten young people (82.3%) reported a strong sense of belonging to their local community in 2012 (compared to 68.3% of all Torontonians).
  • More than 1 million residents now live in low- and very-low income neighbourhoods.

Participant Vignette

“I am 14 years old and the second youngest member of the YWCA Toronto’s Girls’ Council.  The Girl’s Council has been a wonderful and engaging experience. We attend many workshops and events, we get involved in our community and we share our thoughts and ideas about the girls’ programs and anything else we would like to talk about.  But along with everything that we’ve done and we’ve strived to do, we are always having loads of fun and excitement.”

When K first came to the Girls’ Centre, she told us about her home life and the challenges she faced as a young woman in one of the city’s priority neighbourhoods. She was eager to talk and share her ideas with girls like her, who look forward to a brighter future for themselves.

K tells us that she was drawn to the centre by the opportunities to get involved in her community and “actually do  something right here, right now."  At the Girls’ Council, K learned about the things she doesn’t learn at school.  She lists what she’s learned as “finding out about society’s good and bad sides, how deep gender inequality can run, and how to overcome the challenges in a girl’s life.” 

Says K, “That’s what being involved with YWCA Toronto and the Girls’ Council taught me – social issues and life skills.”

EMPLOYMENT: YWCA Toronto Employment & Training Programs

Many of the women we support face tremendous barriers to obtaining quality employment. Among other factors is the unequal distribution of minimum wage work. Women, racialized workers and recent immigrants are 47% more likely to be working for a minimum wage.

Skills upgrading, computer training, pre-apprenticeship training in the trades, self-marketing tips, connections to employers and subsidies are provided by our Employment Centres to help our community get back to work.

So women can build sustainable careers, YWCA Toronto’s employment programs added new pre-apprenticeship programs in the skilled trades. These programs help women to secure jobs in traditionally male-dominated and well-paid fields. Partnering with Centennial College, we offer intensive pre-apprenticeship training for women in three skilled trades: general carpentry, electrical, and refrigeration and air-conditioning mechanics. Each program includes academic upgrading, safety certification and full-time, hands-on training to receive Level I trade certification.

Funding and Program Partners

YWCA Toronto's Employment and Training programs are generously supported by funders including Citizenship and Immigration Canada; the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities; the Ontario Women’s Directorate; City of Toronto Employment and Social Services; the Canadian Women’s Foundation; the RBC Foundation, the Toronto CREW Foundation; and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada – Office of Literacy and Essential Skills. Our many community partners include the Scarborough Women's Centre; City of Toronto Employment and Social Services; Windfall Clothing; the Toronto District School Board; Sioux Lookout First Nation; and Vancouver Island University in British Columbia.

Program Impact

The neighbourhoods surrounding YWCA Toronto's Employment Centres have a higher than average number of people living at or below the poverty line. Approximately 45% of the job seekers that come to YWCA Toronto have no income and 25% receive an income from other sources, including Employment Insurance. Many feel overwhelmed and frustrated with their lack of knowledge of how to conduct a job search effectively.

Our clients experience many obstacles to finding work. The most recurrent of these is a lack of personal networks, lack of child care supports, low literacy, language issues, and other personal issues. In 2013, YWCA Toronto helped 2,823 job-seekers develop the skills, knowledge and confidence to overcome their barriers and build a sustainable career path.    

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

In 2011, 10.7% of the Toronto Region’s population was living in poverty. Relative to median incomes, the rate has been rising  since 1990, but was down from 12.9% in 2010.

Participant Vignette

M was separated from her mom for most of her young life. Her mother sent for M after establishing a life in Toronto and saving enough money to bring her daughter to her Canada. A young and impressionable teenager, M quickly fell for a boy who convinced her to move in with him. He soon became abusive and M was beaten regularly by her boyfriend until she fled back to her mother’s home. Things weren’t easier for her there, where tensions arose between M and her mother, leaving M feeling further isolated and defeated.

M arrived at YWCA Toronto uncertain about what she had to offer the workforce. She enrolled in a career assessment program, and followed up with six weeks of computer training. M says, “I saw my confidence beginning to rise.” With new skills, confidence and a fresh resume, she began applying for work. M was selected from 100 applicants to be hired as an office assistant at a medical supply company. M was promoted to administrator within three months. She tells us that “YWCA Toronto continues to inspire, teach, give hope and change lives for the better.”

YWCA Beatrice House

At YWCA Toronto’s Beatrice House, a transitional shelter for homeless, women-led families, we provide stability in housing while a family rebuilds its life. Beatrice House offers return-to-work action plans, assessments, referrals for children and support through legal and immigration issues.

A childhood of homelessness and trauma means that 60% of the children who arrive at Beatrice House have significant developmental, emotional and behavioral issues.  In response, Beatrice House provides an Early Childhood Development Centre staffed by experts in child development, including a special Resource Education teacher who is funded by a generous private donor.  The centre also provides a dedicated pediatrician who gives her time, talents and heart to our children – as a volunteer.

Funding and Program Partners

YWCA Beatrice House is generously supported by funders including City of Toronto Hostel Services; City of Toronto Children’s Services; the Davenport Perth Early Years Centre; DRI Capital; the D.H. Gordon Foundation; the Audrey S. Hellyer Charitable Foundation; and General Mills Canada Corporation. Our partners include Dr. Sheila Jacobson; Humber College; J.P. Piccinnini Community Centre; Learning Enrichment Foundation/Hughes Childcare; the Ontario Ministry of Education; Mothercraft; North York Harvest Food Bank; Ryerson University; and York University.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

Under pressure to make cuts, Toronto protected its 24,000 childcare fee subsidies in 2013, but subsidies would have to be increased by more than 75% to assist all 18,242 children on the waiting list in July 2013.

Program Impact

In the past year, YWCA Beatrice House provided safe accommodation for 68 families. Our Early Childhood Development Center provided 65 children with specialized education.

Participant Vignette

G and her infant son came to live at Beatrice House due to family breakdown. While here, she enrolled her son in the on-site Early Childhood Development Centre. G was determined to make a better life for herself and her little boy and, after studying diligently, she completed her educational upgrading.

Her dream was to become a Registered Nurse, so she enrolled in the necessary courses. With the assistance of the Housing Worker she applied for subsidized housing and received a unit. She continued her hard work in school and received her diploma. G’s family was not in the country, so the Community Outreach Worker was proud to be invited to attend the graduation ceremony and be a part of her special day. After graduation G acquired a position at Humber Regional Hospital in the emergency department.

She still keeps in contact and has referred several families to the services provided by the Beatrice House program. She recently enrolled in a master’s program as an advanced nurse practitioner. She says that the support she received at Beatrice House was instrumental in helping her overcome barriers and achieving her goals

Pregnant woman sits on a bed in a yellow room, looking out a window with sunlight streaming in.What You Can Do

YWCA Toronto Elm Centre

Activies a donation will support

Financial support will enable us to:

  • Offer exceptional on-site programming to build community among tenants
  • Purchase personal supplies for women and their children
  • Retain and recruit skilled community and crisis workers, including providing counsellors 24 hours per day

Donation impact

Donations enable us to continue to be the place where women and their children fleeing violence and systemic poverty can turn to. Your support means YWCA Toronto can help women and women-led families transition from crisis to safety to confidence.


YWCA Toronto Girls’ Centre

Activities a donation will support

Financial support will enable us to:

  • Continue and increase the capacity of our programs
  • Purchase equipment and supplies for recreational activities
  • Undertake more outreach activities for the Girls’ Centre
  • Upgrade technology 

Donation impact

Financial support will enable us to further develop our programs and to promote the Girls’ Centre to a wider audience, which will enable us to fulfill our goal of bringing out the true potential of every girl.


YWCA Toronto Employment Centres

Activities a donation will support

Financial support will enable us to:

  • Amplify outreach activities to reach more new Canadian job-seekers
  • Build and strengthen partnerships with employers and training institutions
  • Upgrade technology to equip job-seekers with the latest tools and support

Donation impact

Financial support can help YWCA Toronto continue to support thousands of people in getting jobs, discovering their career paths and developing long-term work plans based on labour market realities. Your gift will support our participants during a difficult time in their lives, offer them personalized support and guidance, and help them build the strong financial foundation they need for independence.

YWCA Beatrice House

Activities a donation will support

Financial support will enable us to:

  • Increase recreational opportunities for the residents
  • Purchase equipment and supplies for recreational activities
  • Recruit and retain highly-trained workers

Donation impact

Financial support will enable us to continue to make YWCA Beatrice House a place where women and their children receive the support and stability they need in order to move forward in their lives and become self-sustaining. By supporting us, your money will go towards providing a caring, supportive and instructive environment for women who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Your gift will help us nurture them while providing a springboard for future success.


Steph Guthrie
Senior Communications Officer
Charitable Number: 108229865RR0001

Finance & Governance


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