YWCA Toronto | 2022 Annual Report

Message from our Board President & Chief Executive Officer

Despite another challenging year of the pandemic, YWCA Toronto adapted and expanded to provide transformative programming to help women, girls, gender diverse individuals and their families find hope in uncertain times.

Since 1873, when a group of volunteers came together to provide housing and employment for women from rural communities moving to Toronto, to today, we have been driven by our vision for a radical transformation of society. Foundational to this vision is our shared belief that access to housing and employment and training opportunities play a critical role in a woman’s ability to advance and thrive.

During a time of economic uncertainty, YWCA Toronto provided vital supports to our communities. Amidst a housing crisis, we expanded our housing portfolio to 820 units and created more supportive services. We welcomed Inspirations Studio, a ceramic arts program for participants who have experienced poverty, violence and housing instability, as an official program of YWCA Toronto. Our Employment and Training programs offered skilled trades training to meet the everchanging employment landscape, and our advocacy and communications team produced a number of digital campaigns and calls to action for gender equity, poverty reduction and racial justice.

It is with immense gratitude that we share YWCA Toronto’s 2022 Annual Report. This report shares the brave stories of four program participants and highlights our responses which would not have been possible without the generosity and commitment of our donors, funders, community partners and staff. Thank you for being a part of our history – together, we help our communities find hope, become stronger and build brighter futures.

To view the full report and the complete recognition list, click here.


After I left an abusive relationship, I searched for ways to support myself emotionally and help my two children. Another organization referred me to YWCA Toronto’s Here to Help program, and I quickly realized I had found what my family needed.

When you have been through trauma, you feel nervous and afraid, even after the immediate danger has passed. It seems like everything you touch can hurt you. However, Here to Help was empathetic and gentle in its approach. Every person I met at YWCA Toronto was so caring. I felt safe.

Before, it was difficult for me to ask for help. I would look for supports for my children and feel good about taking care of their needs, but I would always leave myself out. YWCA Toronto and Here to Help taught me that I, too, deserve support and care. I learned to nurture myself, and the program made me feel like I am a part of a community. I also realized that I did not have to be alone and that there is a safe place for single mothers who have been through difficult experiences. These lessons went a long way in helping me heal.

Here to Help provided us with the opportunity to heal together and rebuild our family bond. The program has been a wonderful experience. If I could, I would shout from the rooftops how amazing YWCA Toronto has been to my family.


Despite much of society emerging from the worst of the pandemic in 2022, the “Shadow Pandemic” of violence against women (VAW) continued to persist. Between November 2021 and November 2022, 52 Ontario women and girls died by femicide, more than a third at the hands of an intimate partner.

Here to Help is just one of many VAW services offered by YWCA Toronto that responds to the needs of women, children and gender diverse individuals fleeing violence. In 2022, the program received a significant grant from the Public Health Agency of Canada to expand its expressive arts therapies in support of caregivers and children. Breakthrough’s Wearable Art Project helped participants share the various ways they navigated access to support through the pandemic and was our first project to be offered in a hybrid format. Choices for Living was able to hold two inperson events and continued to find innovative ways to connect through art and community. The December 6 Fund expanded its impact, issuing a total of 38 interest-free loans in 2022 for a total of $40,645 to support women trying to rebuild their lives after fleeing violence.

YWCA Toronto’s shelter services had a transformational impact by returning to near 100% capacity in 2022 as well. Arise and the Women’s Shelter provide essential emergency respite to gender diverse people, women and their children and help many find housing so they can begin their lives anew. In 2022, our Women’s Shelter placed 15 families into housing – a new record. Arise saw 23 families move into permanent housing.


I want to be an inspiration for my two daughters. I want them to see me as a hard-working trades person and as a mother who works to make their lives better.

In 2017, I left China for Canada with my husband and two daughters with the promise of a better life and better educational opportunities. We first arrived in Saskatchewan where I began training in trades at YWCA Saskatoon. I was thrilled to learn new skills – how to build the frame of a house and the basics of electrical and plumbing.

Five years later, we moved to Toronto. I did not hesitate to contact YWCA Toronto to build on my training and improve my English. When I spoke to Amina at YWCA’s Women in Trades and Technology (WiTT) program about learning a skill, she made the perfect recommendation. I took YWCA Toronto’s Terrazzo, Tile and Marble Setter program while also advancing my English through the English Language Skills Development (ELSD) program. Both opportunities have equipped me with the education and hands-on experience to build a career in the skilled trades. I am now employed by Thor Construction, which provides a range of interior and exterior renovations.

Today, I have a career in trades which allows me not only to provide for my family but also to support my daughters’ interests in snowboarding and badminton through lessons. Because of YWCA Toronto, I am beyond confident in my skills and my family’s future.


The path out of poverty for many is through secure employment. Although the economy has largely rebounded from the pandemic, many of the jobs accessible to women are low paying and low quality. Employers, meanwhile, complain of labour shortages and difficulty finding good staff.

In 2022, YWCA Toronto’s Employment and Training programs continued to respond to these emerging needs by offering innovative training to help women and gender diverse people access not just jobs, but careers. We strategically expanded programs in the skilled trades and technology sector, such as adding the Azure Cloud Developer technical skills certification to our Mobile Application Developer program, a change that will better prepare participants for the competitive tech job market. Thanks to successful outreach and marketing efforts, we also increased interest in our Cybersecurity Fundamentals training program. We developed the Star 4-Women program, which creates awareness and introduces participants to the skilled trades sector – a high demand and economically stable field.

We are thrilled to report that eight of the 10 participants from our Terrazzo, Tile and Marble Setter programs graduated and received their industry certification. Five of our graduates are now working and belong to the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) union. In our Painter-Decorator program, seven women are now employed and one decided to start her own business; six of them are members of the International Union of Painters and Allied Arts (IUPAT) union.

It is this kind of success that keeps us motivated. We cannot thank our staff, donors and funders enough for helping our program participants move out of poverty and into thriving careers.


Having a safe, supportive home at YWCA Toronto’s housing programs for over 30 years has helped me heal and rediscover my creative side. Artistic expression is a huge part of my nature and it was dormant for a long time.

At 19, I left an abusive home and moved from Newfoundland to Toronto hoping for a new life and the opportunity to create my own home – one where “home” was safe.

Shortly after arriving in Toronto, a friend told me about Stop 86, a shelter. I called and got a bed within 24 hours. I had found a place to begin healing from childhood trauma. Soon I would move to YWCA Toronto’s Pape Avenue Apartments, a 77-unit rent-geared-to-income apartment building for women and their children.

I feel very fortunate to call Pape my home. Living here has given me stability and helped me claim more of myself. I have always felt safe and nurtured by the staff who have supported me for decades, addressing my changing needs as I healed from trauma. I have a voice because they listened and cared.

Today I have lots to say and love to express myself across different art forms, from how I dress to creating visual art with paint, mixed media and drawings. I also really enjoy writing and have published some of my work.

I hope my story and artwork gives others the courage to express themselves. Thank you, YWCA Toronto for helping me get my confidence back.


Toronto’s housing crisis reached fever pitch in 2022: Toronto was the second most expensive Canadian city in which to rent. The increased cost of living has deepened poverty for many people. The city’s shelter system swelled beyond capacity, and affordable housing options remained scant.

YWCA Toronto emerged as a reliable responder to this crisis by expanding our housing portfolio to 820 units and creating more wraparound services to meet the needs of our community. Despite outbreaks and worsened mental health during the pandemic, staff provided opportunities for growth. Davenport Shelter opened its cafeteria and kitchen and launched its Learning Kitchen program, which gives participants hands-on cooking experience and a hot meal. With the remodeled kitchen, 1st Stop Woodlawn Shelter was able to provide hot cooked meals. They also ran vaccination clinics and harm reduction services throughout the year.

Community-building was a top priority at our 389 Church Street Apartments: Between holiday craft making workshops, the “A Woman’s Worth” PRIDE ball, and individualized counselling, the staff helped reduce experiences of isolation and strove to be culturally responsive in meeting community needs. Elm Centre housing also provided opportunities for tenants to connect, with many activities focused on nutrition and selfcare. In partnership with the Maria Luisa de Moreno International Foundation, Bergamot Apartment’s staff ran a six-week food bank program for participants.

We are so proud of the way our staff proved this year that housing is about more than providing a roof over one’s head: It’s about making a person feel at home.


Art has been a major part of my life for the past 20 years. I have painted, worked in stone and – through Inspirations Studio – worked with ceramics.

I first joined the studio 18 years ago. There have been times when I left the studio’s community, but I have always come back. Most recently, I found a renewed connection to the studio as pandemic restrictions eased and I wanted to engage with people again, in person, over art. I now go to the studio twice a week.

I love the new, spacious Inspirations facilities at 389 Church Street. The feeling of being able to connect with other people while making art is what keeps me coming back. You could have the best facilities in the world, but if the environment is not supportive, it is not going to be a nice place to make art. The studio provides a positive atmosphere.

I am also grateful that Inspirations Studio makes art accessible. There are very few places in the city where you can access facilities and classes for free. The studio has even given me the opportunity to promote my art and earn extra income through festivals, markets, community art events, and the in-house pottery shop.

I appreciate that YWCA Toronto’s Inspirations Studio provides an important sense of community, especially to underserved people. I hope any woman who is looking to express herself creatively, and is maybe going through a hard time in life, can consider joining the studio too.


If the pandemic taught us anything about ourselves as human beings, it is that we need social connection both to survive and thrive. Mental health issues and substance use spiked over the last three years, disproportionately impacting people who already struggled with intersectional challenges such as poverty and housing instability.

This is why, in 2022, YWCA Toronto expanded its programming to provide more wraparound supports to empower women, girls and gender diverse community members. In April, we increased our supportive housing portfolio with 81 single-family homes and small buildings as part of the Neighbourhood Land Trust’s Scatterhomes initiative. This arrangement offers permanent affordable or subsidized housing—many of them single homes with backyards and outdoor space—for women, gender diverse individuals and their families.

On July 1st, Inspirations Studio became an official program of YWCA Toronto with space on the ground floor at 389 Church Street. The studio saw a swell of membership interest from women and gender diverse individuals seeking healing and a creative outlet through working with clay. Inspirations Studio has hosted three major events since joining YWCA Toronto, including an exhibition at The Gardiner Museum.

With Scatterhomes, YWCA Toronto is helping to provide a supportive housing community in the city’s West End. We also provide scattered housing and supports for single women who face multiple barriers to housing access in South Etobicoke.


YWCA Toronto’s advocacy work is rooted in advancing gender equity, poverty reduction and racial justice. Our work is driven by the experiences and needs of the communities we serve and the expertise of our frontline staff.

Together, we accomplished a great deal in 2022. We joined feminists across the country to celebrate the momentous signing of a Canada-Ontario child care agreement and continued calling for action to address the child care workforce crisis. We led a joint provincial election campaign with our YWCA Ontario Coalition and, soon after, a joint municipal election campaign with WomanACT and more than 35 partners. Both campaigns encouraged civic engagement and urged all candidates to address systemic inequities growing along racial, gender and neighborhood lines.

Off the coattails of our municipal election campaign was our Urgent Home Campaign with the Philanthropy department, which furthered our calls to action for safe, affordable, supportive housing for everyone. Through letters, submissions and deputations, we called for action on and amplified many issues disproportionately affecting women, girls and gender diverse people, including issuing a solidarity statement on Roe v. Wade.

We are proud to engage in systems change advocacy, but we recognize that change is not possible without community. To that effect, we evolved our community engagement efforts through our first-ever Speakers Bureau with program participants and expanded community partnerships. The strength and resilience of our communities continue to motivate our commitment to seeking a radical transformation of society where all women, girls and gender diverse people can thrive.



  • Thanks to a grant from Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE), we launched our first-ever Speakers Bureau program – succeeded in having seven participants complete the six-week virtual series with expert guest speakers.
  • Worked with the Equal Pay Day Coalition to plan the firstever Ontario All-Party Leaders’ Debate to address women’s economic equality – succeeded in having three leaders attend.
  • Made a submission with more than 15 recommendations to the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women on addressing intimate partner and domestic violence in Canada – saw many of our recommendations reflected in the committee’s final report.
  • Played a leadership role in the planning and execution of a Community March Against Gun Violence, which saw the participation of more than 250 attendees and several community organizations, grassroots organizations, and larger organizations, including members of the Toronto Raptors Team.
  • Led our YWCA Ontario Provincial Election Campaign, #ChooseGenderEquity, and a joint municipal election campaign, #VoteEquityTO which was endorsed by over 35 organizations across the city – a first of its size for YWCA Toronto.
  • Collaborated with Social Planning Toronto (SPT) to lead multiple consultations to inform the City of Toronto’s Intersectional Gender Equity Strategy and welcomed a report on our findings from SPT.


This year has been one to celebrate for YWCA Toronto’s Philanthropy department. We saw so many of our supporters recognize just how difficult the pandemic has been for Toronto’s women, girls and gender diverse people and step up to give their time, resources and compassion in a significant way. We are so grateful for your dedication and generosity during another eventful year.

The easing of the pandemic meant that on June 9th, 2022, after two long years behind computer screens, we were able to connect with many of you again in person at our Women of Distinction Awards Gala. It was an incredible evening of celebration, inspiration and connection at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel as we honoured eight amazing women who have dedicated their lives to championing gender equity.

This night is always such a special opportunity for us to come together with our supporters, and this year felt especially joyous being able to see so many of you again in person. We are so grateful to all of the volunteers, sponsors, silent auction donors and, of course, to the 825 of you who attended the event. Together, we raised more than $627,000 to help women, girls and gender diverse people escape violence, find stability and build vibrant, fulfilling lives.


Another highlight this year was our Urgent Home Campaign in collaboration with the Advocacy and Communications department, which brought attention to Toronto’s snowballing housing crisis and raised funds to support women, girls and gender diverse people to find safe, affordable housing.

This meaningful initiative kicked off in November 2022 and blended appeals for donations with a letter writing campaign directed at Toronto’s newly elected City Council, calling on them to address the pressing need for affordable housing in the city.

We are so proud that our supporters wrote almost 600 letters and contributed over $100,000 to the Urgent Home Campaign. Many of those who wrote letters and made donations were new to YWCA Toronto’s community, and we are both excited and grateful to see more and more of our community members engage with critical issues like the housing crisis.

As we move into 2023, we would like to extend a sincere thanks to our donors, volunteers, and anyone who has contributed to the Association over the past year. The pandemic created enormous challenges for the people we serve, but your dedication, generosity and compassion has meant that Toronto’s women, girls and gender diverse people in need have had a place to turn to for hope and support.


YWCA Toronto’s Board of Directors is committed to creating change for women, girls and gender diverse people across Toronto. The Board ensures that our work is aligned with our vision and mission, stewards our financial resources, and provides leadership and oversight of our strategic plan and initiatives.


We strive to provide participants and staff of all races, religions, classes, ages, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities and immigration statuses with programs, services and work environments that are culturally responsive, culturally safe, equitable and accountable.

We seek opportunities to strengthen our capacity and the capacity of allied and sister service organizations, to expand service offerings for participants, and to strengthen advocacy, and movement building initiatives.

We center the voices and experiences of all participants in establishing our advocacy priorities and in developing and evaluating our programs.

We work tenaciously to create meaningful social change and equity for women, girls and gender diverse people. We specifically call out and work towards eradicating anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism. We acknowledge the Indigenous land on which the Association works, and we are committed to meaningful acts of reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. 

We hold ourselves accountable to deliver high-quality, trauma-informed services and provide programs that reflect the self-identified priorities of our communities.

We work to ensure that the resources and strategies of the Association will allow us to evolve and thrive.


  1. Invest for Impact
  2. Stand out, speak up
  3. Strengthen our response
  4. Expand programs to reduce poverty

YWCA Toronto seeks a radical transformation of society where all women, girls and gender diverse people can thrive.

YWCA Toronto is a leader and collaborator in the provision of feminist, intersectional and transformative shelter and housing, employment and training, leadership, and advocacy for women, girls and gender diverse people. 

Read the full 2021-2024 Strategic Plan at aboldpurpose.ca.

To view the full report and the complete recognition list, click here.