YWCA Toronto | 2023 Annual Report

Message from our Board President & Chief Executive Officer

2023 was a year of meaningful growth for YWCA Toronto. While we were confronted with similar challenges to those faced in 2022—a housing crisis, increased poverty, and epidemic levels of gender-based violence, we persevered. We remained steadfast in our advocacy efforts to advance gender equity, and provided adaptive and transformative programming that ensured women, girls and gender diverse individuals could access housing, and build sustainable lives free from violence.

Notably, 2023 marked YWCA Toronto’s 150th anniversary. We commemorated this milestone through the launch of a year long celebratory campaign, beginning with the City of Toronto proclaiming February 22, YWCA Toronto Day. Celebrations continued at YWCA Canada’s annual meeting as we were recognized for our advocacy work. Rich Indigenous teachings were shared at this annual gathering of YWCAs across the country, and our place in the international feminist movement was re-affirmed.

Driven by community action, YWCA Toronto led efforts to see the City unanimously pass a motion to declare intimate partner violence and gender-based violence an epidemic – a significant step toward ending gender-based violence.

Embracing growth, we invested in new roles to strengthen our work. A Manager of Administration was created to lead an Association-wide evaluation process. To help implement the recommendations of our racial equity audit, a Senior Manager of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion was hired. Additionally, we added a second Employment and Training Director to address the growing employment landscape, and to enhance staff supports, a Wellness Co-ordinator position was developed.

Our 2023 Annual Report presents moving stories, and demonstrates progress—all possible because of the commitment of our donors, funders, community partners and staff. Thank you! Together, we will continue to help our communities build what they dream of most—a promising future.

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


I did not grow up talking about my feelings, so when my three children and I left my abusive partner last year, I did not know what to do with all of the emotions I was feeling. While I have a wonderful group of friends and family who helped me navigate some of my feelings, I needed the support of a community, where my children and I could share our experiences and our full selves.

YWCA Toronto’s Adventures in Sharing program was referred to me as an arts-based support group for women, gender diverse parents and their children who have experienced violence in the home, but it turned out to be so much more. I was nervous to join the program at first, but I knew that it would be a critical step for my children and me to take. We had been struggling for months with the emotional and physical trauma that we had gone through.

What I experienced through the Adventures in Sharing program was life-changing. With the help of the incredibly caring facilitators, expressive arts became a way for my children and me to work through our feelings, and find community with other survivors of violence. The program gave us the tools we needed to rebuild the parts of our family bond impacted by abuse and violence.

Now, my kids and I look forward to Adventures in Sharing every week. It has become an important part of our time together as a family, and I am grateful for the wonderful community we have become a part of through the program. Survivors need a space like this: a space where we feel safe, where we can feel supported and express ourselves, and where we can heal.


At YWCA Toronto, we recognize that everyone’s healing journey is unique, and as such, we offer a range of therapeutic models, including expressive arts-based therapy. Our Adventures in Sharing program offers avenues for survivors of violence to explore art expression while also providing a space for reflection, healing, and growth.

In its inaugural year, 2023, YWCA Toronto’s Adventures in Sharing program supported 22 participants, ranging from 5 to 24 years old. Program participants utilized expressive arts including visual arts, creative writing, movement, mindfulness, and music as tools for self-discovery, self-expression and healing. Our expressive arts therapy programs, including Breakthrough, Inspirations Studio, Here to Help, Choices for Living and Adventures in Sharing, work to meet the diverse cultural and linguistic needs of survivors of violence, recognizing that art can offer a common language of expression. This creative, therapeutic and skill-building work fosters confidence, community, passion and joy.

Through the Public Health Agency of Canada, and in partnership with the University of Toronto, Adventures in Sharing participants provided feedback on the impact of expressive arts-based interventions during the program evaluation process. Their responses strengthen the knowledge base on how expressive arts can empower and equip caregivers and children who have survived violence with the opportunities to address their trauma.

YWCA Toronto’s Inspiration Studios, similarly, recognizes the transformative power of art as a catalyst for healing, gaining self-confidence and developing as an artist, through the skillbuilding work of pottery.

Collaboration, donor support and the commitment of our staff enables us to offer these transformative and unique art-based programs.


I believe that the valuable experience one can have at YWCA Toronto’s Camp Tapawingo is immeasurable.

At six years old, I attended YWCA Toronto’s Camp Tapawingo and immediately fell in love with it. In my teens, I relished the thought of returning to my friends at camp and the prospect of new experiences every year. Fast forward to 2024, and I am a proud YWCA Toronto Camp Tapawingo staff member.

As Camp Tapawingo’s Community Outreach and Diversity Section Head, I help our campers build confidence and gain a sense of empowerment through outdoor education. 2023 was an important year as Camp Tapawingo implemented a plan to create a more inclusive and equitable camp experience.

Collaborations, such as that with the Parry Sound Friendship Centre, greatly contributed to our efforts to bolster the camp experience. Through this partnership, campers had the opportunity to learn from a Knowledge Keeper about medicinal plants, and from an Indigenous men’s drumming group, who shared songs and teachings. Campers were completely enthralled with these unique learning opportunities.

Camp’s ability to become more inclusive is directly linked to the collective efforts of our staff and partnerships with diverse community organizations. And, while change takes time, campers have already expressed seeing themselves better reflected in staff, programing, and other campers.

My mom sending me on the bus to camp, all those years ago, was one of the best decisions she could have made for me. YWCA’s Camp Tapawingo changes lives and shapes young leaders of tomorrow, like me.


Every year, YWCA Toronto’s Camp Tapawingo offers campers a unique opportunity to learn, grow, and develop long-lasting friendships and connections. As a three-season camping and outdoor education site on Georgian Bay, Camp Tapawingo welcomed over 700 girls and gender diverse youth in 2023.

Ensuring an inclusive and equitable camp experience is of the utmost importance to YWCA Toronto. In 2023, Camp Tapawingo prioritized the advancement of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), in all of its programs and services. To support this important work, we created a new position whose responsibility is to ensure that our diversity goals and campers’ culturally specific needs are met. Our re-affirmed DEI goals also resulted in a renewed partnership with the Parry Sound Friendship Centre and welcoming participants from the Native Women’s Resource Centre to camp.

Notably, we offered 116 camperships—a scholarship, for girls and gender diverse youth who would otherwise not be able to afford camp.

YWCA Toronto’s Camp Tapawingo’s belief in the potential of girls and gender diverse youth is unwavering. Our programs support leadership skill development and the building of meaningful peer connections, which help girls and gender diverse youth to realize their fullest potential. The magic of Camp Tapawingo is unmatched and something we are proud to foster.


I love my profession. As a Child and Youth Worker at YWCA Toronto’s Women’s Shelter, an emergency Violence Against Women shelter, I help children find safety and heal from violence. Whether I am providing one-on-one counselling, finding supports in the community or helping with school assignments, I am working to make sure that the children we serve have the best opportunities to succeed.

Sometimes, it can be challenging to see these children and youth struggling with trauma, especially when I know what it feels like to be in their shoes. Seeing and being able to relate to their struggles, and knowing I have an opportunity to shed light on their day, is what motivates me to create space for the children in our program to just be kids. We have movie nights and outings around the city, and I help ensure that their school breaks are full of opportunities to have fun and try something new. I aim to foster a sense of community amongst the children and it is extremely rewarding to watch their friendships form and grow.

While it is heartbreaking to grasp that these children have had to witness and endure violence, to see them regain their sense of self, and then flourish, is a gift.

I am grateful for my role at YWCA Toronto’s Women’s Shelter. It allows me to give back to our community and help children and youth attain both safety and hope for a bright future.


No one should be forced to remain in a violent situation or return to a violent partner simply because they cannot secure safe and affordable housing. For many women, gender diverse people, and their dependents fleeing violence, emergency shelters serve as a first step in rebuilding lives and futures free from abuse. Since opening its doors in September 1991, YWCA Toronto’s Women’s Shelter remains the only emergency Violence Against Women (VAW) shelter in East York. For more than 30 years, the shelter has provided a safe haven for people fleeing violence, where basic needs are met, and a plethora of support services are provided.

In 2023, the shelter welcomed 40 children and 24 parents. Notably, many toddlers and newborns stayed at the shelter last year, with 16 children under the age of five.

The work at the Women’s Shelter, and our three other shelters, is intrinsically linked to our long history as a housing provider. Unaffordable housing, financial insecurity, and limited access to support services exacerbate experiences of intimate partner violence. We believe housing is a human right and central to an individual’s ability to flourish. This is why we take a holistic approach to addressing gender-based violence. It is not only through our dedicated shelter staff, but our housing staff, community development workers, children and youth workers and so many others who contribute to our service ecosystem, that we are able to offer women, gender diverse people and their families a safe place to heal, and to hope.


Working with YWCA Toronto for almost 17 years seems to have flown by. Throughout my tenure, I have been reminded most of the value of my work when I witness acts of kindness between the women staying at our shelters. Because of the supports we provide, women are hopeful and able to rebuild their lives beyond their trauma.

In 2007, in my first role as an Immigration Worker with YWCA Toronto’s Women’s Shelter, I recall helping newcomer women and their families as they started new lives in Canada. I had a deep appreciation for and understanding of these women as I had only immigrated from Colombia in 2004.

Today, as a Transitional and Housing Support Worker at YWCA Toronto’s Arise Shelter, I am proud to continue supporting women, gender diverse individuals and their families start “anew” after living in a shelter. My work involves helping families navigate the journey of finding safe, affordable housing and moving to their new homes. I also support participants through referrals, case management and advocacy.

Transitional and Housing Support Programs (THSP) are provided through various YWCA Toronto shelters and permanent housing sites. For up to two years, THSP staff work closely with families after they leave our shelters, ensuring they have the support they need as they rebuild their lives.

I firmly believe that YWCA Toronto’s Transitional and Housing Support Program ensures that women, gender diverse individuals and their families feel supported, respected and valued.

For as long as there is need within the community and I am in this role, I am committed to helping families succeed as they move from one of YWCA Toronto’s shelters to affordable permanent housing.


For women, gender diverse people and their families fleeing violence, stable and affordable housing is integral to creating lives and futures free from violence. YWCA Toronto recognizes the value of wrap-around support services as tools for rebuilding lives after experiences of violence, and offers a Transitional and Housing Support Program (THSP).

For those who are able to move out of the shelter system, the process is cumbersome. More than 150 women, gender diverse people and their families were supported by YWCA Toronto’s THSP wrap around supportive services. For up to two years after they transition out of shelter, this programs allows us to work closely with families as they establish more independent lives free of violence.

YWCA Toronto’s Transitional and Housing Support Program knows that “home” means more than four walls and is driven to assist women and families fleeing violence by offering safety planning, counselling, referrals, system navigation and advocacy. Referrals to our THSP often come from our own YWCA Toronto shelters, but we also welcome referrals from other community support programs and shelters.

As a member of Toronto’s THSP Network, YWCA Toronto’s Transitional and Housing Support Program actively supports the community and nonprofit sector by sharing resources, expertise and knowledge, to improve service delivery, and create a community for THSP staff.

With 32% of female-led sole parent households in Toronto in core housing need, YWCA Toronto’s Transitional and Housing Support Program is there to support women, gender diverse people and their families with securing and maintaining affordable housing and connect with a range of support services in the community. THSP helps families build brighter futures.


As a proud intersectional feminist organization, YWCA Toronto believes in the power of change through systemic advocacy. We advocate on issues as they intersect with our three policy pillars: gender equity, poverty reduction, and racial justice, while recognizing that none of these are mutually exclusive.

2023 saw a notable increase in our organizing efforts to end to gender-based violence (GBV). We were energized by a gathering of GBV survivors, advocates and service delivery organizations in Petawawa, Ontario. We gathered to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Culleton, Kuzkyk and Warmerdamn Inquest, and together advocate for change. Following the gathering, and on the heels of our municipal election campaign calling for greater investments in community, we met with then mayor-elect Olivia Chow and collaborated on a motion to have intimate partner violence (IPV) and GBV declared an epidemic in Toronto. Two weeks later, Toronto’s City Council unanimously passed the motion. This work continued throughout the year, manifesting through a YWCA Toronto-led 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign which incited urgent action to end gender-based violence.

In December, we welcomed a momentous feat of legislation for the anti-violence movement. As proud members of the Coalition for Gun Control, we attended the Senate of Canada to witness the passing of Bill C-21 - An Act to amend certain acts and to make certain consequential amendments (firearms).

Additionally, we increased our government engagement, doubling the number of meetings with government officials and senior level policy staff from the year before, and contributed to numerous letters, submissions, and deputations, on systemic, gendered issues. With your support, our determined efforts for systemic change continue to actualize a world where all women, girls, and gender diverse people can thrive.




  • Bolstered support for gender diverse people and the 2SLGBTQIA+ community through multiple campaigns, a 2SLGBTQIA+ solidarity statement supported by the YWCA Ontario Coalition, demonstrations at Queen’s Park and sharing resources with staff.
  • In December, we facilitated an open letter signed by 110 gender-based violence advocacy and service delivery organizations calling on the province to declare IPV and GBV an epidemic.
  • Hosted the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, twice and had engaging discussions on support for refugees and asylum seekers, early childhood education, gendered housing, and more.
  • In partnership with the Philanthropy department, we successfully led the end-of-year Home Free From Violence Campaign which included a petition, user generated videos, social media posts, and appeals for donations through ad placements in the TTC and e-blasts.
  • In partnership with YWCA Metro Vancouver and Rethink, an external communications and advertising agency, and Iranian diaspora activists in Vancouver and Toronto, we organized the Hopeful Hair Campaign—an expression of solidarity with the Woman.Live.Freedom movement and the women-led revolution in Iran— which included speaking at rallies, launching a website (Hopefulhair.com) and a robust social media campaign.


YWCA Toronto would not be where it is today without the 150 years of donor, volunteer and community support that we have been so fortunate to receive. All that we have been able to accomplish in the last century and a half has been thanks to you, our exceptional community, who have proven your commitment to helping women, girls and gender diverse people build safe, vibrant lives.

This year was no different. You saw the disproportionate impact of the housing crisis and increased gender-based and intimate partner violence on women and gender diverse people, and you responded in step by helping provide the life-changing programs and services needed to transform their lives. During our year-end Home Free From Violence Campaign, you donated over $152,000 to support survivors of genderbased violence, and 1,400 of you signed our petition calling on the provincial government to declare intimate partner violence an epidemic.

A special highlight of every year for us is honouring YWCA Toronto’s remarkable Women of Distinction with you and your guests. We are so grateful to all of the volunteers, sponsors, silent auction donors and, of course, the 730 of you who attended the 42nd Women of Distinction Awards Gala on June 8, 2023 at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel. It was an incredible evening of inspiration and connection as we celebrated seven amazing women who have dedicated their lives to championing gender equity. Together, we raised more than $600,000 to help women, girls and gender diverse people escape violence, find stability and thrive.

While we are thrilled and grateful to celebrate the successes you made possible in 2023, we also want to take this time to honour a few dedicated members of YWCA Toronto’s community whom we sadly lost. Margaret Newall, Marguerite Jean (Jeanne) Rowles, Barbara (Bonnie) Bean and Joan Eddy were all instrumental members of our community who served as volunteers, donors and champions of our mission and values. Their dedication to helping systemically marginalized women and girls in Toronto, across Canada and around the world spanned decades. We miss these incredible women dearly and take comfort in the knowledge that their impact will resonate for years to come.

We would also like to take this opportunity to express our deep gratitude to everyone who has left, or intends to leave, YWCA Toronto a legacy gift. It is exceptionally meaningful for a person to commit to supporting YWCA Toronto beyond their lifetime. These donations have the power to ensure women, girls and gender diverse people get the help they need when they need it the most.

With your help, we accomplished a great deal last year in our mission to advance equity and justice, and we are extremely thankful to every single one of you for making our 150th anniversary a banner year. We hope you will continue with us on this journey to a brighter, more equitable future for women, girls and gender diverse people.


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.