In 1980, a group of concerned women came together to develop a strategy to meet the needs of the growing number of homeless and transient women in Toronto. It was a mixed group of women, with representatives from women’s agencies, community residents and women who were living in hostels. Women were being discharged from mental health facilities and many had nowhere to go. They were alienated from their families and community supports were seriously inadequate.
Sistering originally was created for these women. However, it soon became apparent that there were other marginalized and vulnerable women who could benefit from this unique service, including women leaving abusive situations, women who were widowed and pensionless, and young women involved in prostitution and drugs.
In 1981, Sistering opened its doors in an emergency shelter at Bathurst and Dundas. By January 1982, the program moved to Scadding Court Community Centre to accommodate the growing number of women seeking support. The Drop In opened, and began providing services and supports five days a week. Two years later, the space could no longer safely accommodate the increasing number of women.
In September 1983, Sistering moved to a new home on College Street.
In October 1987, the Drop In began opening on weekends, and that same year, the Outreach program in Parkdale opened its doors.
After 10 years on College Street, Sistering became the victim of urban gentrification; the building was sold to make room for a condominium development.
In 2004, Sistering moved to a temporary location at Heydon Park School. After a three-year search for suitable space, Sistering opened its doors at 962 Bloor Street West.
In November 2015, Sistering’s Bloor West Drop In opened 24/7.
THE REALITIES OF THE EARLY 1980’S HAVE NOT CHANGED MUCH FOR MANY WOMEN WHO VISIT SISTERING TODAY, 35 YEARS LATER.
Low levels of social assistance and disability payments combined with the chronic shortage of safe, affordable and permanent housing continues to undermine women’s efforts for independence and dignity.