What is the system challenge?

Street-involved and marginalized women tend to lack access to reliable and useful information and resources related to legal and justice issues in their lives. Many women are not aware that issues they are facing can and should be addressed through the legal system, which can cause the impact of relatively small legal problems to become more severe if left unaddressed.

Access to traditional legal support and representation is often impeded by:

  • referral fatigue,
  • difficulty navigating the complexities of the justice system,
  • lengthy waitlists,
  • the need to travel to appointments with limited means of transportation,
  • significant mobility impairments (especially among older women and people with physical disabilities)
  • lack of trust in unknown institutions and services, and
  • the absence of respectful and trusting relationships

What are we doing about it?

The Women’s Justice and Legal Walk-in Service offers support to clients at the Fred Victors Women’s 24 hour Drop-in service. Lawyers and other legal professionals will provide a tiered approach to support that responds to the intensity of needs and circumstances of women. These tiers include general group legal information sessions, workshops, basic screening and assessments, referrals, and 1 on 1 consultations

The Women’s Justice and Legal Walk-in Service aims to:

  • Build understanding of how justice and legal processes create personal impacts
  • Enhance ability to navigate the world of legal services
  • Improve ability to access services and supports related to the justice and legal systems Address questions and concerns related to the justice and legal systems
?What's this?

Full Implementation

This project is currently in the Initial Implementation stage.

How do we know it works?

I couldn’t believe what changed in just a few hours and now I can go home and see my family thanks to you and Downtown Legal Services! I know it is hard to get this result. You really did the best job for me.I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it!”

— Fred Victor 24/7 Drop-in client

Who is involved?

Project Partners

  • Fred Victor
  • Legal Aid Ontario
  • Downtown Legal Services
  • CLEO
  • Metrac

Advisory Committee

  • COTA
  • Toronto Bail Program
  • Elizabeth Fry
  • Toronto Drop-in Network
  • Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto


WJAP Project Report: The Women’s Justice Access Project’s final report summarizes the process of developing and implementing the project, and outlines the process and findings of the project’s evaluation. The project evaluation found that:

  • Legal and justice needs related to poverty law were most prominent among community members;
  • Legal and justice supports must prioritize low-barrier, anti-oppressive, and trauma-informed approaches when offered in drop-in spaces; and,
  • Drop-in staff also require legal and justice capacity building to effectively support them community members.

ODJI Implementation Guide: The Open Door Justice Initiative Implementation Guide is a step-by-step resource that can walk drop-in centre leaders through the process of bringing better justice support resources to their community members. It will help you assess your organization’s readiness to implement and tailor the initiative to meet the specific needs of people accessing your drop-in based on your organization’s context.