What is the system challenge?

Street-involved and marginalized women –those living on and/or working on the streets– often lack access to reliable and useful legal and justice-related information and resources that can help them identify and resolve minor legal issues in their lives. Many of these women are unaware that these issues can and should be addressed through the legal system, and that they can become more severe if not dealt with.

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

  • being bounced around;
  • difficulty figuring out the complexities of the justice system;
  • lengthy waitlists;
  • the need to travel to appointments with limited means of transportation;
  • mobility challenges (especially among older women and people with physical challenges); and
  • a lack of trust in unknown institutions and services.

What are we doing about it?

The Toronto Justice Service Collaborative partnered with the Fred Victor Women’s 24/7 Drop-in Program to create the Women’s Justice and Legal Walk-in Service. Lawyers and other legal professionals provide women with tiered support that responds to the intensity of their needs and unique circumstances. This approach includes general group legal information sessions, basic screening and assessments for legal issues, referrals, and one-on-one consultations.

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

  • build an understanding among these women of how justice and legal processes impact a person’s life;
  • improve marginalized women’s ability to access and navigate legal services and supports; and
  • address their questions and concerns about the legal and justice system.
?What's this?

Full Implementation

After piloting the process of bringing community legal and justice support staff into the drop-in, staff from the Fred Victor 24-hour Drop-in assumed responsibility for maintaining relationships with community justice partners and tracking all associated data.

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


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.