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?

Initial Implementation

Women’s Justice Access Project partners are currently working together to build the skills and knowledge of on-site and partner agency staff to better support street-involved and marginalized women to identify and address legal issues in their lives. On-site group information sessions, skill building workshops, informal one-on-one consultations, and formal legal services are being adapted to operate out of the Fred Victor 24/7 Drop-in.

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

Next Steps

  • Continue engagement with legal clinics to provide low-barrier, onsite supports
  • Pilot Downtown Legal Services student placement program
  • Develop and deliver capacity building opportunities for FV24DI staff and clients
  • Pilot revised/enhanced intake tool to determine effectiveness at identifying and addressing legal needs