In 1987, a group of neighbours were united by the same cause: the pressing need for a safe haven for abused women and their children in the Parkdale-High Park community.
They founded the Parkdale-High Park Rotary Club, and began the hunt for a suitable site for everything they envisioned. In 1991, they were able to secure a rundown former warehouse, and set about the enormous task of transforming the building into a welcoming new home for abused women and their children.
Similar to an old-fashioned barn-raising, hundreds of volunteers from across the city grabbed their tools and came together. Building materials were donated, and carpenters, plumbers and electricians generously volunteered their services. People from all walks of life participated to help in any way they could.
Thanks to this incredible community effort, The Redwood welcomed their first family in December 1993. Twenty-five years later, The Redwood has provided crucial emotional, social and practical support that families need to get their lives back on track. The Redwood envisions a world where women and children live free from abuse and all other forms of violence and oppression.
The Redwood has 12 bedrooms, housing 37 beds in a converted warehouse in Toronto. Residents receive 3 meals a day, hygiene items, bedding, and childcare supplies. Peer support groups, art and play therapy, wellness resources, and parenting classes help women and children to work through trauma. Women are connected with other community supports, including housing support services, referrals to subsidized daycare and school registration, job training, and legal support. Clients stay at the shelter for an average of 114 days and remain in touch with counsellors for a year after leaving.
For many women, the cost of escaping abuse is living in poverty. The Redwood works to connect clients with affordable housing and employment opportunities. In 2018, 160 women attended the Trades and Technology Conference to learn about college programs, trade schools, and union apprenticeships. The Redwood’s Women on the Move Leadership Program coached nine women in public speaking and job skills training.
The Redwood is actively engaged in community outreach within Toronto. It facilitates workshops at local schools, libraries, housing co-ops, and community centres, educating women about abuse, and to create a safety plan when fleeing abusive situations. The 24-hour crisis line provides women in desperate need with counselling. In 2018, 491 women called the crisis line. In 2018, The Redwood sheltered 73 women and 123 children escaping abuse. These clients left a dangerous situation, receiving support and 24-hour protection at The Redwood.
Thank you to all the volunteers at the Redwood Shelter for the amazing work you do for the women and children in our community!