In spring of 1977, two conferences on ‘family violence’ took place simultaneously in Vancouver and Toronto. Women’s shelter advocates at these meetings resolved to develop provincial organizations to share information and support each other. The Ontario women met again in Toronto that spring and then again in the fall of 1977, where they resolved to form a Committee of Interval & Transition Houses. At the first meeting of the new group in early 1978, a Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Community and Social Services suggested the group create a formal Association. Without delay the group formed it’s first constitution and officially launched the Ontario Association of Interval & Transition Houses (OAITH). At that time there were 10 women’s shelters (or groups working on establishing a shelter) in the membership. It was not until late 1981 that the Association was able to secure funding from the Status of Women Canada to hire its first full-time Coordinator.
The period over the 1980’s saw rapid growth in the number of women’s emergency shelters in Ontario and the emergence of second stage housing programs for women needing longer stay in safe spaces. OAITH was instrumental in supporting and mentoring new shelters during this period and was able to hire a second staff person, the Membership Coordinator, to provide program and membership support to our member organizations. By the early 1990’s, there were over 95 women’s emergency shelters established in Ontario. As the network grew, OAITH took on numerous areas for advocacy identified by women using shelters and by frontline shelter staff across Ontario. Some of the more significant issues affected by the voice of OAITH include:
Many changes have taken place within OAITH over the years. The Lobby Committee became the Social Justice and Action Committee and eventually merged with the Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression Committee to integrate our social justice and equity work. A new Member Education and Training Committee was formed to work on training issues including anti-racist/anti-oppression training and skill development for VAW advocates. This brief history cannot highlight our long and fluid evolution, however we continue to foster our community of learning so that we can be responsive to the changing needs of women and their children experiencing violence.