Yellow Brick House Historical Overview
Project Hostel o/a Yellow Brick House Incorporated began in 1978 with a $69,000 federal grant enabling the volunteer Board of Directors to hire staff and look for a shelter location in York Region. Prior to this grant, an Emergency Housing Task Force had been operating a house registry whereby persons in crisis were accommodated in community homes. Difficulties with this system arose and the search for a house began. Also, during this time our target group was identified as women and their children in crisis situations such as physical and verbal/emotional abuse or a housing crisis.
In January a local businessman purchased a house on Church Street in Newmarket to be leased to Project Hostel. The doors were officially opened to the Yellow Brick House in May 1979, however, the Corporation had a difficult time ensuring that communications with the Town of Newmarket were adequately maintained. A zoning conflict was resolved by the Corporation deciding to leave the property on Church Street, and with considerable assistance from the Town of Newmarket, a new site was secured at 487 Eagle Street, Newmarket.
The United Way of York Region provided interim funding to Yellow Brick House. The Region of York agreed to supplement the cost of stay for women who qualify for welfare assistance. The Board of Directors began investigating the purchase of a larger house in York Region to accommodate the growing number of women and children seeking refuge.
Yellow Brick House became a United Way member agency. The Corporation engaged in a community residential agreement with the Ontario Ministry of Corrections, permitting us to house women on probation and parole from Vanier. The Board of Directors struck a housing committee and by June 1981 a house had been located in Aurora and a conditional offer accepted.
A major zoning change was required and as Aurora Town Council received written objection to this, an O.M.B. hearing took place on January 26, 1982 regarding property in Aurora. The hearing decision was favorable. Purchase of the house took place July 16, 1982.
In January, Yellow Brick House moved to its new location, increasing living capacity from 15 to 21 spaces. Our former location Newmarket was retained as Phase II, a supportive housing residence for single women and mother-led families. Our Follow-up Programs began.
The Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services agreed to fund the following Enrichment programs at Yellow Brick House: Children’s Program, Housing, Phase II, and Follow-up.
The Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services provided funding for In-watts and Out-watts telephone lines and emergency transportation, making our service more accessible to women in crisis.
Phase II, our second-stage residence, was moved from Newmarket to Aurora. A three-year lease was signed and zoning variance was granted for the same period. The Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services provided funds for another full-time children’s worker at Yellow Brick House, bringing the complement to two full-time childcare workers.
Development of training manual for police and agencies on the service of Yellow Brick House and the issue of wife assault began. Development of a video for police training began.
The Ministry of Housing approved a shelter subsidy for women staying at Phase II. An information manual was developed for police and service agencies. Funding was received to increase Public Education Program to 1.5 workers and Follow-up Program to 1.5 workers. The Ministry of Community and Social Services approved funds for an Evaluation and Feasibility Study as well as capital funds for upgrade of security and additional office space.
A “Dating Relationships” booklet was designed for use in high school seminars. As well, a poster was developed and distributed to all medical agencies in York Region. Through a grant from the Ontario Women’s Directorate, Yellow Brick House Information Manuals were distributed to all family lawyers throughout the region. The Town of Aurora approved zoning for the additional office space and preparations for construction began. A Tenth Anniversary Reunion was organized by an Ad Hoc Committee of the Board of Directors.
An addition was added to the existing structure. Administration was moved from the shelter to the new wing in December of 1990. Approval from the Ministry of Community and Social Services was received to open an Outreach Program to provide counselling and court support to victims of abuse.
Yellow Brick House was promised funds to expand our Court Support Program and our Outreach Programs. These services are an essential extension of our shelter. Court support is offered to women involved in court proceedings where they are under severe stress and may have to face their abuser. Outreach meets the needs of women who choose to seek support outside the shelter setting.
In March of this year, the Outreach office opened under the name of Women’s Counselling and Legal Support Services. The program was offered in Italian, Dutch, and South-Asian dialects. In December, the building for Phase II was no longer available for rent and was closed.
An application was submitted to CMHC to construct or purchase another facility for Phase II. Approval was received to purchase land and build an 8-unit apartment building. Land was purchased in Aurora, and construction began in November. This was to be the last Federal initiative grant for Second Stage Housing given in Ontario. A Chinese speaking worker was hired to expand the multicultural component of the program.
Yellow Brick House, proud of its grassroots beginnings as a crisis shelter in York Region, has now evolved into a multicultural organization offering strong proactive commitment and ongoing support to women and children in crisis.
This year occupancy rate of Yellow Brick House reached 87% – the highest in sixteen years of operation. Women’s Counseling and Legal Support Services continued to grow. In addition to our Italian and English support groups, we started a group for Chinese speaking women, the first of its kind in York Region.
Although faced with many challenges this fiscal year, Project Hostel has been successful in sustaining the programs that provide services to women and their children. Once again, the shelter has maintained an 87% occupancy rate, reaffirming the need for services to women and their children escaping violence in their lives.
Reta’s Place opened its doors. Reta’s Place is an eight unit apartment building. This program enables ex-residents of Yellow Brick House to achieve their goals in a supportive environment.
A new security surveillance system was installed in the shelter and the administration area. The system has three components: surveillance, security and door monitoring.
Yellow Brick House celebrated its 20th Anniversary.
Funding is received from the Ontario Trillium Corporation to hire a Volunteer Co-coordinator for a three year period.
The planning of Peace, a fundraising initiative for the shelter, was officially opened by the Honourable Hilary M Weston, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. Yellow Brick House received funding for two and half transitional support program workers. Together with current funding for the follow up worker we now have three transitional support workers. Funding was also secured for the Let’s Talk Child Witness Program. Yellow Brick House is now able to offer more services to abused women and their children in the community and in many different languages
Yellow Brick House received funding to provide group programs to women in the community. Two workers are hired and the When Love Hurts Support Group Program begins
The emergency shelter receives funding from the Ministry of Family and Children’s Services to put bullet resistant film on all windows. The planning of Peace becomes incorporated and is now its own entity. Yellow Brick House received a grant from the Attorney General for the planning of peace. This grant is to develop a pilot project to train partnering agency to develop their own planning of peace.
Yellow Brick House celebrates its 25th Anniversary