Our History

Over the past 30 years, Abrigo Centre has grown from an organization helping women who have experienced abuse to one that helps everyone in the neighbourhood – from youth to seniors.

Here's a brief historical look at our history.


  • With four full time staff, Abrigo Centre for Victims of Family Violence Inc., opens its doors at 1139 College St. to its first client.
  • Holds its first annual Christmas Drive and assists 25 families


  • Becomes an official federally recog­nized charity
  • Develops Youth Program services


  • Becomes member agency of United Way
  • Expands services to include counselling for youth and serves over 100 youth
  • Becomes founding member of Dufferin Mall Youth Services, an in­novative drop-in centre for neigh­bourhood youth
  • Establishes partnership with St. Mary’s Secondary School, and de­livers its first workshop on healthy relationships to students
  • Establishes Multilingual Access to Social Assistance Program


  • Collaborates with Chinese Fam­ily Life, COSTI and Family Service Association of Toronto to address services for perpetrators of abuse against their female partners
  • Receives funding from Ministry of Community and Social Services (Province of Ontario) to expand counselling services to Portuguese-speaking communities, establish­ing Family Support Services Pro­gram
  • Expands offices at 1139 College Street to accommodate growth of staff and new programming
  • Establishes collaboration with St. Christopher House to co-lead groups for women


  • Establishes collaboration and trusteeship with Toronto Catholic School Board to provide the Pais e Filhos Program. A program aimed at providing advocacy and educa­tion to school-aged children
  • Establishes partnership with City of Toronto Public Health and St. Christopher House for “Ready or Not” children’s program, part of the Family Support Services Program


  • Collaborates with Catholic Chil­dren’s Aid Society to improve CCAS access to Abrigo Centre services
  • Establishes a collaboration with Pope Paul Elementary School, fur­ther developing workshops on healthy relationships for children
  • Creates the Homens em Tran­sicão Program, which later be­comes known as the Partner Assault Response Program


  • Partners with nine other Toronto agencies to found the officially rec­ognized Ministry of the Attorney General roster of Partner Assault Response Program, which is recog­nized by the Woman Abuse Coun­cil of Toronto
  • Starts employment program, with the name Targeted Wage Subsidy Program
  • Officially adopts the name Abrigo Centre


  • Collaborates with Bishop Rome­ro Secondary School and begins to offer in-school workshops to stu­dents on healthy relationships
  • Takes trusteeship of Dufferin Mall Youth Services
  • Starts “Success by Six” group services under Family Support Services Program to reach caregiv­ers with children under the age of six. Funded by the United Way and a collaborative venture be­tween Abrigo Centre, St. Christo­pher House and College Montrose Children’s Place
  • Collaborating with St. Antho­ny’s Catholic School, The Learn­ing Company and IBM, Abrigo Centre presents the “Techknow Kids” Program, intro­ducing young people to education software


  • Moves to new location on ground floor of Dufferin Mall, becoming more accessible to clients


  • Establishes Settlement and Post Settlement Program
  • Expands Partner Assault Re­sponse Program to deliver groups for English-speaking men, as well as for existing Portuguese-speaking individuals


  • Along with Child Development Institute, Abrigo Centre provides program for children who witnessed domestic violence
  • Establishes collaboration with Direcção Regional das Comuni­dades, Açores by participating in the first international conference of social services


  • Renames Settlement and Post Settlement Program as Commu­nity Development and Integration Program, to provide outreach and comprehensive settlement services to Angolan and Brazilian commu­nities


  • Hosts second annual Internation­al Conference for Social Services, sponsored by the Direcção Region­al das Comunidades, Açores


  • Establishes collaboration with Direcção Regional das Comuni­dades, Açores and organizes the Saudades dos Açores Program. A program designed to facilitate Azorean seniors in traveling back to their homeland of Açores and reconnecting with their roots after many years of being abroad


  • Establishes EmployLink for New­comers, to deliver job developing services to people new to Canada


  • In conjunction with Catholic Children’s Aid Society, begins serv­ing Portuguese Speaking fathers through the P.A.I. - Participation, Friendship, Positive Influence Program


  • Abrigo Centre takes on the role as lead agency for the drop-in youth centre, Dufferin Mall Youth Services (DMYS).  Leadership would be handed over to St. Christopher's House in 2011


  • Starts after-school programming for youth at Dufferin Mall Youth Services thanks to funding by the Ministry of Health Promotion (Province of Ontario)
  • Secures ongoing funding from Direcção Regional das Comuni­dades, Açores to co-ordinate the Saudades dos Açores Program from Canada


  • Launches two new employment pro­gramming with the City of Toronto and Service Canada
  • Raises record $38,500 at second annual Grand Carnival Ball
  • After two decades of dedication and service, Ed Graça steps down as Executive Director. Cristina Santos is announced as new Executive Director
  • Staff, clients and supporters celebrate Abrigo Centre’s 20th anniversary with a fun filled day of food and entertainment at Dufferin Grove Park.  During this celebration, Abrigo Centre unveils its new logo
  • With funding provided by Service Canada, Abrigo Centre hires 4 participates to work under the Career Focus project
  • Following the commitment and dedication of a seniors’ volunteer work group, Abrigo Centre implements a recreational and educational program for Portuguese speaking seniors naming it Grupo Vida e Esperança (Life and Hope Group)
  • Working hand in hand with the Portuguese government, Abrigo Centre partners with the Portuguese Consulate to provide service and workshops to the Portuguese community


  • Abrigo Centre hosts its last Grand Carnival Ball at the Palais Royale
  • Resulting from a 2-year grant given by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Abrigo Centre is able to establish and recruit a significant number of volunteers to the Volunteer Program
  • After providing Abrigo Centre with much care and passion, as well as nearly 20 years of service, Cristina Santos resigns to pursue other endeavours
  • August 2011, the Board of Directors of Abrigo Centre announce the appointment of Ed Graça as Executive Director
  • Funded by the Ministry of Health Promotion, “Fried Eyes” company, a leadership program for youth, focuses on issues surrounding alcohol, substance abuse and mental health


  • FORA , Friends Out Reaching for Acceptance, a support group for LGBTQ youth and allies is established
  • Abrigo Centre awarded a grant from the Youth Philanthropy Initiative (Toskan Casale Foundation), which is used towards a partnership with Central Commerce High School
  • Hosts the Friends of Abrigo Dinner and announces agency moving to 1645 Dufferin St.
  • On July 31, 2012, Abrigo Centre relocates to its store-front space at 1645 Dufferin St.
  • Abrigo Centre receives funding from Service Canada to expand awareness of elder abuse within the Portuguese-speaking communities
  • Abrigo Centre is given a grant from Canadian Women's Foundation to work with two school communities on targeting gender based violence through an anti-abuse/healthy relationship three phase initiative
  • October 25, 2012, Abrigo Centre hosts an Open House
  • November 2012, Ontario Trillium Foundation grants Abrigo Centre $124,900 over 24 months to conduct a needs assessment and program evaluation


  • January 2013, Abrigo hires a Youth Outreach Worker with funding provided by Service Canada under the Career Focus project
  • January 20, 2013, with financial support from Service Canada under New Horizons for Seniors program, Um Lado Escondido,  a play on elder abuse is premiered
  • February 7, 2013, Abrigo volunteers, Elizabete Dias, Segio Sarmento and Maria Zelia Tavares are recipients of the Queen Jubilee Award
  • May 2013, Abrigo Centre launches it's first Intergenerational Computer program.  The program partners youth volunteers and seniors for computer tutoring sessions
  • May 2013, Abrigo launches our new Facebook page and Twitter account
  • May 2013, significant improvements is made to our intake system by deploying a new Client Assessment Team (CSA)
  • June 2013, Abrigo Centre expands its space to include the second floor
  • July 2013, Abrigo Centre receives a 4 year grant from Canadian Women's Foundation to continue with the TAG-V project (Teens Against Gender Based Violence)
  • November 2013, outreach activities related to our community needs assessment is underway as we interview key informants to help inform our strategic planning initiative
  • December 2013, new partnership is established with University Health Network (Portuguese Mental Health & Addictions), Hong Fook Mental Health Service and Abrigo Centre


  • February 2014, client and community focus groups take place, led by our Program Evaluation Coordinator
  • March 2014, our Fado Fundraising Dinner Event takes place
  • April 2014, our new partnership with University Health Network (Portuguese Mental Health and Addictions Services) began with our staff co-facilitating the first in a series of IGBT Therapy Groups
  • June 2014, new strategic plan is adopted by the Board
  • June 2014, Abrigo staff & volunteers participate in the Portugal Day Parade
  • September 2014, our new Citizenship project (funded by New Horizons) is underway with 30 seniors registered to take part
  • September 2014, new partnership with Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto is established as part of their “Keeping Families Together Initiative”, providing specialized counselling to Portuguese-speaking families
  • October 2014, our Pre-Employment Development (PED) service concludes with final group
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