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Margaret Frazer House

A Woman’s Place


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By Mark Borkowski —— Bio and Archives November 27, 2007

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I spoke with Diane Walter, Executive Director of Margaret Frazer House. This organization has been in existence since February of 1984 and was named in the honor of former schoolteacher and social activist Margaret Frazer who left a strong legacy on the Toronto community with her involvement in a variety of landmark charities such as Nellie’s.

She and the late great June Callwood worked tirelessly for funding for the agency. Ironically, Margaret was diagnosed with cancer a year after the Residence was opened. In the spring of 1985, June Callwood would chronicle Margaret’s death in novel, Twelve Weeks Spring, which is an inspiring story of a group of people coming to together to give care and support in a circle of care, much the way Margaret Frazer House gives care and support to women with mental illness.

  According to Walter, “The mandate of Margaret Frazer House is to provide a continuum of support to vulnerable at-risk women with mental illness. To assist women in their recovery, our agency provides a stable living environment; counseling; self-help and life skills training opportunities; social and recreational activities, art therapy (support groups, cooking computer classes, summer camps) that foster self-worth and self-sufficiency. Much needed stability and maintenance is provided 24 hours a day 7 days a week by on-site, well-trained staff members who have a keen interest in women’s issues and women’s health.”

  At Margaret Frazer House support is accessible, flexible and responsive to the needs of the individual client, their families and the communities to which they belong.  The clientele represents Toronto in its ethnic diversity and so do the staff members of this institution. 

  The policies of Margaret Frazer House are deeply humanitarian and are buttressed by partnerships with allied agencies across the GTA; these policies are also respectful of human rights, the dignity of both the individual and the collective are nurtured and upheld.  Margaret’s is fully accountable to those it serves.

  Many women at Margaret Frazer House experience a significant augmentation in their self-esteem and sense of independence and also obtain an ability to cope with life’s many insistent demands.  The family they acquire here at Margaret’s is seen as a surrogate and the staff and fellow residents replace the biologic family for many of these women.

  In the past 21 years Margaret Frazer’s programs have continually shifted to encompass a wide-range of long-term solutions to the difficulties and challenges of its clientele.  Most women are allowed to spend an average of 2 years at Margaret Frazer House but if they are deemed to be in need of more care this time may be extended.  It is therefore not unusual to have a client in intermittent stay of more than 2 years.  The policy of Margaret’s is thus: Maximum flexibility to the clients’ needs.

  After the stay at Margaret’s reaches its term, women are provided with permanent housing in 2 locations around the city.

An example of the type of on-going care that Margaret Frazer House offers included but is not restricted to:
Informal counseling 24/7

Individual advocacy and referrals to community agencies

Access to healthcare service

Medication management

Self-help and life skills training etc

  The lack of supportive housing for at –risk women especially, women, with mental illness in Toronto are often at chronic levels of shortages.  A significant increase in supportive housing units is needed immediately just to stem the “destructive treadmill”.  Often women with a psychiatric diagnosis get enmeshed in a vicious cycle of psychiatric hospitals, squalid rooming houses or a life of homelessness on the rough streets of Toronto.  In order to stem this tide and prevent this state of affairs, which undermine a woman’s ability to recover and to reintegrate herself into the community, Margaret’s continues to vigorously militate for a safe and humane housing environment for women at-risk.  It is our strong hope to reintegrate them into community. Margaret’s management and its board of directors are currently working diligently to expand the housing options; they are embarking on a building fund for the expansion on site of a low rise apartment building which would create 10 permanent units for women who have no family except the one they have formed at Margaret Frazer House.

(416) 463-1481. 301 Broadview Ave. Tor. Ont. M4M 2G8

Mark Borkowski runs a Toronto based company specializing in the sale of privately owned businesses.


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