Dear friends and neighbours,
The Holiday season is upon us. And, for many, it is an opportunity to look back and reflect on the past year. 2023 was a challenging year for many in our community, with the rising cost of living, combined with a housing affordability crisis.
The House is responding to these conditions by enhancing our financial empowerment work, including providing individualized financial coaching to individuals, including low-income young adults and newcomers.
Through our advocacy, the House is helping to promote more accessible housing solutions and an end to the homeless crisis, including working with our partners on the Social Medicine Housing project at 150 Dunn in Parkdale.
Also, the Meeting Place Drop-In provides support to those experiencing homelessness or precariously-housed, including those recently evicted. We recently welcomed some volunteer groups for a Holiday lunch.
Read below to learn more about what’s been happening at the House.
New program helps individuals meet their financial goals.
The House has expanded our Financial Empowerment work to include Financial Coaching, which focuses on the long-term financial wellbeing of participants as they learn strategies to understand their current financial situation, create and manage their budgets, maximize their income and savings, navigate the Canadian credit system, and other financial challenges.
Our financial coaches work in partnership with six different workforce training organizations, providing one-to-one coaching sessions along with a selection of financial education workshops.
Robert P. Smith has been a financial coach with the House for over a year. Most of the participants Robert serves are young people, who are often just beginning to make financial decisions.
“My goal is to remove the shame and embarrassment that often surround financial decisions and instead foster an open and supportive environment that normalizes financial conversations.”
“Financial coaches can help people to take control of their personal finances in a way that helps them better accomplish their financial goals.”
The relationship between coach and participants is intended to be long-term and will typically extend beyond the completion of the participant’s employment program.
Damian Chan has been a financial coach at the organization for a year now. Prior to that, he worked at the Meeting Place, helping members with taxes and general financial problem-solving.
Through his financial coaching work, Damian has met with many newcomers who are starting to learn about the Canadian financial system. One participant arrived in Canada this year from South America and planned to support himself and his wife on one income, while his wife went back to school.
“Before arriving in Canada, they had carefully planned how to live off their savings for a time, but rising inflation has left them with more financial strain than they were expecting.”
“The client has taken a transitional job at a restaurant while he applies for positions that better align with his training and experience.”
“We spoke about the possibility of self-employment or contract work and the implications that come with those options within the Canadian tax system. We also discussed different banking institutions and financial products available in Canada, equipping him to make informed decisions about the both the employment path he’d like to pursue as well as the selection of financial products most suitable to his family needs.”
Damian says many of the people who come to him are struggling to support themselves. “It’s common for people to say that they can’t save, invest or plan for the future on such a limited income.”
“We encourage our participants to learn as much as they can, make small incremental changes, and feel empowered to make informed decisions.”
The results have been very promising. Read more about the impacts of the financial reassessment program on our website.
Bringing people together to discuss housing solutions in Parkdale.
Dr. Andrew Boozary of the Gattuso Centre for Social Medicine (UHN) took questions from those in attendance and offered his insights on a range of topics, including the Social Medicine Housing currently under construction at 150 Dunn in Parkdale, as well as housing unaffordability and possible solutions.
Social Medicine is a new supportive housing model that combines direct onsite supports with health care access to help tenants stabilize, recover, and heal. The project at 150 Dunn will provide 51 new homes for unhoused neighbours who are experiencing chronic, complex health conditions. It’s the first of its kind in Canada.
Dr. Boozary spoke about the impact Social Medicine Housing could have on the new neighbours who will be housed at 150 Dunn.
“51 units is not going to end the homeless crisis. But our hope is that it will be the beginning of more partnerships.”
“We hope that different organizations, and every level of government come together to try to come up with different solutions to what has been a very cruel state imposed on people, now and not only for a number of years, but for decades.”
“Some have health issues because they have been homeless or at at-risk of homelessness for so long, that they haven’t been able to access healthcare. So, this project at 150 Dunn could really help people to get better or stabilize faster.”
“On average, people live 78 to 80 years, but people who are chronically unhoused are living between 40 to 45, maybe 50,” Dr. Boozary says.
“And, we know that there are major health issues that can get compounded over time, among those who are staying at shelters, living on the street or sleeping rough.”
“It’s for people who have been waiting, who have very pressing healthcare needs that are not being met. This is an opportunity for us to really bring the issue into the centre. It’s a really concrete way to combine people’s health and social needs”.
Emma is part of the 150 Dunn Welcome Committee, comprised of volunteers from the community who are working together to welcome the new residents and plan community integration activities.
“It is clear through the work that we are doing that the community of Parkdale is very excited to welcome the new neighbours who will be moving into 150 Dunn.”
“I think, it really reflects my overall experience as a Parkdale resident, where the community has time and time again shown what makes Parkdale unique, which is that it’s a neighbourhood where a wide plurality of people can come and not only find shelter but find a home.”
The Meeting Place Drop-In welcomes volunteers for a Holiday celebration.
The members at the Meeting Place celebrated the beginning of the holiday season, with a special lunch, organized by a group of volunteer organizations.
Volunteers from Feed My People visited the Meeting Place to prepare and serve food to members alongside staff, as well as distributed clothing and basic supplies. The group is mostly comprised of newcomers who want to give back to the community.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve and be part of this great initiative. I am always happy to help especially the less privileged people in society,’ says Feed My People volunteer Agatha.
The Meeting Place drop-in provides a safe space for individuals who are homeless or precariously housed, to be part of a community. The staff at the Meeting Place work together with local organizations and volunteer groups to organize special events, and activities for the members.
For members like Tony who is sleeping on the street, the Meeting Place provides a place for him to go during the day and receive services, which he cannot access anywhere else. It is also a relief from the harsh weather.
“Finding a job and a place to live is difficult when you are sleeping on the street. Every day I have to back up my things and go to the drop-in for support.”
Tony came to Toronto for more opportunities. He has a medical condition that impacts his daily life. He says there is little support and understanding of his condition.
“I am trying to get a place with someone but it’s hard when you don’t have a job. And you always have to provide two month’s worth of rent and that’s just too much to afford.”
Moe is housed and visits the Meeting Place to access the services. “We have to do more to educate everyone about why people end up on the street. We need to take action to help people.”
The Avengers Club is a volunteer-led group that visit the Meeting Place every other Saturday for lunch service. The group is run by Michelle, Ray and Brian, who manage The Avengers Club and recruit volunteers through an events page.
All food is provided by the volunteers, who pay for the ingredients, prepare the dishes, serve the members, and clean up. Over the years, the menu has included items such as roast chicken, salsa chicken rice casserole, chili, meatloaf, Moroccan chicken soup, tomato soup, grilled cheese, all-day breakfast, shepherd’s pie, various salads, and desserts.
West Neighbourhood House would like to thank Feed My People and the Avengers Club for dedicating their time to supporting members at the Meeting Place.
Help change the conditions that drive social inequities in our community by donating to our Winter Appeal!
The ultimate goal of West Neighbourhood House is to change the conditions that drive social inequities. We work diligently to get at the root causes of these harmful conditions with our public policy and advocacy work.
Your support enables us to respond to immediate housing pressures and continue our work on improved housing policy, building safer and more inclusive communities, and increasing the availability of affordable housing.
Together, we can continue to build a resilient and inclusive community.
This year, our goal is to raise $73,000 towards the Winter Appeal.
Show your support by clicking below or visiting westnh.org/donate.
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