When the new residents arrive at 540 Cedarvale Ave. in East York, dozens of neighbours will welcome them with open arms and a basket filled with the best wishes of a community that's ready to support them however they can.
“I’m really excited about it,” says Jamie Perttula, who helped organize a grassroots community effort to create dozens of welcome baskets for the new residents at the complex. The modular housing development is one of the City of Toronto’s supportive housing developments for which WoodGreen was selected to be the non-profit housing provider. The building will be home to single seniors aged 55 and older who are experiencing poverty and are already homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Perttula lives in the area and says the minute he heard the building would be an affordable housing facility, he knew he wanted to help.
“I asked myself, ‘How can we be supportive of this? What can we do?’.”
A physical sign of welcome
Perttula is a member of the congregation at Church of the Resurrection on Woodbine Avenue, a short walk from the three-storey Cedarvale property. “There’s a real interest in the congregation around tackling poverty and homelessness and the many other issues that come with that,” he says.
Many in the group wanted to make it clear to the new residents that they are both welcome in – and part of – the greater community. What better way than with a physical sign of welcome in the form of a basket full of necessities for setting up a house, says Perttula.
Word spread throughout community organizations, with nine groups joining in the effort. They ranged from schools to clubs to religious organizations. They collected more than $9,000 worth of items like towels, coffee, toiletries, laundry baskets, socks and grocery gift cards.
One Saturday in October, the groups came together to gather all that goodwill into baskets. Fifty-nine in total. One for each of the seniors who will move into a self-contained studio apartment. Each unit has a twin bed, private eat-in kitchen and bathroom. The building has shared laundry as well as a group kitchen and dining room, program space and administrative offices.
“We even added hand-written welcome notes, as well,” adds Perttula, who says a sense of belonging is important for everyone, but perhaps even more so for those who have not had much support in their lives but who might have needed it.
“If you don’t have good relationships and connections in a community and you have some kind of crisis that can make it harder to cope with that,” says Perttula. “We all have a responsibility, as a community, to take care of our vulnerable neighbours.”
WoodGreen’s ‘solid base of experience’
The ability to navigate future challenges is one of the reasons Perttula says he was delighted when the City of Toronto selected WoodGreen to operate the Cedarvale complex.
“WoodGreen has a solid base of experience with doing positive things for the East End,” he says. “I think they’re a great organization and can help in so many different ways.”
WoodGreen will have supports and staffing available 24/7 to help improve residents’ quality of life, support their daily needs and help them remain housed permanently. Those supports could include daily meals, structured recreational activities, unit maintenance and cleanliness (such as hoarding prevention), leading support groups (such as grief or trauma support), one-on-one mental health or financial counselling, all in addition to the many services WoodGreen already offers in Toronto’s east end.
Perttula says he wants nothing more than to see the residents of Cedarvale succeed and thrive in their new home for years to come.
“I hope that these baskets encourage the new residents and that they recognize, in this small gesture from diverse people across the community, that they are welcome here.”
To join us in welcoming the seniors to Cedarvale, please come to our open house. Details can be found here.