“What am I going to do?” thought Lia Glykis, as the reality of her situation set in.
It was June of 2021, the pandemic was raging, rents were skyrocketing, and the single mother had just lost her North Toronto home. After seven years her landlord suddenly said he wanted to move back to Toronto and so Glykis needed to get out.
Finding an affordable apartment is already difficult. Finding one with five bedrooms, almost impossible. That’s because Glykis, 53, is a single mother who is both self-employed and the sole provider for three children aged 17, 18 and 20 as well as her granddaughter, age five.
'I didn't want to break us all apart.'
“There is no way I’m going to be able to find a house in Toronto that will fit us all and for me to be able to afford it,” said Glykis. “I was freaking out.” She was already struggling to pay $2,150 a month in rent, plus utilities, but was facing at least $3,000 a month for a 3 bedroom apartment, at best.
“I’ve worked so hard all these years to raise them,” said Glykis, who hasn’t seen a penny in child support since her partner left when their youngest was just 38 days old and her daughters aged just one and two years old. “I didn’t want to break us all apart.”
Discovering WoodGreen and Homeward Bound
She first began looking for someone to help her eldest, Stavroula, along with her young daughter, Vanessa. If those two could find assistance, perhaps the search for a smaller apartment might be easier. She searched ‘help for single mothers and ‘Toronto’ and discovered WoodGreen’s Homeward Bound program. When she spoke with WoodGreen’s Housing worker, Afua Agyemang, she got the information about Homeward Bound and learned about her options as well.
The next day WoodGreen called with the news for which Glykis had been praying to her favourite saint, Saint George. (George is her youngest child's name and all the children were baptized at Toronto's St.George’s Church.)
“The housing worker said ‘We have a home for you.’ I asked her where it was, not that it really mattered, and she said ‘George Street’,” laughs Glykis. “It’s just meant to be.”
Partnership provides 'beautiful' home
The four-bedroom, two-bathroom, downtown home is newly-renovated and part of a unique partnership between WoodGreen and Allied Properties REIT. The Toronto developer has donated the use of two homes for at least the next two years. Glykis says her new home is “absolutely beautiful inside”, but that’s really just a bonus, “as long as the kids and me are together that’s what matters.”
She still has to come up with $2,300 every month for rent, but she’s been able to work more hours as a Financial Compliance Officer now that she’s no longer looking after her granddaughter. That’s because Stavroula and Vanessa have been accepted into WoodGreen’s four-year Homeward Bound program for single mothers, which provides stable housing, a college education and child care for young mothers.
Glykis still has Zoe, 18, and George, 17, at home, and though she knows that at some point they will move on, to have split the family up at such a critical phase in their lives could have had dire consequences.
“My whole life has been devoted to them,” says Glykis, who grew up in a middle-class home in Toronto. “It was so important for me to see them through into adulthood. To become contributing members of our society.”
Stavroula and Vanessa are both thriving and happy in Homeward Bound. “It’s given [Stavroula] the opportunity to do something really great for her daughter.”
Family looks forward to future together
Zoe has started working at a four-star hotel downtown and George just graduated high school. Both say they will help their mom with rent and upkeep. The family can stay in the WoodGreen home for two years, which Glykis says is a “blessing”. When that time is up, she says, it may be just her looking for a place in Toronto, hopefully, a far less daunting prospect than it was in 2021. That landlord never did end up moving back to Toronto, instead, he turned their old home into a rooming house, thereby increasing the earning potential.
“Without WoodGreen, I don’t know where any of us would have ended up,” says Glykis. “I feel so lucky to have found them because they legitimately are doing something to help people.”