There’s a saying that “Home is not a place. It’s a feeling.” This couldn’t be more true than at one of WoodGreen’s housing buildings.
Just over one year ago, WoodGreen welcomed its first tenants to 540 Cedarvale Ave. — a three-storey modular building that provides supportive housing for seniors (ages 59 and older) who have experienced homelessness or are precariously housed. Since then, WoodGreen staff have worked hard to give the building’s 57 tenants the support they need to thrive, including creating a sense of community.
‘This is my family here’
One of those tenants is Sharon. After she needed to move out of her son’s home, the 75-year-old moved from place to place, mostly living in shelters, before getting the chance to move into the building.
She moved into Cedarvale on February 13th of this year, and her time living there has been very positive to date. She says she feels safe in the building and enjoys her room and being able to have quiet time to herself, including listening to her favourite music (good ol’ rock ‘n roll and not jazz) and watching movies on TV. However, when asked about what she likes most about living at Cedarvale, she mentions going downstairs and saying “hello” to everyone in the dining room.
“This is my family here,” she says.
Sharon has enthusiastically embedded herself into life at Cedarvale. She smiles brightly when she talks about the activities she takes part in, including bingo and karaoke and interacting with animals when Hands On Exotics comes for a visit.
And there is no shortage of activities to choose from. On any day of the week, tenants have the chance to participate in a variety of activities. In addition to bingo and karaoke, there’s also art therapy, trips across the street to the community centre or pool, or even excursions to city attractions such as the Toronto Zoo or the Royal Ontario Museum to name a few. More recently, tenants handed out candy to trick-or-treaters on Halloween night.
See what took place at our open house last year
Creating an inclusive environment is a priority at 540 Cedarvale
Most importantly, the tenants have a say in what kinds of programs and activities are in the building, which is vital to inclusion, says Sath Arulvarathan, WoodGreen’s Manager of Housing Support Programs.
The wider neighbourhood has also helped tenants feel welcome through the Access & Inclusion Committee. Most recently, the committee organized a summer BBQ, which was attended by numerous 540 Cedarvale tenants, staff and other community members.
“People ate together, laughed together, and danced the night away,” says Arulvarathan.
This focus on community building has had an enormous impact on tenants. Arulvarathan has seen drastic changes in people who were initially closed off to working with case managers and counsellors and being part of programming. There has also been a low attrition rate among tenants, with many of them still living in the building at the one-year mark.
“One of the highlights is that people get to choose where they live,” says Arulvarathan. “More often than not, when people tour the building, people say ‘yes’. They want to live at Cedarvale.”
Sharon is one of the tenants who is happy that she’s chosen Cedarvale to be her home, and she thanks WoodGreen’s staff for that.
“The staff … they are doing 100%. They give it their all when they come in here,” she says.