The Community Initiatives Unit funds community agencies to help vulnerable people find and keep housing. Like all parts of the Division, work is directed by the Housing Opportunities Toronto: An Affordable Housing Action Plan 2010-2020, which describes housing first as the foundation for all services and programs to address homelessness and housing in Toronto. The basis for this is the belief that once people have access to the security, dignity and stability of housing, they can begin to address other challenges.
Using funding from the City of Toronto, the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services (Consolidated Homelessness Prevention Program), and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the unit:
funds 89 community-based agencies to deliver some 142 programs that help people find and keep their housing
identifies and meets service gaps and priorities
develops policies and practices for good stewardship to responsibly fund community agencies, and
supports and enhances the capacity of agencies to deliver services.
The Unit coordinates four public networks, committees and partnerships that share information and resources among community agencies, researchers and consumers, and provides direction on housing and homelessness issues and policies.
The Housing and Homeless Services Network (HHSN) Formerly the Alternative Housing Committee (AHS), HHSN supports networking and resource sharing among its 800 community members. HHSN is a forum for sharing valuable information on existing and new programs, as well as funding opportunities.
It [HHSN] is the place where we first learn about new programs, or how certain programs have changed. It is also a place where we network with colleagues from many agencies.
Vicky Saunders, Central Neighbourhood House
St.Stephen’s Community House manages a Trusteeship Program for its clients
The Rooming House Working Group (RHWG)is a network of community agencies and rooming house residents and owners who support the maintenance, improvement and expansion of rooming houses and the tenants and landlords who live in rooming houses. The RHWG is currently focusing its efforts on HOT Plan recommendations that support legal, well run rooming houses and training for landlords. It has successfully advocated for a tax reduction for licensed rooming houses.
The RHWG's efforts to continually educate participants with guest speakers on topics such as bed bugs have given me a much broader perspective on the issues and possible solutions for rooming houses in Toronto.
Bill Munro, Rooming House Landlord
Licensed rooming house in Toronto
The Immigrant and Refugee Housing Committee (IRHC) consists of a diverse group of service providers, policymakers and researchers who focus on the housing issues of Toronto’s immigrants and refugees. Members share information, identify issues and work to improve access to housing and housing supports for immigrants and refugees.
As a community researcher, I have found the committee's work invaluable to increasing my understanding of the issues on the ground. The City's role in coordinating and supporting this Committee is vital.
Beth Wilson, Social Planning Toronto
The Rental Housing Advisory Committee (RHAC)supports a network of community agencies and advocacy organizations for landlords and tenants to monitor the impacts of the Residential Tenancies Act and other matters related to rental housing. RHAC also develops and delivers information materials about the legislation and housing resources, and provides advice to City policymakers on rental housing issues. Recently, the group provided feedback regarding sub-metering of electricity in multi-residential apartment buildings.
Vance Latchford Place
The RHAC meetings bring together City staff whose work is important to my legal clinic's client community, almost all of whom are tenants. RHAC helped bring about an emergency protocol for tenants forced out of their homes by fire, flood, or other major disaster.
Barbara Hurd, Kensington Bellwoods Community Legal Services
Click here to find out what’s going on and how to connect to these valuable networks.
What our partnerships deliver
Community Initiatives funds 89 agencies which operate 142 projects.
Street outreach services are coordinated through the City’s Streets to Homes program that provides housing and other supports to homeless street involved people in Toronto.
Housing help services help low-income Torontonians find and maintain housing by:
helping vulnerable clients to find affordable housing
helping clients keep their housing, such as connecting to community services
helping clients with budgeting, counselling, and negotiating with landlords, and
preventing evictions, including negotiating with landlords and referrals to legal clinics.
Housing help services are located in housing help centres, emergency shelters, and in community agencies. Some specialize in serving youth, seniors, Aboriginals and ethno-racial groups. For landlords, there is a free City-supported online database where landlords can list their vacant, affordably priced units.
Charlie Diamond delivers housing help services at Evangel Hall
The Toronto Rent Bank program, which helps vulnerable, market-rent households stay in stable housing when faced with the risk of losing their home due to short-term financial difficulties. Interest-free loans are provided to qualifying households, who are facing eviction and who are behind in their rent.
The Emergency Rental Deposit Loan Program, which provides interest-free repayable loans for first and last month’s rent to qualified households who need to move to more affordable housing.
The Rent Bank also offers a variety of supports, including landlord and tenant mediation, money management advice and counselling supports to help stabilize or improve the lives of clients. This program was started in Toronto in 1999 and has since become Ontario-wide. Its successes include providing 1,238 low-cost loans in 2009 and having 90% of users still living at the same address after six months.
Gillian Ticmanis at Woodgreen helps clients with housing including Rent Bank support
Supports to Daily Living services are available at-site to assist vulnerable tenants in rent-geared-to-income alternative housing. Services include conflict mediation, crisis intervention, help with budgeting, community living and personal care. These services helped 3,000 households to live independently and stay housed in 2010.
Portland Place delivers a weekly shopping program for tenants
Drop-in services provide homeless, marginally housed and socially isolated people a safe, welcoming space where they can eat, shower, do laundry, access telephones, and get help with housing needs. They are critical supports to helping vulnerable people find and keep housing. In addition to providing funding to 30 drop-in centres, the City supports the Toronto Drop-In Network (TDIN), a coalition of more than 45 centres that provides training and other activities including the TDIN Drop-in Good Practices Tool Kit to increase the capacity of the drop-in sector.
Social enterprises are businesses with a double bottom-line – to create jobs and to improve employment opportunities for marginalized groups. A partnership between the City, the province, the federal government and United Way Toronto provides funding to the Toronto Enterprise Fund to support 13 social enterprises, employing more than 300 people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Investment projects foster innovation and test new ideas through pilot projects. In 2011, Community Initiatives is funding two investment projects:
Toronto Drop-ins: Creating Health+ is a partnership between Community Initiatives, Toronto Public Health, Daily Bread Food Bank and George Brown College. The program delivers nutritious food to 24 drop-in centres each week and trains drop-in cooks to prepare balanced and nourishing meals.
Photo: Drop-in cooks train at George Brown College
Heat Registry: A Heat Registry pilot project was funded to assist people who identified as being at health risk during extreme hot weather. Through the Heat Registry, vulnerable people put their name on a list that was used by peer workers to check on their well being during an Extreme Heat Alert. The Registry project is not currently operating, however, a Heat Registry Manual is being developed to assist non-profit agencies to custom design their own Heat Registry to meet their clients' needs. Further information and resources regarding extreme heat alerts and heat alerts is available on the Toronto Public Health website.
Tenant support services provides a broad range of supports for tenants to find appropriate housing, maintain successful tenancies, help them avoid evictions, and keep rents affordable. These supports include:
assistance with housing help services and the Rent Bank
funding the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations (FMTA) to operate a Tenant Hotline and a tenant education program
providing grants for tenant groups to fight above-guideline rent increases
reviewing energy legislation and programs to ensure that tenant concerns are included, and providing information to tenants on low-income energy programs, and the Automatic Rent Reduction Program.
For more information on landlord and tenant support services, visit our Tenant and Landlord Resources section. Information on the Residential Tenancies Act is available on the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing website.
Housing Help Success Story:Regent Park Community Health Centre African Housing Support Program
“Fred” had been living in shared accommodation before he was hospitalized. When Fred was released he had no housing, and no care plan in place. Fred’s housing worker found him a shelter bed, and within a week, had found him a bachelor apartment. His worker helped Fred secure a family doctor to start the process of reapplying for benefits under the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). The doctor provided documentation of Fred’s health, and within two months, Fred was approved for ODSP.
Rent Bank Success Story: Neighbourhood Information Post
“John” and “Carol” have young children and only one income source of $2,500 net per month. Their rent is $900 and they live on a very tight monthly budget. John had to take some time off work to attend to his children’s medical needs. Because of the lost income and the cost of medications, the family fell behind in their rent. The Rent Bank loaned the family of $900 to pay off their rental arrears. Without the Rent Bank intervention, the family would have lost their housing.
Supports to Daily Living Success Story: Toronto Christian Resource Centre – Self Help Inc.
When “Bob” first came to live at TCRC he had lost everything - his marriage, his children, a six figure income - all due to his alcohol addiction. Supported by TCRC staff, Bob started attended AA meetings and volunteered at a local community agency. With staff encouragement, Bob applied for and was hired into a contract position that led to full-time supervisory role. Bob continued to live in TCRC housing until he felt secure enough to move on. Now Bob has his own apartment and continues to make a difference in the lives of others dealing with addictions.
Drop-In Centre Success Story:Youthlink
"Kevin" has been accessing support services at the Inner City Drop-In Program for over four years. He has had to deal with many challenges including a family history of addictions, negative experiences and abuse in foster care and group homes, and many conflicts with the law. At Youthlink, he accessed an HIV Support Worker and has regularly used the on-site services provided by SHOUT Clinic. Through the Housing Program at Inner City, Kevin is now housed and receiving benefits through the Ontario Disability Support Program.