WoodGreen to provide support for seniors exiting homelessness at East York modular housing building

The modular supportive housing at 540 Cedarvale Ave. in East York will serve seniors exiting homelessness. The building is expected to be open to residents by the end of 2022. Photo: Alan Shackleton.

AMARACHI AMADIKE, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

WoodGreen Community Services has been announced as the non-profit provider of services for residents at the new three-storey, modular supportive housing building at 540 Cedarvale Ave. in East York.

The modular-style of construction involves pre-fabricated components of a building arriving on site ready to be put together at a much quicker pace than the conventional method of architecture.

The East York building will provide 59 units for seniors exiting homelessness. The modular housing is part of the City of Toronto’s HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan to increase the supply of affordable housing and to help people transition out of homelessness with community support.

“With the cost of living skyrocketing in Toronto, it’s becoming more and more difficult for low-income people, including seniors, to have a place to call home,” said Anne Babcock, President & CEO of WoodGreen Community Services.

“WoodGreen Community Services is proud to be the non-profit partner of this new housing development that will not only put a roof over vulnerable seniors’ heads but will also give them access to support to help them to thrive.”

According to WoodGreen’s press release, the project’s focus is to create affordable housing options for single seniors aged 55 and older who are “experiencing poverty and homelessness or are precariously housed, including single men and women who need permanent affordable housing and moderate supports to achieve and maintain housing stability”.

The building will be staffed with experienced case managers, social workers and other individuals with specialized skills to help people transition into permanent, stable housing. WoodGreen will also provide mental health support, a key element in keeping people experiencing homelessness off the streets.

“Because it’s seniors that we’re targeting, we’ll have Personal Support Workers (PSW) as well to help some of our seniors who are less physically able to do things,” said Kevin Edmonson, WoodGreen’s Vice President of Community Care, Seniors & Wellness.

The East York building is one of a number of modular supportive housing projects that have been built or are in the process of being built. Such a building opened on Macey Avenue in southwest Scarborough in December of 2020, and there is another one operating at 321 Dovercourt Rd. in west end of Toronto that opened in January of 2021.

At the moment, WoodGreen still doesn’t have occupancy of the units as construction is ongoing at the Cedarvale Avenue site.  Edmonson told Beach Metro Community News that WoodGreen expects this to change in the next month. However, the building is expected to be ready for an influx of senior residents by late fall this year.

There will be 59 studio apartments in the modular housing development, each self-contained with a twin bed, a private eat-in kitchen and bathroom. The building will also include a laundry facility, a kitchen and dining room, program space and administrative offices, according to the City of Toronto.

Affordable housing developments such as this one are prone to complaints from residents concerned about their impact on the neighbourhood.

The proposal for the Cedarvale building was no different as the development came with a number hurdles, one of which was replacing the existing parking spots that would be lost as it was being built on the site of a city parking lot across the street from a busy park and local school.

To counter those concerns, the city secured 62 replacement parking spots nearby, with 33 of those spots being made available at Parkside Elementary School on evenings, weekends and public holidays. Fourteen parking spots were made available at the Taylor Creek parking lot on Haldon Avenue, and 15 on-street parking spots were made available at Ventnor and Cedarvale avenues.

Although WoodGreen was not yet part of this East York plan at the time in which some community members spoke out against it, Edmonson emphasized the importance of the types of programs that will be put in place to help eradicate Toronto’s affordable housing crisis as a result of the project.

“We are trying to afford people the opportunity to live life in a stable environment,” said Edmonson.

Toronto’s homeless population has increased over the last three months to almost 10,000 people, according to the city. ( https://www.toronto.ca/city-government/data-research-maps/research-reports/housing-and-homelessness-research-and-reports/shelter-system-flow-data/

WoodGreen said linking affordable and shelter housing projects with non-profit social service organizations helps individuals who are desperate to escape homelessness do so in a manner that brings long-term success.

“WoodGreen has been operating in the east end of Toronto for 85 years, and we deeply care about our community,” said Edmonson. “We are excited to bring our full range of services and expertise to support the quality of life of the seniors who will call 540 Cedarvale Avenue home.”

Amarachi Amadike is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro Community News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.

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