This gentleman whom will be referred to as W in this article, was happy to move into his new home recently, especially with winter around the corner.

By Denise Bacon

A familiar yet enigmatic face to all in our neighbourhood has recently had a positive change in his life. Councillor Jennifer McKelvie advocated strongly to secure long-term, safe housing for this gentleman in a newly created housing development in the area. This gentleman will be referred to as W in this article.

As one of the responses to the urgent need for housing for thousands of people facing homelessness in Toronto, the City of Toronto purchased a property in southeast Scarborough to create approximately 86 new homes with 24/7 on-site support for residents. Phase 1 of this project comprising 22 studio apartments is complete and each tenant has a bed, bathroom and small kitchen.

A typical studio apartment in Phase 1 of the newly created safe housing development in southeast Scarborough.

W was happy to move into his new home recently, especially with winter around the corner, and he proudly showed it off to his friend, John Albers. W’s last shelter was a trailer in an industrial area that didn’t even have running water. A small space heater provided heat in the winter, when he spent time there. Now, W has a warm home that he knows will take some time to adjust to after being outside for most of the last 25 years or so. One of W’s evening routines already is to watch old comedies like Cheers and Frasier on his own TV set.

John Albers had seen W in the neighbourhood since John’s university days. “He has become a friend to me over the years,” John said. Their acquaintance grew to familiarity and then into a friendship over the last nine years through attendance at a local church where W has developed friendships with a few other parishioners.

W’s background is interesting as most of the community knows him only as the man who walked the neighbourhood streets through every season. W had family in Scarborough, and he would visit his mother from time to time, pre-pandemic. He trained as a furniture upholsterer and worked as a delivery driver in his younger days. He told John that he was in the Canadian Armed Forces at one time in his life.

W gave up his traditional life and started living a starkly simple life. While living in the trailer and on the streets, W was challenged to meet everyday personal needs. Since their friendship began, John would take W to a motel or recreation centres to shower when W felt it necessary. “How are you still alive?” asked a recreation centre patron incredulously when W came in one day. W responded that his faith in God keeps him safe.

Fred Victor is the social service charitable organization that has been contracted by the city to manage this development. Fred Victor’s many programs and services at 23 different sites across Toronto help some of the most vulnerable people rebuild their lives by offering affordable and transitional housing, shelters and emergency respite sites, community mental health outreach and other services.

“At this Scarborough deep affordability location, our staff work with the tenants to ensure that they receive any income to which they are entitled such as Ontario Works, Ontario Disability Support Program, Canada Pension Plan, etc.,” said Marie MacCormack, vice-president of Philanthropy & Communications at Fred Victor. “This allows the tenants to maintain their dignity and pay rent that is geared to their income.”

W continues to live a very simple life with very few material things. However, he recently showed John his newly purchased transistor radio, on which he was happily listening to a Christian radio station.

John values his friendship with W and is happy to help him. They often enjoy a good laugh together. W values all his relationships and he is always happy to return a warm hello.