Unison provides a full range of housing help and eviction prevention services for clients who have had difficulties securing appropriate, decent and affordable housing. For clients living in Toronto with low and fixed incomes, recent statistics indicate that they need to wait at least eight to 10 years for subsidized social housing. Housing has long been a national crisis that greatly affects the wellbeing of clients.
In the York South-Weston riding we serve, close to 50% of households are rental units, and the average household income in this riding is lower than the Toronto average. People choose to live in this neighborhood mainly based on what housing accommodations they can afford. Unfortunately, many of them are forced to live in sub-standard housing, overcrowded environments, or neighborhoods where social supports are minimal.
Unison is one of the few agencies in Toronto maintaining a drop-in housing help and eviction prevention services model. No appointment is needed for clients to bring housing concerns to an experienced housing worker. Housing Help serves more than 1,200 individuals and families annually. Services include: general housing searches; landlord mediation; Housing Connections application and review; applications for Low-Income Family Energy Assistance Program (LEAP), Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP) and the Rent Bank Program; specialized housing help; and the Streets to Homes Follow-Up Program. In addition, our weekly Community Kitchen Program is a gathering place for many clients to support them with food security and social adjustment. This program caters nutritious and healthy breakfast and lunch for more than 80 clients weekly.
The following is an example to reflect how the Housing Help Program works in collaboration with other Unison teams to support clients with complex needs:
A client walked into the office wanting help to move from her current unit due to the physical and emotional abuse she was experiencing from a close family member.
Working with the client, the housing worker identified a safe place for her to stay until we were able to process her application for Special Priority Housing. Due to lack of supporting documents, the client was referred to Unison’s Legal Services to obtain an affidavit. The client was also referred to Unison’s Counselling Services. With support letters from her counsellor and housing worker, her Special Priority Housing application was approved. A few months later she was transferred to her preferred location and housing unit.