All posts in “low-income”

Fife House – Community Programs for People with HIV/AIDS

Group Name: Fife House – Community Programs for People with HIV/AIDS

Description: Fife House is an innovative, client-focused provider of secure and supportive affordable housing and services to people living with HIV/AIDS in the Greater Toronto Area.
Fife House delivers services which are focused on enhancing quality of life, building on individual strengths and promoting independence – recognizing that access to secure and affordable housing is a key determinant for the health and well-being of people living with HIV/AIDS.

The Community Programs Department was created to address isolation and marginalization of men, women and families living with HIV/AIDS. The program promotes social integration, health and well being, which help in developing a sense of belonging and community among residents and within the larger community. The staff team oversees the Wellness Centre at our Sherbourne site which provides a variety of services offered by professionals free of charge. Alternative therapies (touch therapy, polarity therapy, naturopathy, reflexology etc.) are very popular with people living with HIV/AIDS and the team strive to provide a variety of opportunities for residents and clients in all programs.

Social/Recreational Programs provide access to a range of activities, services and outlets for residents/clients including: congregate dining, outings, yoga, expressive arts, games night and a gardening club.

Where: 490 Sherbourne Street, 2nd Floor | Toronto, ON M4X 1K9

When: Please call for more information.

Contact: 416-205-9888 |

Holiday Meals at Drop-in Centres in Toronto

You don’t have to go without food this holiday in the city of Toronto. Our partners at Consumer Survivor Info Centre has provided a list of Holiday Drop-In Meals Hours & Meals for Toronto. Click on the link below for the list of locations.

Drop-In Centres List PDF

Food Choices for This Season and Life

Don’t wait until the holiday feast has passed to start eating healthy and exercising regularly. Whether it’s hard to come by healthy food on a low income, or you have a cozy relationship with food, or you’re in the dark about the alternative to healthy eating, or worse, all of the above— you are the perfect candidate to make this change! The purpose of a holiday gathering, let’s be honest, is to reconnect with family and catch up. What it’s not, is an opportunity to gorge on food in attempt to cope with those pesky relatives or friends you can’t wait to see leave. Before reading a book on eating well on a budget or attending a support group about your emotional connection to food, it’s advisable that you educate yourself on the benefits of your impending transition. Be informed and be empowered. Your discipline from routinely planning healthy meals transfers to other areas of your life and you will see the difference. Maybe you will even then tackle those awkward relationships you might have with some relatives. Or maybe you will just inspire others around you to make the change to eating healthy. No matter how much genes contribute to the diseases or disorders related to food and lifestyle, we always have the power to help minimize that risk. That being said, you are encouraged to visit any one of the following:

The Toronto Public Library for free resources and materials on eating well on budget;
Walking for Health and Wellbeing group and meet others who enjoy the benefits of regular exercise;
Sheena’s Place for tackling that an unhealthy relationship with food;
The National Eating Disorder Information Centre if you suspect you may have an eating disorder;
FoodShare Toronto for cooking tips specific to people with breast cancer; and
Speak to a registered dietitian for free through EatRight Ontario and have your nutrition and healthy eating questions answered.

And contact us for organizations or community centres that offer exercise classes for all ages and fitness levels. Don’t wait for a chronic illness to develop, or an eating disorder, or continue wasting your money on empty calories. Educate yourself and be empowered because you are capable of change.

I leave you with this “Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for.”

Photo by Dshot:

Improving Access to Healthy Foods

Finding food at a low cost is challenging but finding healthy low cost food can be almost near impossible. Food banks often run on short supply of processed food and only give out a small 1-3 day supply once a month to citizens that fall within a small catchment area. Line ups in food banks are stressful and demoralizing.

The stigma of living below the poverty line (<$23000/year) is pervasive, leaving people to feel unworthy and hopeless. Ontario Works recipients receive only ~$7200/year and Ontario Disability recipients receive ~$14400/year. How are people to survive when securing a safe living space in the Toronto rental market costs on average $850/month, $10200/year for a one bedroom apartment?  How are people living when access to free or affordable food is limited?

According to the Social Determinants of Mental Health, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and decades of scientific research, shelter, food and love are REQUIREMENTS for health and wellness. It is no wonder 1 in 5 Canadians experience mental health challenges when many people are “living” in poverty and cannot get their basic needs met.

We know that balancing physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of life can cultivate recovery, health and mental wellness. We know that if our bodies don’t receive the right amount of essential nutrients, our minds and emotions don’t function optimally. Studies also show that increasing intake of Omega 3 fatty acids can contribute to mood regulation, increase memory & clarity of thought.

Using a Human Centered Design (HCD) approach, (See More Effective Peer-Support Groups Through Human Centered Design) the following 3 questions attempt to address some of the challenges mentioned above.

To improve access to healthy foods for individuals with low incomes:

  1. How might we change the culture, environment and perspective around receiving food support?
  2. How might we increase incentives to produce a locally sustainable supply of nutritious foods?
  3. How might we support a healthy mindset around physical & mental health and nutritional choices?

One incredible organization that has found ways to answer these questions is The Stop Community Food Centre. The Stop’s Mission is to “increase access to healthy food in a manner that maintains dignity, builds health and community, and challenges inequality”.

The Stop has two locations: the main office is at 1884 Davenport Road, which includes a food bank in a respectful and dignified environment with no demoralizing lineups. A small portion of the food includes produce that is organically cultivated by volunteers at local gardens in the city of Toronto. Despite the fact that food banks are a Band-Aid solution to more complex problems, it is a good start in changing the culture and stigma around receiving food supports.

Fortunately, The Stop has dug deeper into some of these complex problems and provides a drop-in centre with free delicious & healthy meals twice a day and partnership & referral services for dietetic counselling, ID clinic, housing & legal services, and settlement worker services. They also offer workshops on tenants’ & employment rights, and demonstrations on how to make low-cost, healthy, delicious meals. And they haven’t stopped there.  They provide education and advocacy on sustainable food production & systems, children & perinatal food education, peer support, and community action.

Their second location at Wychwood Barns, 601 Christie Street,  is the site for their state-of-the-art greenhouse, compost demonstration centre, and Food Markets & Bake Oven. The Stop’s Good Food Market is part of an initiative to bring fresh, local produce into a low income community where farmers have a hard time making a living selling. FoodShare developed this model where they purchase large quantities of produce from local farmers and the Ontario Food Terminal, then volunteers and community organizations sell the produce in market stands across the city. The goal is to provide as much local and culturally appropriate produce as possible at affordable prices.

The Stop is the founding affiliate of an national organization that works to improve access to healthy foods in low income neighborhoods through the creation of more Community Food Centres. For more information check out Community Food Centres Canada.

The Stop was inspirational in helping us come up with new ways and ideas to contribute to changing perceptions around food and poverty. Our HCD approach helped us come up with this prototype “Lots of Food”.

“Lots of Food” provides community gardens in parking lots in order to facilitate both community mental health and nutrition. Each planter acts as an incentive to companies by displaying corporate support of a local charity. Planters will be made extremely visible in centrally located, high-traffic locations with big “Call To Actions” (interest promoting instructions that note the various benefits). “Lots of Food” will provide produce to gardening group participants, local food banks, and community partners. The mental health benefits come from both the healthy foods and the social support of the “Lots of Food” peer support gardening group.

The initial engagement stage for joining the gardening group will be made simple. Individuals will hear about starting the program through social media, flyers and direct engagement with known participants. When we make the first garden, it will be noticeable to other potential users, and help spark interest in both the program and healthy eating. In our gardening group meetings, participants will socialize, learn about gardening, ways to use the veggies, and nutritional benefits.

Since we are in the early stages of actualizing this idea, we have much more work to do, for example, securing parking lot space for planters, soliciting companies for advertisement funds, fundraising, and looking for partnerships with community organizations, like The Stop.

Additionally, since iteration is fundamental to HCD, we need more community feedback and input to help this idea seedling grow.  Please comment and share!


For tips on making healthy food choices see Food Choices for This Season and Life

Frontlines – Youth Programming

Group Name: Frontlines – Youth Programming

Description: In September 1987, Frontlines opened its doors to the children and youth in Weston, offering them a safe place to “hang out” away from the streets. Since then, we have welcomed hundreds of “Westonians”, providing programs and services in our quest to help make Weston a better and safer place. Started as a drop-in centre that focused primarily on music, Frontlines has been a haven for many children and youth from the Weston community – many of whom had lost their way.

We serve children ages 8 to 13 and youth 14 to 21, providing programming that addresses the physical, emotional and intellectual needs of participants. Our programming focuses on fitness, nutrition/cooking, and the performing arts. We work from a relationship model, meaning that programs are used to teach skills and draw children and youth into relationships with our staff and other members of our community. Our staff focus on creating impactful connections with our participants; it is through these relationships and mentoring that we see the greatest transformation in the lives of our participants.

Where: 1844 Weston Road | Toronto, ON M9N 1V8

When: Please contact for more details.

Contact: 416-244-7017 | |

MicroSkills – Youth Welcoming Centre

Group Name: MicroSkills – Youth Welcoming Centre

Description: Community MicroSkills Development Centre is a non-profit organization that has served communities in Toronto and surrounding areas since 1984. They provide settlement, employment, and self-employment services to individuals, with priority to the needs of immigrants, youth, visible minority people, and low-income women.

Our Youth Welcoming Centre is a space that offers programming where youth feel welcomed, supported and valued by the community where they live. The Centre reaches out to youth who are new in Canada, as well as youth who are established in their community, and engages them in activities for mutual sharing, learning, and peer support. MicroSkills implements the Youth Welcoming model not only in the Centre itself, located at Dixon and Islington, but also in the other offsite locations where our youth services are delivered, such as in local schools, multi-service centers and hubs. Our youth services are available from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday to Friday, and include:

  • Education and Career Support
  • Physical, Nutrition & Wellness Program
  • English Conversation Starters
  • Leadership and Volunteer Development
  • Parent Engagement
  • Empowered Girls Clubs
  • Information, Support and Referral Services
  • Rexdale ProTech Media Centre
  • Cook Pre-apprenticeship Program

Where: 235 Dixon Road, Unit 12 | Toronto, ON M9P 2M5

When: Call for more information.

Contact: 416-247-7181 Exts. 1, 2601 | 1-877-979-3999 | |

Regent Park Community Health Centre – Men’s Drop-in

Group Name: Regent Park Community Health Centre – Men’s Drop-in

Description: Regent Park Community Health Centre (RPCHC) was established in 1973. It is a non-profit, community-based organization dedicated to improving the health of Regent Park area residents and the community as a whole, by providing high quality, integrated primary health care services, health promotion services and community capacity building. Our priority is to reduce the health inequities experienced by low-income, immigrant & refugee, non-status and marginally-housed & homeless populations.

The men’s drop-in provides men who are homeless, vulnerable, and precariously housed a weekly space so they may socialize and connect with each other and staff from the Health Centre. Clients are offered food and activities (such as movies and outings), information, support and referral to services.

Where: 465 Dundas Street East | Toronto, ON M5A 2B2

When: Fridays: 9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Service areas: south of Bloor, north of Lake Ontario, west of the Don River, east of Yonge Street.

Contact: Dean Reid 416-364-2261 |

Regent Park Community Health Centre – Wednesday One Stop Walk-in

Group Name: Regent Park Community Health Centre – Wednesday One Stop Walk-in (W.O.W.)

Description: Regent Park Community Health Centre (RPCHC) was established in 1973. It is a non-profit, community-based organization dedicated to improving the health of Regent Park area residents and the community as a whole, by providing high quality, integrated primary health care services, health promotion services and community capacity building. Our priority is to reduce the health inequities experienced by low-income, immigrant & refugee, non-status and marginally-housed & homeless populations.

W.O.W. (Wednesday One Stop Walk-in) is a program designed to increase access to a wide range of health care services for vulnerable and homeless clients. People who are homeless, marginally housed, seniors with cognitive impairment and people with mental illness sometimes have difficulty keeping scheduled appointments. This program gives them access to services such as clinical care with physicians, nurses /nurse practitioners, case management / social work and housing, without a prior appointment and minimal waiting time.

Where: 465 Dundas Street East | Toronto, ON M5A 2B2

When: Wednesdays: 9:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. Service areas: south of Bloor, north of Lake Ontario, west of the Don River, east of Yonge Street.

Contact: 416-203-4506 |

The 519 Church Street Community Centre – Sunday Drop-In

Group Name: The 519 Church Street Community Centre – Sunday Drop-In

Description: The 519 is the hub of community life in Toronto’s diverse Church and Wellesley Village. For over 35 years, The 519 has been working with our neighbours and our lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer (LGBTQ) communities to build healthy, welcoming spaces to meet, participate and celebrate together. With the support of our staff team, our communities identify and implement solutions to emerging issues through award-winning programs and services, and with the leadership of volunteers, over 80 community-led programs provide peer support, social, recreational, arts and cultural opportunities in our public meeting spaces.

Our Sunday Drop-In has evolved and changed over the years, adapting to the needs of the local community and the homeless and under-housed people who come to The Centre. The program will consist of a big Sunday breakfast shared together Room 106 of The Centre, starting at 10AM. Breakfast is followed by afternoon programs on a variety of programs and topics selected by participants and led by staff and volunteers. Lunch is served during afternoon programs and individuals who do not want to stay for programs can grab a meal-to-go before breakfast ends at 1. The 519’s Drop-In is unique in that it focuses on LGBTQ homeless and under-housed people and their allies. Everyone is welcome to attend the drop in as long as they contribute to ensuring a safe, positive space for LGBTQ people.

Where: 519 Church Street | Toronto, ON M4Y 2C9

When: Please call or e-mail for more detailed information.

Contact: Sawyer Pow 416-355-6789 Ext. 4015 | |

Sistering: A Woman’s Place (Drop-In)

Group Name: Sistering: A Woman’s Place (Drop-In)

Description: Sistering is a women’s organization that offers practical and emotional support through programs which enable them to take greater control over their lives. Guided by the principles of Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression, Sistering works to change social conditions which endanger women’s welfare. Sistering was founded early in 1980, when a small group of social service agency representatives, women living in hostels and community residents came together to discuss the needs of homeless and transient women in downtown Toronto. Particularly women’s need for a safe and welcoming women’s only space during the day, and a space where women could access food, support and information.

Sistering’s Drop Ins provide basic services to women who are homeless, under-housed, low income or marginalized and are looking for a safe and welcoming place to go during the day. In a welcoming, non-judgmental environment women can access much-needed supports. Sistering serves a racially, culturally and linguistically diverse population in a positive environment through shared commitment to principles of equity and access. At our Bloor Street Drop-In women can access a full range of services, seven days a week. Our basic services include:

  • hot breakfast and hot lunch
  • laundry facilities (washer & dryer)
  • showers
  • daybeds for napping
  • a mailing address, if needed
  • local phone and email
  • ESL Classes

Where: 962 Bloor Street West. | Toronto, ON M6H 1L6

When: Mondays from 11:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. and Tuesdays to Sundays from 9:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

Contact: 416-926-9762 | |

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