Antonietta's story

It’s all mine. I feel secure.

Antonietta Corrado has been a Mainstay tenant since November 2019. She went from owning her own condo to being homeless for years. Now she is feeling secure in her new home. Recently, she shared her story with Toronto Life magazine.  Read the full story. 

John’s Story

With support from Mainstay, John is establishing a stable home base.

John (not his real name) moved into Mainstay Housing in February 2015 through the City of Toronto’s Streets to Homes program.

John initially struggled to transition to stable housing, leaving his apartment for months at a time. Each time, Mainstay, in collaboration with our support partners, worked with him and provided support to help him to return to his housing.

In December 2018, John started to connect with the onsite peer support worker. This relationship has improved his level of engagement with onsite staff.

With intensive site support and ongoing education on harm reduction, John has stopped using substances. He has also maintained a more consist presence in his rental unit and the building.

John is now regularly engaging with fellow tenants and participating in onsite community development activities. This has reduced his social isolation and increased his sense of community and belonging.

John initially dealt with anger issues, including damage to property and outward signs of aggression. Now he is learning different ways to control his anger and has shown fewer outward signs of aggression.

He is cooperating with cleaning his unit. He is using the primary healthcare system, including visiting with his family doctor and keeping his appointments. He is also actively working with his psychiatrist.

With support from Mainstay, John is establishing a stable home base.

Crystal’s Story

When I’m working, I feel creative, positive, peaceful.

‘Crystal’ is a self-taught jewelry designer with complex mental and physical health issues. In 2016, she used an Opportunity Fund grant to start her jewelry business, buying beads and other inventory needs and printing business cards.

Making jewelry is more than just a business, however. “My mental health issues are non-existent when I’m working with my beads,” she says. “Making my jewelry puts me in my happy place. When I’m working, I feel creative, positive, peaceful and one with myself.”

Her first year was a success, as she sold her hand-made pieces on-line at etsy.com. This year she will use a second Opportunity Fund grant to purchase more inventory, set up a stall at farmers’ markets and church bazaars, add her creations to her Instagram and Facebook accounts, and set up a LinkedIn account.

Mr. B’s Story

I felt completely at home once I measured my room and finally moved in.

Mr. B was surprised in 2014 when his landlord informed him that they planned on renovating the basement where he lived. They re-rented it for a higher amount.

Mr. B was worried. He didn’t know where he was going to find a place to live that was clean, safe and reasonably priced. Then he heard about the `Supporting Veterans’ in Housing’ program at Mainstay Housing and things began to change.

Three years later, Mr. B still recalls his first visit of the house that eventually became his home, sharing his enthusiasm of being part of a group of men who had all served in the Canadian Military. “I felt completely at home once I measured my room and finally moved in,” smiled Mr. B.

Once settled in, Mr. B worked with his Mainstay Supportive Housing Worker, Michael Binful, and with his case manager at Veterans Affairs Canada, to create a Coordinated Care Plan.

Coordinated care planning provides tenants who live with complex health issues with integrated health care in their community. This innovative approach brings together health care providers and supports in the community to better and more quickly coordinate care for higher needs tenants.

Mr. B was diagnosed with a neuro-muscular disease called Guillain-Barré syndrome eight years ago and through the ongoing support of his circle of care planning, Mr. B says he is doing well. “My legs and knees get rubbery sometimes, but I can get around well enough with a cane with the rubber bottom.”

Over the last couple of years, Mr. B has been able to address his health care goals. “I just received a letter the other day stating I need to go see my optometrist for my yearly checkup,” said Mr. B.

Having a coordinated care plan with a circle of care is key. “I get my monthly tests at the lab and my medication at the pharmacy, all located in the same building, near my doctor’s office.”

His circle of care includes a family doctor, neurologist, pharmacist, medical lab technician, dentist, optometrist and his support workers. “Bringing health care providers and supports together is what Coordinated Care is all about,” says Kimberley Ellsworth, a manager in the Tenant Members Services department at Mainstay Housing.

“For tenants who are aging in place, coordinated care planning can support tenant members to live independently for as long as they wish.”

Sebastian’s Story

After 10 years of being homeless, Sebastian was happy to have a safe place to call home.

‘Sebastian’ joined Mainstay in 2016. Since then, he has successfully maintained his tenancy and is starting to attend the community development programs within his residential building.

Early in 2017, Sebastian was approved for a Mainstay Opportunity Fund grant, which he used to enroll in the Culinary Foundations Program at George Brown College. He is thoroughly enjoying it; he wants to be a good role model for his children and eventually to become a chef at his own restaurant.

As with many Mainstay residents, it’s been a hard journey for Sebastian. He suffered both physical and mental abuse throughout his childhood, and he was eventually put into foster care. Several years later, he moved to Toronto to make a fresh start. He lived on the streets for a couple of years before being approached by a Streets to Homes outreach worker, who helped him find housing at Mainstay.

After ten years of being homeless, Sebastian was happy to have a safe place to live and call home. Sebastian and his Supportive Housing Worker have developed a trusting relationship and he is currently working on improving his physical and mental health. Recently, Sebastian disclosed to his SHW that he has two children in foster care that he has not seen in three years, since they were babies.

At Sebastian’s request, the SHW investigated and located his children. With the SHW’s help, it will now be possible for Sebastian to enjoy bi-weekly visits with his children.

Thelmuta’s Story

It’s a great way for them to socialize and meet each other.

Community kitchen programs, which encourage tenant members to come together and pool their skills and resources to prepare safe, healthy meals, have existed in Mainstay buildings for several years.

In January 2014, the Community Kitchen Train the Trainer program was launched at five Mainstay properties, and Evergreen Brickworks was hired to design and implement the program.

Thelmuta was involved in a Train the Trainer program in her building, and attended all the sessions, including a visit to the Brickworks farm, cooking lessons and preserving techniques. On graduation, she also obtained her food handling certificate.

In 2015, when Evergreen stepped back, Mainstay staff collaborated with Tenant Member graduates of the program to co-design and co-implement the Leadership Kitchen, with tenant members taking the lead in facilitating training sessions with other tenant members.

Thelmuta signed up for the project after seeing a flyer asking for volunteers, and Leadership Kitchens were eventually offered at four Mainstay buildings.

Each team of Kitchen Leaders has two tenant members as the main facilitators and two Supportive Housing Workers who provide support to the tenant member trainers and to a lesser degree co-facilitate the sessions. Tenant members from the buildings work right alongside the facilitators. “Often, not many come at first,” Thelmuta says, “but more come as the sessions go on. It’s a great way for them to socialize and meet each other.”

“We visit each location four times over four months,” she explains. “If the building has a kitchen, we prepare rice and meat dishes. If there’s no kitchen, then we do wraps or grilled cheese. The goal is to get the tenant members involved, and encourage someone to take the food handling course.”