This report explores the continuum of inadequate housing, risk of homelessness, and visible homelessness among families in Toronto. Low-income families often move between different points on this continuum, and homelessness among families is more likely to be hidden than visible. Drawing upon a survey of families living in aging rental apartment buildings in Toronto’s low-income neighbourhoods, and on focus groups with parents and service providers, this study examines the relationship between housing conditions and homelessness. The findings show that large numbers of children and parents are living in precarious, unaffordable, poor-quality housing. The report recommends four key interventions that can improve families’ access to safe, stable, affordable, and suitable housing.
Emily Paradis, PhD, is Senior Research Associate, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto. An activist, researcher, advocate, and front-line service provider with women facing homelessness for 25 years, her scholarly work focuses on homelessness among women and families, human rights dimensions of homelessness and housing, community-based research and action with marginalized groups, and participatory interventions to address socio-spatial inequalities between and within urban neighbourhoods. She is Project Manager of the Neighbourhood Change Research Partnership
Research Paper 231, Neighbourhood Change Research Partnership, University of Toronto, March 2014
Funded by the Government of Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada through the Neighbourhood Change Research Partnership at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.
This report finds that some “neighbourhood strategies” are more effective than others. Drawing on a pilot study that contrasts the experiences of the Kingston?Galloway/Orton Park (KGO) priority neighbourhood, with Parkdale, a downtown community that faces similar social and economic challenges but which did not receive Priority Neighbourhood (PN) designation, the report demonstrates that how we diagnose the problems in neighbourhoods matters profoundly in how we respond. This research further suggests that there are different ways of understanding neighbourhoods active within the PN strategy. According to residents and community workers, some ways of making sense of neighbourhoods and making change in neighbourhoods are more effective and responsive than others, and this report explores these strategies and practices in some detail. It includes findings about both effective and ineffective strategies. Effective neighbourhood strategies cultivate social infrastructure. They stem from explanations for concentrated poverty that assign responsibility to government policy and economic change at the local, regional, national, and global scale. They restore investment in human services and facilities in areas that have been overlooked, but they also advocate change at scales much larger than the local in order to respond to social polarization, segregation, and the racialization of poverty. Effective strategies for neighbourhoods are tailor?made for local conditions by local communities. They are accountable and inclusive, provide meaningful skills development that responds directly to identified gaps and needs, and they explicitly address persistent inequalities such as those that are manifest along the lines of race, mental health, class, and gender.
Cities Centre, University of Toronto, June 2011. Toronto’s inner suburbs are home to many poor households, including members of many racialized groups. At the same time, social services in the inner suburbs are few and far between. This study looks at one neighbourhood (Kingston-Galloway/Orton Park) in Scarborough, and its social infrastructure. Social infrastructure is not just the social services or programs available to residents of a neighbourhood, but the area’s resources and relationships, such as spaces for gathering, opportunities for learning, as well as partnerships and networks within and beyond the community level. Social infrastructure exists at the local scale, but relies on public policy, capital investment, and social networks that are not necessarily local. This report draws on the insights of residents, community workers, non-profit agencies and public sector staff who are committed to improving everyday life for people in Toronto’s low income communities.