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My Own Place - Mark's Housing Journey

In the midst of a Global Pandemic, Toronto’s shelter and homelessness crisis have prompted quick action by many City of Toronto and community health organizations. As a result of rental vacancies cropping up across the city due to the lack of tourism this year, Cota has been able to secure housing for individuals who would otherwise be on a ten-year waiting list.

Specifically, during the period of April through July, Cota’s Toronto East Integrated Service Team (IST) successfully helped eight new people to exit homelessness and secure permanent affordable housing with supports provided by their ongoing involvement.

Mark’s story began in 2015. He lived and worked in the city for 15 years. And in 2015, he was let go. Mark began applying to other jobs, living off of his savings in the meantime.

Mark in his new home - housing success story
Mark (individual receiving services from Cota)

No one wanted to hire me, I think it’s because I was older. By 2018, all my savings had run out and I was promptly evicted from my apartment. I knew I was going to end up on the street and started selling off all my stuff to friends. Then I tried to take my own life in a park but called a friend who then got me on an ambulance to the hospital.

- Mark

Mark spent one night on the street and was determined to seek shelter inside. He was connected to the Homeless Network and eventually sent to a large shelter in the City.

There were a lot of nice people doing great work at the shelter, but it’s a large place and you end up dealing with a lot of difficult situations.”

Mark was physically assaulted at the shelter and lost hope when the shelter and police did very little to support him.

Then he met a Cota case manager who never gave up on him:

They showed me they cared and always kept in touch. They showed me how big their heart is and with somebody like that in your corner... it gives you hope

- Mark

When the pandemic hit, there was a positive case at the shelter and the city decided to move all the tenants to a hotel.

I found out the night before that I had to pack and be ready to move the next day. I ended having my own hotel room, shower and TV,” remarked Mark, “it was such a relief. If someone had said to me in April that I would have my own place by the end of the summer, I would have been so skeptical.

Mark hoped he be transferred to a quiet rooming house and share the living space with the other tenants.

The case manager’s work shifted at the onset of the pandemic and they found themself supporting clients with housing needs, applications, internet / tax services. “This work is best done in-person. I know there were risks for myself, but I felt safe and supported by Cota and knew that if I didn’t step up, the clients would not have received the level of support they needed.”

Cota knew that Mark’s stay at the hotel was temporary, so the case manager engaged a Cota housing coordinator and they actively looked for a vacancy in the city. “Landlords don’t often want people from the shelter system moving into their buildings,” she said. Then, the housing coordinator found a vacant apartment.

The landlord was really impressed by how Cota’s Supportive Housing Program operated and how we respond to crisis by supporting both the clients and landlord to maintain stable housing,” remarked the housing coordinator.

I got a call from my case manager and met them at an apartment. We toured the unit together and they asked me if I liked it. I said yeah. And they said, it’s yours then!

- Mark

Mark has been stably housed since June and still can’t believe his luck. 

Sometimes I just walk around my unit in awe.” The case manager continues to work closely with Mark by connecting him to ODSP, a doctor and a social worker at InnerCity.

It’s important for individuals to have a transition period and access needed supports in order to maintain stable housing. From there, we work with them to accomplish their goals,” they said.

I feel so good right now. Thank you to Cota for all your help. There is hope for others who faced the same challenges I did!

- Mark

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