77 Howard Street
A core group of 14 volunteers, most of us St James Town residents, have been working with CREW’s Lidia Ferriera in St James Town since September 2019. We are contributing to the resilience of residents at 77 Howard Street, which is home to several of our volunteers. The outreach and organizing underway at 77 Howard is expected to extend to 650 Parliament where a fire in 2018 triggered long-term evacuation.
Three of our volunteers are moving back to 650 Parliament and we want to continue our work there.
Every building in St James Town has its own identity. Residents are very diverse. Many have been in Canada for less than five years, although others are second generation.
About St James Town
St James Town is a downtown Toronto neighbourhood with 19 high rises crowded into one big city block. Many buildings are in need of updates and maintenance. In 2017 CREW was invited to co-host workshops with the St James Town co-op. Residents were asked to map the resources, people, organizations and places that would be go-to’s for a local extreme weather emergency response. Toronto’s Office of Emergency Management officer joined us to discuss hazards, best practices and strategies.
Since then, a summer 2018 electrical fire triggered the evacuation of 1,500 people for 18 months, and 2018 and 2019 winter’s extreme freeze and thaw cycles burst pipes and flooded electrical rooms in a number of buildings, causing extended power outages.
CREW in St James Town
CREW has been building leadership capacity and volunteer teams in this exceptionally diverse neighbourhood for more than two years.
CREW brings people together in workshops, training sessions, door to door outreach, asset mapping, lobby greeting tables, community events, gardening, homework clubs, ESL classes, and more.
We believe that the positive response to our pilot “neighbour-helping-neighbour” approach at 77 Howard Street demonstrates the interest of residents in helping each other during times of stress and emergency.
CREW Volunteer Testimonials
Sambreen – 650 Parliament, St. James Town
I came to Canada in 2018 from Pakistan. Arriving in a new country and having a supportive community is such a blessing, and I consider myself fortunate to have settled in the St James town neighbourhood.
I enjoyed being a member of the volunteer team in St James Co-op that helped with the Food Box mission during these tough Covid-19 times.
Being a part of the CREW’s virtual meetings not only helped me learn more about what’s going on in the neighbourhood, but it also helped me become more socialized and confident in expressing my thoughts on a variety of issues.
Lastly, I’m studying Community Service worker at Canadian business College, helping the community and being part of their ups and downs is not only my interest but also a part of my job.
Faiza – 135 Rose Ave, St. James Town
Hello there! My name is Faiza.
I have been a member of CREW for the last 7 months now. Being a part of CREW has given me the opportunity to learn about other people’s perspectives on many topics and to learn about many new things. Recently, we have been talking about creating some space near the entrance of community to be able to plant various plants and make a beautiful garden as a way to use outside spaces during this pandemic.
This discussion really stood out to me the most because I have a passion in gardening and learning about the different types of plants and new techniques too. I am incredibly happy to spend some time with such group as it is very energetic and has many ideas. Thank you for this opportunity once more!
Anushen – 375 Bleecker St, St. James Town
Working with CREW has been nothing but an amazing experience that has changed my life. At first, I was pretty shy when it came to talking to new people and to take action when it came to helping within my community but thanks to CREW, I’ve gained the confidence and skills to do so.
After CREW, I’ve been helping a lot more within my community to the best of my abilities. I’ve helped with some gardens, helped with the St James Town Community Co-op with their emergency food box program as a volunteer by helping pack food, delivery food and even call residents on when their food is going to be delivered.
I have nobody else but thank CREW for pushing my boundaries open which allowed me to help my community.
Community Resilience to Extreme Weather (CREW) has spent nearly six years promoting the possession of emergency kits and plans to neighbourhood communities. This work also emphasizes the importance of preparing for emergencies and the meaning of shelter in place. Tragically, because of COVID-19, all Canadians now understand the significance of these measures
The most vulnerable among us are suffering the worst impacts of COVID-19: financial, food security, employment prospects, uncertainty about the future of children, and coping with isolation in small spaces with no outside spaces. Preparation for emergencies can be beyond residents’ means, and sheltering in place may add to the hardship.
St. James Town residents have many strengths and are extremely resilient.
- Resilientville mapping: Identifying the neighbourhoods resilience strengths and weaknesses.
- Lighthouse Project: Exploring the potential of faith based organizations as catalysts for climate resilience hubs.
- Creation of the St. James Town residents Steering Committee
- 77 Howard Resilient: training of 77 Howard residents to become building emergency volunteers.
- Building Community Resilience in St. James Town: delivering emergency volunteer training to other St. James Town buildings and SJT service agency staff.
- Building collaborative work and engagement with SJT stakeholders
- Development of an emergency preparedness curriculum for English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. Delivered in SJT and elsewhere.
- Continuation of ongoing emergency preparedness training and network building for SJT residents and other stakeholders. Climate change impact communications.
Since March 2020 and declaration of the pandemic we have been able to develop a number of projects that include:
- Seniors digital inclusion: supplying isolated seniors with computer tablets, basic device training, and internet access.
- Delivering regular virtual social meetings with seniors.
- Women’s get-together – virtual meetings in Covid-19. Convening a diversity of women who are isolated during the pandemic.
- Implementation of pollinator garden at 200 Wellesley Street.
- Participation in the Food Table conversations and planning with residents and agencies working in St. James Town
- Participant member of the SJT Service Provider Network
- Training in safety and emergency preparedness for local leaders
- Facilitating the engagement of resident volunteers with the Anglican church gardens.
- Distribution of United Way Covid-19 response to food needs in St. James Town.
- Women’s conversations: engaging racialized women across ethno-cultural communities in virtual social get-togethers to form friendships; recognize commonalities; discuss ethno-cultural differences. Sharing of their biographies and experience with other communities. PENDING FUNDING
- Connecting SJT residents to the local ravine system. PENDING FUNDING
- Building a Green Path in SJT to connect all of the green spaces in the neighbourhood and introducing residents to nearby parkland, ravine system and other natural destinations. PENDING FUNDING
- Continuation of ongoing emergency preparedness training and network building for SJT residents and other stakeholders. Climate change impact communications. FUNDED
The Lighthouse Project
The Lighthouse Project pilot is now closed. Pilot findings are available here as links to two Tamarack Institute Case Studies—one from the pilot’s midway point, and the second after its completion. A third resource is a paper published in the December 2020 issue of Canadian Journal of Public Health. Neighbourhood Climate Resilience: lessons from the Lighthouse Project.