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The Densest Neighbourhood In North America: Aravind Joseph Talks Housing within the St. Jamestown Community

St. Jamestown, a high-rise neighbourhood, with a dynamic population, undergoes changes every single day. Merely 10 years ago, the community was filled with residents of West African origin. Now, it's a melting pot of South Asia. Many attribute this to immigration over the last decade, along with fiscal trends that govern the immigrating populace.


An aging infrastructure, an aging population, and sky-high prices prove to be quite the challenge, but one that the St. Jamestown Community Corner braves on a daily basis.


St. Jamestown, Toronto


“It’s a high proportion of seniors, with severe isolation, mental health issues, LGBTQ stigma, and overflowing newcomers,” states Aravind Joseph, director of media and communications for the St. Jamestown Community Corner.


“Funnily enough, we’re surrounded by very affluent neighborhoods, such as Rosedale and Bleecker St.,” Joseph remarked.


Post-pandemic, people have been extremely isolated, and with rising food prices, thanks to the headline consumer price index jumping up four basis points, sustaining the average household was no simple feat.


“We have 1 or 2 food banks, but we’re also the densest neighborhood in North America, which is quite appalling. There are 30000 people with food security issues, so there isn’t much green space either.”


Of course, the burden of these residents was nothing short of herculean. “A lot of people lost their jobs, even if they’re sick, they had to push themselves to go to work. This was the basic essence of the neighborhood.”


Now, what does the SJCC do in spite of all this? Joseph was kind enough to give SimpliFined a quick synopsis, highlighting their various initiatives, and their tangible impact towards the community.


The St. Jamestown Community Corner at 200, not to be confused with their alternative office at 240.


One of the highlights of the Community Corner is the Market Greens, a membership-based fresh produce market that offers discounts to members every Wednesday. This initiative helps ensure that residents have access to affordable, fresh produce. Complementing this is the Green Café, which operates on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, providing a full meal (soup and main course) for just five dollars, making it an extremely economical option for the community.


In addition to these food-related initiatives, the Community Corner is part of the city-founded RRR (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) program, which includes 12 hubs across the city, each focusing on different activities. The St. Jamestown hub specializes in repair services, helping to fix items such as laptops and encouraging a circular economy where resources are kept within the community. Joseph highlights the importance of reducing waste and repurposing items that would otherwise end up in landfills, which conserves energy and supports sustainability.


The Community Corner also runs a Library of Things, where residents can borrow tools, camping equipment, and party supplies, further promoting the reuse of resources. Additionally, the Catering Collective empowers newcomer women by providing opportunities to cook and cater for events, thus supporting their integration and economic independence.


Recognizing the needs of refugees, the St. Jamestown Community Corner offers settlement services, helping newcomers navigate the process of becoming permanent residents or citizens. They refer individuals to language classes and provide essential connections through the St. Jamestown Services Network, ensuring refugees across the city can access the support they need.


Joseph notes that the Community Corner serves over 1,600 new clients each year and provides services to 6,000 clients, with more than 40,000 service encounters annually. Despite their extensive reach, they face challenges such as limited space and staffing. They once had a housing worker funded by the city, but due to funding cuts, they are now understaffed in that area.


Outreach and engagement are crucial components of their work. They have a dedicated department that goes into the neighborhood and buildings to ensure residents are aware of the available services. However, Joseph acknowledges that with around 30,000 people in the neighborhood, many are still unaware of the Community Corner's existence, partly due to the isolation some residents experience.


The Community Corner is also committed to youth engagement, helping young people find purpose and utilize their talents. By fostering partnerships and encouraging residents to support one another, they aim to create a stronger, more connected community. Initiatives like Tradesconnect help individuals find career pathways in fields like construction and IT, while various workshops, including photography, offer opportunities for skill development.


In summary, the St. Jamestown Community Corner is a beacon of support and sustainability, driven by a commitment to the community it serves. Despite facing challenges, their wide array of programs and services continue to make a significant impact on the lives of residents, promoting a collaborative and resilient neighborhood.


Any further inquiries can be directed to Aravind Joseph at ajoseph@stjamestown.org, and if you’d like to be featured on one of our spotlights, contact us at simplifinednews@gmail.com!

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