After 20 years struggling to survive on the streets, Edward now lives at Jarvis House, a Homes First property serving 24 older men, many battling alcohol abuse.
“This is the longest I’ve ever stayed anywhere,” Edward says as he shows me around the living room he shares with three other men, all former Seaton House residents like himself. Beautiful exposed brick covers the walls throughout this heritage building. A hodgepodge of couches and a rocking chair are arranged around a TV sitting on the floor.
“The housing is terrific! I love my room. Ain’t got a view, but it’s comfortable,” he says showing off his bedroom proudly. The walls are covered in a mix of thriller movie posters and Japanese art. The door is painted red, the first homey touch he put on when he moved in 14 years ago.
Edward was homeless for nearly two decades and spent his days drinking and panhandling to get by. Unable to maintain housing, he rotated through shelters, spending dark winter nights on the street. “I would sleep in the parks. Yeah, it was pretty gruesome. I drank and drank all my life. But now, I haven’t had a drink in seven years,” Edward shares. He’s turning 62 at the end of the month.
Edward’s last stop before securing permanent housing was Seaton House, Toronto’s largest shelter for men. Homes First welcomes men from Seaton House to apply for vacancies first- a piece of a partnership that was established between the two organizations over ten years ago. When a room opened up, Seaton House recommended Edward: shortly after being interviewed, he moved into his new single unit with his own key.
The longtime partnership between Seaton House and Homes First successfully houses the chronically homeless by sharing their resources. Homes First’s community housing worker Abdullahi Osman is at Jarvis House to support clients daily. He works with residents to prevent evictions, manage hoarding, and give referrals to outside agencies who can help with food, clothing and employment. A Seaton House worker stops by twice a week providing continual care to their past clients and issuing meal tickets to new tenants until they can live independently. There’s a close relationship between the two agencies and communication is open and honest. The community housing workers often work together when difficult decisions need to be made. “We know we’re the last opportunity many tenants have for housing, so we make sure we do everything we can to keep them housed,” says Abdullahi. “This partnership is effective because we work together to prevent evictions.”