Toronto Employment and Social Services (TESS) is the City of Toronto division responsible for providing financial assistance, employment services, and community support to low income Toronto residents. TESS has a network of 19 offices all over Toronto. This year, TESS added a wonderful initiative to our Wellness Month activities – community walks inspired by Jane’s Walk! Every South District office took a different approach to the walks. However, they were all united by the brilliant fact that each one reflected on the communities in which they are located!
While there were far too many memorable moments to recount, here are some of the best from each:
In the Beaches, staff walked along the boardwalk and took a tour of the Beaches branch of the Toronto Public Library. A local librarian shared all of the services that they offered, which he thought were useful to TESS and city residents. Many of the staff commented that they hadn’t walked through the neighbourhood before, and so they weren’t aware of its many riches! Others expressed that this was the first time they had been out walking in years, and that it motivated them to plan regular walks during their lunches – so the impact will continue!
The staff at High Park/Parkdale (HPP) discovered that they are located in an area that is rich in diversity, has a vibrant arts scene and which is home to numerous social service agencies working to support community members. The walk explored a strip of Queen St, from Sorauren to Dufferin. A caseworker at HPP said, "exploring the neighborhood on foot was such an important way to connect and to be reminded of the vibrant and rich community in which we work…. It is one thing to know of agencies that support the residents, but to actually pull ourselves away from our phones, computers and desks to immerse ourselves in the community and learn what is offered is extremely valuable."
The Wellesley Place route wended its way past Jarvis Collegiate, mansions along Jarvis, the Allan Gardens, Cabbagetown, St. Bartholomew's Church and the new residential construction in Regent Park! Walk participants couldn’t stop talking about the ever changing financial fortunes of the area over the past 150 years, and how the community responds to those changes. The community walk provided an amazing way to get to know the area better and, by extension, understand the needs of the community.
Metro Hall and some curious Torontonians took a historic approach to their community walk, exploring the route from Metro Hall to Osgoode Hall. They saw photos of Old Government House in 1908 and the beautiful mansion that once stood on the Metro Hall site. Staff even learned that the Tim Horton’s (at King and John), visited by many every morning, was actually a historic building built in 1824, which became the first Toronto General Hospital a decade later! Participants then visited the intersection of Simcoe and John, which was known as "the crossroads of Education, Legislation, Salvation and Damnation." ("Education" for Upper Canada College; "Legislation" for the parliament buildings; "Salvation" for St. Andrew's; and "Damnation" for a tavern, popular with actors from the Princess Theatre, which stood on the northeast corner of the crossroads). Amazingly, of the 4, only Salvation still stands!
Even though the four walks were different, similar excitements echoed from each. Everyone enjoyed the leadership and agency involved in developing and running the walks themselves and learning more about the areas that they are immersed in every day!
Photo by Sammy Tangir