Securing housing depends on a constellation of support: David Reycraft
My name is David Reycraft. I’m the Director of Housing Services at Dixon Hall, and I’m responsible for a number of programs that support men and women in their recovery from homelessness and their transition to, hopefully, supportive and permanent housing.
Why does a focus on housing matter so much?
Housing is increasingly complex, increasingly expensive, and unattainable for so many people. And if you layer on that people who use drugs, people who are poor, people who are newcomers to our country, people who are living with mental health challenges, that makes it increasingly complicated to secure and maintain housing over a period of time without the right constellation of support in place.
Housing is a social determinant of health. It’s the primary social determinant of health. So we need to be thinking about building housing ecosystems across our cities, and our rural communities as well, across our society, that meet the needs of people who are more vulnerable.
It’s a task that we need to be taking on as a society.
Why is creating a fully housed Toronto important to you?
Social justice has been part of my makeup for a very long time.
My mother is an immigrant from Scotland and came here 70 years ago now, and I think that the challenges for immigrant populations continue and probably are more challenging today than ever. I think, in a country as wealthy as Canada, there should be a distribution of wealth that is more equitable and meets the needs of some of our more vulnerable communities.
Dixon Hall is currently helping transform downtown Toronto’s Bond Place Hotel into permanent housing for 280 residents. What is the significance of this project?
It’s the beginning of an important piece of work supporting people who are most vulnerable in our city, people who have histories of homelessness and are living with mental health and addictions.
We moved people from encampments, people from other sites that were even more temporary than this. In the interim, the city purchased the building, and we’re transitioning from what was operated as an emergency shelter program to permanent, supportive, mixed housing so that there will be a mix of people and communities that will be supported here, supported through the work that Dixon Hall does in partnership with the City of Toronto and a number of other partners that we work with.
What gives you hope in the midst of this crisis?
Well, I mean, the Bond gives me hope.
It is a complicated transition because we’re making this transition with people living in the building. But it’s happening and we’re moving forward with the support of our city funders, so that gives me a kind of hope.
But I also feel that people are talking about this in new and interesting ways and that we have an opportunity to make change, and that people are curious and want to hear what those of us who are working on the front line have to say about this.