It’s safe to say that through all our current challenges, togetherness has proven to be a strength which will transform our communities during the pandemic and after it passes.
As we all give thanks to our frontline workers for what they are doing to help us in combating our current situation, Building Roots wants to drop you a reminder to thank yourselves.
This is important to remember because collaborative change is found through selflove and self-growth. A beautiful example we are grateful to witness is how the Moss Park Market wouldn’t be what it is today without the community members who were gracious enough to share a little bit of that love.
Our Moss Park Market is a pay-what-you-can service open every Saturday from 11AM – 4PM where you can access food and produce bags for safe pick-up with absolutely no information collected.
These food bags are fueled by a spread of community partners who contribute everything from baked goods to raw vegetables weekly. Because of the cold weather, we want to make sure that everyone can
be served quickly and safely.
If it is your first time visiting us at 260 Queen St. E, one of our volunteers will kindly touch base with you to arrange the details of any future Covid-safe pickups.
We are here to help fill an important gap – and that’s the knowledge and security you will have accessing fresh, healthy food on a regular basis.
That way, you can focus on thanking yourself.
As featured in The Bridge community newspaper issue of March 2021
Dear, Mayor John Tory Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam Mary-Anne Bedard, General Manager of Shelter, Support & Housing Administration Janie Romoff, General Manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation Department Christine Elliot, Minister of Health,
December 3, 2020
I’m writing to you from Building Roots, a progressive grassroots social venture that began in 2013 in response to a lack of fresh food access and agricultural growing space across Toronto, more specifically, Moss Park and downtown Toronto East. We work primarily to build resources for social cohesion and co-create targeted interventions with communities. We collaborate closely with partner agencies, volunteers, community leaders, and local businesses to deepen and expand our reach. We develop innovative solutions to some of the city’s lowest income neighbourhoods and social disparities such as poverty, social isolation and inadequate housing.
Thus far, we have provided the Moss Park encampment with over 200 warm meals, weekly cases of fresh fruit, and 100 winterized sleeping bags and emergency blankets. Although a necessary and meaningful offering, this is not enough.
We care deeply about the encampments and our unhoused neighbours for multiple reasons and urge against encampment evictions. Folks in the encampment should be permitted to stay where they are until better and more dignified alternatives are available.
Firstly, we know encampments are the result of a decades-long housing crisis caused by public policy that encouraged the financialization of housing while cutting investments in affordable housing and Rent-Geared-to-Income options in the downtown core.
Secondly, clearing encampments spreads COVID-19. This is a public health issue. The CDC still recommends that encampments not be cleared: “Unless individual housing units are available, do not clear encampments during community spread of COVID-19. Clearing encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community and break connections with service providers. This increases the potential for infectious disease spread.”
The City’s winter plan falls short on providing enough space for people. The plan provides space for 560 people but advocates and outreach workers estimate that there are over 1000 people sleeping on the streets and with the current ‘eviction blitz’ that number is going to grow.
Thirdly, The shelter system is full. People calling central intake every night are not able to get beds. People will be sleeping outside regardless of whether or not encampments are cleared, but without the communities they’ve created over the past months and years. Additionally, shelter hotels don’t work for everyone. Facilities like the City Plaza at Jane & Wilson hotel are far away from people’s communities, families, jobs, friends, social services and overdose prevention sites, and don’t all have robust overdose prevention programs, which can result in death. One death is too many.
Lastly, at this time, it is critical that the City provide encampment residents with basic survival gear and access to sanitation, while also opening recreation centres and public washrooms 24/7 for encampment residents to stay safe, including during the day.
The City should follow the recommendations of the inquest into the death of Grant Faulkner, and provide survival gear, including fire safety, to those sleeping in tents. While City Council voted in favour of handing out survival gear on October 28, 2020, we have yet to see City workers do this on the ground. Thus far, City staff and police have confiscated people’s heat sources and destroyed people’s tents.
As an organization, we will continue to do what we can to support our unhoused neighbours. We support the Encampment Support Network, and our unhoused neighbours in seeking shelter in encampments, and advocate against encampment clearings.
Jeff Bierk of Encampment Support Network (ESN), a group of volunteers who organizes in a grassroots way to bring supplies, awareness, and acts of kindness to folks in the encampments across Toronto says,
“we’re just literally trying to take care of people … and we’re ensuring compassion is paramount,”
(The Star, September, 2020).
ESN, notably not an organization but rather the organized efforts of compassionate neighbours, has been integral in providing folks living in encampments essentials such as toiletries, warm meals, water, ice, sleeping bags, and more.
They connect with local agencies, businesses, and keen individuals to activate a diversity of essential supports, wholly rooted in compassion . Ultimately, permanent housing is needed, and until then, our neighbours in the encampment require support and understanding.
Thus, Building Roots presents the Support Our Unhoused Neighbours Campaign.
On October 17th, Building Roots worked with ESN to organize “Food with Friends: Moss Park Encampment Action Day,” distributing over 100 warm meals fromTiffinday, with donations from Oh She Glows to folks in the Moss Park Encampment. We also supplied water and fresh fruit. We were truly inspired to see how the community and volunteers pulled together to make a wonderful impact.
Now, with the help of our friends at Harvey Kalles, we’ve quickly procured funds to provide 100+ sleeping bags and emergency blankets to our unhoused neighbours in the Moss Park Encampment, slated to go out at our next Action Day in November. We know this is necessary as the weather gets cold, and have heard first-hand from folks living in encampments that these supplies will be appreciated and potentially life-saving. Yet we also know that many more supplies are needed still.
If you’re interested and able to donate toward the Support Our Unhoused Neighbours Campaign, supporting the Moss Park Encampment and taking care of those folks in our community who could most use winter warmth, you can do so on our website. Please specify in the message that you would like these funds to be used toward this campaign.
If you’re interested in contributing other forms of support or supplies (such as warm meals, skids or plywood, water, warm clothing), please connect with Hannah at email@example.com.
Nine months into 2020, we’ve had six months of living a new life. As we collectively learn a lesson about presence, resilience can be an underappreciated theme. Our resilience is founded in doing what we do best, safely, to get through the current difficult period together.
At the Moss Park Market, we’re making a few adjustments to how fresh food will be picked up this winter season. We want everyone to stay warm and safe in the coming colder months.
From 11am to 4pm, we’ll have five pick-up time slots of one hour each.
If you are already a regular at the market, nothing much will change; we just hope to shorten wait times. If you do not yet have a time slot, we will still serve you. We are just asking for cooperation in planning a pick-up slot once you do come!
Ultimately, our offerings are pay-what-you-can, but we suggest a donation of $5 for one bag or $25 for 4 weeks.
The Moss Park Market is fueled by community support: your presents support our presence. But we don’t define people by their ability to support us financially. We want to support our community’s resilience – you are welcome here.
We are always finding ways for helping hands to stay busy. If you want to get involved with Building Roots, you can follow us on social media to find opportunities.
If you have any questions about the new pick-up process, you can talk to us in person at the Saturday market.
The park that gives the Moss Park neighbourhood its name has housed a tent encampment during the COVID-19 pandemic that has laid bare the lack of government action to help the most vulnerable.
Higgins and others from Building Roots have been hustling to engage low-income residents in the byelection campaign by telling them how and where to vote during the community group’s regular Moss Park Market events.
“They really want to see a community champion in this role,” he said of residents he’s spoken with recently, noting that “getting people to talk about what they care about has helped to grow the awareness and to think about what it is possible to change for the community.”