The sun was shining, the courtyard filled with people unified by the sound of live music and kids cheerfully playing. It was a market Saturday in July 2021, and the vibrancy in the Toronto Community Housing courtyard adjacent to the Moss Park Market was palpable.
Safety was a concern
Just a few years prior, Building Roots asked residents of the surrounding Toronto Community Housing residential units whether they frequent this outdoor space. We were saddened to learn the majority did not due to an almost unanimous concern for safety. “I don’t feel comfortable bringing my children here,” were among the disheartening responses we received.
Over the years that followed, Building Roots worked collaboratively with community members to animate the space with vibrant programming. The Moss Park Market began to transform into a community hub, and the courtyard space became a regular spot for convening. Between the picnics, workshops, live performances, and collaborative art projects – something changed.
Then in March of 2020, everything changed. While access to food and resources atrophied, the need for greater social connection was amplified. Countless community members, organizations, restauranteurs, and volunteers answered the call to ensure no one was left behind.
The resulting exponential growth of our Moss Park Market’s food programs led to some unexpected new challenges. Among these were having to use the market space solely for food distribution, leaving many of our other community programs without a home.
The summers continued to blossom with outdoor community fun, but the winters were long and hard, and year-round we were feeling the lack of accessible space to host our community programming.
Let us rewind, now, back to a sunny Saturday in July of 2021. On this particular day we had a special visit from former Ward 13 City Councillor Kristyn-Wong Tam. Leona, a local resident and long-time member of Building Roots’ Community Leaders program, took initiative in planting a seed with her. Half-jokingly, but full-heartedly, she told the City Councillor that we need another shipping container.
This was unbeknownst to me as I was chatting with Kristyn Wong-Tam. The two of us were taking in the vibrant sense of community around us, noting the transformation of a space where parents once felt unsafe bringing their kids, to a place where kids gallivanted freely while parents chatted with friends new and old.
The Councillor and I reflected that community programming and animation become more than the sum of their parts. That it is more than simply music, snacks, and activities. With the right alchemy, it includes a truly meaningful, deeply felt sense of safety for the community.
This is the moment when the seed Leona had already planted began to take root. The City Councillor invited Building Roots to build a proposal for new infrastructure that would further support the transformation of the space and contribute to community safety.
We’re excited to announce…
After a year of conversations with the City of Toronto, TCHC and community members, it is with an abundance of excitement that we announce having received the endorsements and funding support to erect a new shipping container, as well as additional outdoor amenities for all of Ward 13 to enjoy. The new container arrived on-site on Monday November 28, with programming to begin early 2023.
We sincerely thank the City of Toronto and Ward 13 for their belief in Building Roots, and their funding support for this initiative. We could not be more excited to collaborate with you all in ushering in a new chapter for the organization, our programs, and most importantly the communities we serve.
Stay tuned for more on the new Building Roots Gathering Space.
What a wonderful good news story! Kudos to everyone who helped make it happen!