West Hill service hub uses power of collaboration to support residents in East Scarborough

The Scarborough Storefront helps area residents find work, legal aid and assist with financial services. Brandon Rowe speaks with the people behind the initiative.

By Brandon Rowe

For over two decades, the East Scarborough Storefront has used the power of collaboration to support people and build community in an inner suburban neighbourhood.

Located in the West Hill area, this organization, which opened in 2001 operates as a service hub where 35 organizations bring social services like legal advice, youth groups, and settlement services to the neighbourhood.

“If we didn’t have the storefront here, people would be taking a number of different buses and sometimes they wouldn’t even get to those supports and appointments that they need to get to,” said Sahar Vermezyari, Director at the East Scarborough Storefront. “We do a lot of connecting and supporting and facilitating of connections. It’s a community hub where folks can come and get all kinds of services.”

Residents get access to things some may take for granted, such as internet access.

Richard, who moved here from New Brunswick, had nothing and no way of contacting his family but that all changed when he came to the Storefront.

“Without the guidance of these people, I’d still be walking the streets,” Richard told CityNews.

There is also a big emphasis on helping area residents get jobs in the West Hill community that might often go to other people.

The East Scarborough Works program aims to become a bridge and create a pathway to link local residents looking for work to jobs and training for the jobs being created in the community, especially ones that have been created as the result of public spending.

“I just love helping people. I went through some hardships. When people helped me, I felt such a weight lifted so if I could do the same, I feel really happy with myself,” said Mohammed Shah, a man who took advantage of these job services.

The goal is to also create future leaders. They work with organizations like the Association for Committed and Engaged Youth, which visits neighbourhood schools to help run events.

“We talk about topics such as immigration, mental health and education.” said Keyana Hector. She said the adults at the Storefront are great collaborators. “It’s hard to get adults to listen to us because they don’t take us seriously, but at storefront they do. It’s nice to have adult allies.”

At the Storefront, they have also come up with unique ways to tackle food insecurity.

They do this through a community garden as well as bringing in organizations like the 5n2. The 5n2 is a charity organization that feeds people in need. They have fed more than 450,000 people, many of them out of the kitchen at the Storefront.

“Our first serving actually happened here in 2013 in November. I remember we were so excited and our team was so excited we cooked up two cans of soup and had them come in and share with them,” said Executive Director Seema David. “It’s amazing how we’ve stayed in partnership with storefront cause they’ve been a good community organization.”

The community garden is located in the Kingston Galloway Orton Park community and there are plots that residents are able to use.

“It’s really important in a neighbourhood like Scarborough where there are lots of towers as you can see behind us where they don’t have access to communal green space,” said Sahar. “It’s also a great food security initiative where people can grow their own fruits and vegetables. Things they can’t get in Canada.”

If you’re looking to get involved with the Storefront by volunteering or to donate, you can find more information here.

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