‘The Corner’ providing key social, economic supports for St. James Town residents

In the downtown Toronto neighbourhood of St. James Town, 'The Corner' is a non-profit agency providing a wide variety of community programs. Nick Westoll visits the organization's share and reuse space to learn more.

St. James Town, which is among Toronto’s densest neighbourhoods, has played an important role in welcoming new immigrants to the city and one organization has stepped up to provide needed supports.

The Corner has two spaces on Wellesley Street East. The first, located at 200 Wellesley St. E., focuses on social services, health care and resettlement programs. The second is at 240 Wellesley St. E. and it operates as a share and reuse space.

“The idea is instead of buying these things, why can’t we, as a community, share these resources so that we save on [finances]?” Aravind Joseph, a manager with The Corner @ 240, said.

“We fix bikes, we fix electronics, we fix laptops and phones, we fix clothes — pretty much anything that comes into the space.”

Joseph said the space is meant to build up skills as well by teaching people how to do maintenance.

In addition to repair services, there’s a tool-lending library, furniture swap networks to help new residents and a seed library to help residents who want to do balcony gardening.

For the staff, fostering connections among people is as important as offering tools and services.

“People come with different perspectives and how do we come together to share these ideas and perspectives and create an identity as a community?” Joseph said.

In an area with nearly two dozen high-rise apartments and condos, Joseph estimated there are 25,000 to 30,000 people in the neighbourhood of St. James Town (which is bordered by Sherbourne Street, Bloor Street East, Parliament Street and Wellesley Street East). It’s believed up to two-thirds of the population is made up of immigrants.

“We call it a world within a block,” he said.

“One of the major or most important things about St. James Town is its diversity. Though it comes with its own challenges, it actually gives us more opportunities to work with the people who come with different skill sets, different perspectives, different ideas.”

Joseph said he and others want to see increased investments in the area. He said more social and community services like a youth hub are needed. Joseph said there are calls for more business and residential opportunities.

“Our collective goal is to make St. James Town a neighborhood of choice to call home,” he said.

“It’s a transient neighborhood people move away from here after a few years of coming to Canada … we want to make sure that people feel confident and comfortable to actually settle down in St. James Town.”

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