Do­nated house has new pur­pose

Rais­ing the Roof to make use of Toronto home as af­ford­able hous­ing for at-risk youth

Toronto Star - - GRETER TORONTO AREA - EMILY MATHIEU AF­FORD­ABLE HOUS­ING RE­PORTER

It was a mod­est brick and mor­tar gift, be­queathed to Canada by a Toronto res­i­dent, and one ex­pected to have a last­ing im­pact on young lives for many years.

Maria Scutti’s life and gen­eros­ity was cel­e­brated on Thursday as part of a public announceme­nt that the lit­tle house Scutti left to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in her will is just a few months away from re­open­ing as a tran­si­tional home for at-risk Toronto youth.

The brown-brick bun­ga­low, near Jane St. and Wil­son Ave., was the plat­form for that public praise and the fu­ture site of a plaque hon­our­ing Scutti’s gift and one hous­ing ad­vo­cates praise as a com­pas­sion­ate so­lu­tion to one part of a ci­ty­wide home­less­ness cri­sis.

Na­tional char­ity Rais­ing the Roof was given the prop­erty by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, trans­ferred through the Sur­plus Fed­eral Real Prop­erty for Home­less­ness Ini­tia­tive, which is part of a broad na­tional hous­ing strat­egy and focused on re­duc­ing home­less­ness through the dis­burse­ment of fed­eral lands.

Rais­ing the Roof’s direc­tor of com­mu­nity ini­tia­tives and in­terim chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, Elisa Traf­i­cante, said the use of Scutti’s house is a “shin­ing ex­am­ple” of how one per­son’s de­ci­sion

can have a mean­ing­ful and last­ing im­pact on the lives of many vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple.

The Star learned of Scutti’s name and story only through the fed­eral re­lease and by press time had yet to de­ter­mine if she had liv­ing rel­a­tives, or con­nect with peo­ple who could share more about her life.

The house is ex­pected to be re­oc­cu­pied in Au­gust, out­fit­ted to meet the needs of three youth up­stairs and ready to ac­com­mo­date a fourth per­son in a sep­a­rate base­ment unit with a background in so­cial work who will act as a cross be­tween a house mon­i­tor and per­ma­nent room­mate.

Toronto pro­vided fi­nan­cial sup­port for ren­o­va­tions by agree­ing to a one-time $50,000 in­crease to the al­ready approved 2018 op­er­at­ing bud­get for shelter sup­port and hous­ing, and agreed to ex­empt the prop­erty from cer­tain mu­nic­i­pal taxes.

The City of Toronto con­sid­ers anyone be­tween the ages of 16 and 24 to be a youth. The peo­ple who move in will have been iden­ti­fied as be­ing at risk of be­com­ing home­less with­out proper sup­ports and will be re­ferred by an agency with ex­per­tise in that area. They will also, Traf­i­cante said, be en­rolled in school or some kind of vo­ca­tional train­ing. Rent is $440 per per­son and bath­room and kitchen fa­cil­i­ties are shared, she said.

How this one house fac­tors into larger ef­forts to com­bat home­less­ness is through their Re­side ini­tia­tive, she said. The goal of that project is to se­cure and set up at least 10 prop­er­ties to pro­vide low-cost rental hous­ing for peo­ple at risk of home­less­ness, then use any earn­ings from that rent to ex­pand.

“Rather than fo­cus on the emer­gency re­sponse and build­ing large shel­ters that are hard to main­tain we are just fo­cus­ing on build­ing af­ford­able hous­ing units,” Traf­i­cante said.

When asked by the Star, she said they would ac­cept do­na­tions. In­clud­ing prop­er­ties.

“Yes. We would love that. Very much so.”

Any fu­ture homes will pro­vide an­other way for young peo­ple to ad­vance and gain more se­cu­rity in life. Any youth in­ter­ested in the trades can be in­volved in ren­o­va­tions, un­der su­per­vi­sion, to help them de­ter­mine what type of ap­pren­tice­ship they might want to pur­sue.

Adam Vaughan, par­lia­men­tary sec­re­tary to the min­is­ter in charge of hous­ing, said the ini­tia­tive that was used to trans­fer Scutti’s house to Rais­ing the Roof has al­ready sourced 160 po­ten­tial prop­er­ties across the coun­try, in­clud­ing about a dozen in Toronto and one “very promis­ing” site in Toronto’s Dan­forth neigh­bour­hood. He said the full de­tails will be re­leased af­ter a deal is fi­nal­ized. The goal, he said, is to dis­perse $200 mil­lion worth of fed­eral land over 10 years.

“When you take the land val­ues out of the mix in Toronto af­ford­able hous­ing be­comes very easy,” Vaughan said.

Small, sup­port­ive houses across Toronto could be pos­si­ble if the city de­cided to “embrace and lean into” the idea of cre­at­ing a by­law that would make room for this type of hous­ing, Vaughan said.

RENÉ JOHN­STON TORONTO STAR

Elisa Traf­i­cante, direc­tor of com­mu­nity ini­tia­tives for Rais­ing the Roof, vis­its the home, which is un­der ren­o­va­tion.

RENÉ JOHN­STON TORONTO STAR

Rais­ing the Roof is the proud new owner of a Toronto house that was left to the Gov­ern­ment of Canada.

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