‘I feel like I have a base’: Toronto man gets apartment after being homeless for 7 years

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WATCH ABOVE: A Toronto man has an apartment to call his own for the first time in years. He was homeless until recently -- moving between tents and shelters -- but not anymore. Albert Delitala has his story – Sep 2, 2020

A Toronto man who spent the better part of a decade on the streets now has a new apartment to call his home after a City effort to rehouse residents of a temporary shelter.

“It’s quiet; I have my own place. I can sleep when I want, shower when I want. I’m not in a sleeping bag; I’m not as concerned about my safety,” said Rob Dods, sitting in front of his new home of less than a week.

Until Friday, and for the past seven years, Dods was homeless.

Most recently, he stayed at a temporary shelter on Broadway Avenue in midtown Toronto, which the City had leased as emergency housing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more: Coronavirus: City says temporary midtown Toronto homeless shelters to be vacated this week

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“Fights, arguments going on at 4 o’clock in the morning — disturbing the other residents that lived in the neighbourhood,” Dods said, describing his experience there.

The City of Toronto said many of the residents in the shelter, which closed last week, have moved into permanent housing.

Earlier this year, Dods said he spent a couple of months in a tent at a downtown encampment — now dismantled — cramped together with others in a similar situation.

“It’s difficult because you can’t just send somebody somewhere else, to another ravine or another park. You got to get them housing,” he said.

Dods now has housing thanks in part to Andrea Jackson, a street outreach worker from the City of Toronto-funded Streets to Homes program. She said for clients like Dods, having a home can jump-start countless other aspects of their lives.

Read more: Coronavirus: COVID-19 hits 2 Toronto shelters, 5-year-old boy among those infected

“Whether it’s health issues that they just can’t deal with while they’re living on the street, education — they might want to go back to school (or) reconnecting with family or friends that they dropped off,” she said.

Ricardo Simoes, a social assistance supervisor for the Streets to Homes, explained the program works with clients for the first several months, ensuring they are able to pay rent on time and adapt to their new surroundings.

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“It’s very rewarding to see a client when we’re able to get them housed and they’re able to continue to live independently and successfully with our help,” he said.

Reflecting on how he initially became homeless, Dods said he “struggl[ed] with alcoholism for quite a long time.” But now with a home to call his home, he said he is optimistic about his future.

“I feel like I have a base,” Dods said.