Helping kick off the construction of the Social Medicine Supportive Housing project in Parkdale are: (L to R) Arif Virani, MP for Parkdale-High Park, the Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, Daniele Zanoti, President and CEO, United Way Greater Toronto, Dr. Kevin Smith, President & CEO of UHN, Toronto Deputy Mayor Ana Bailao, Toronto Mayor John Tory and Gord Perks, City Councillor, Ward 4, Parkdale-High Park. (Photo: UHN)

UHN and partners announced Friday the start of construction on the first-of-its-kind-in-Canada Social Medicine Supportive Housing in the Parkdale neighbourhood.

The project, delivered in partnership between UHN's Gattuso Centre for Social Medicine, United Way Greater Toronto (UWGT), the City of Toronto and community, has support from all levels of government.

The four-storey modular building at 150 Dunn Avenue – currently a parking lot of UHN's EW Bickle Centre for Complex Continuing Care – will provide 51 people from historically marginalized groups who are frequent users of hospital services with accessible, safe, secure and affordable housing.

"We have seen people who are surviving homelessness suffer some of the worst health outcomes, both before and during the pandemic," said Dr. Andrew Boozary, Executive Director of the Gattuso Centre.

"We need to leverage the learnings of better integrated health and social care to improve health outcomes for marginalized communities across the city. The Social Medicine Supportive Housing initiative is about a preferential option for those punished by the absence of housing as a human right."

The Gattuso Centre team is leading extensive community consultations to design an innovative referral process and design integrated services needed by residents who will live in the building. They are also working closely with UHN's Emergency Departments to identify individuals from eligible groups who will most benefit from this supportive housing.

Safe, secure affordable housing improves health, reduces hospital stays

"We know that housing is health," said Dr. Kevin Smith, UHN's President & CEO. "And, addressing housing and other social determinants of health – such as food security, employment, financial security, education, child care, access to medication, mental health, among many others – is crucial to achieving our vision of A Healthier World.

"Supportive and affordable housing is a key commitment for UHN, as we know having safe, secure and affordable housing not only improves health outcomes, but also reduces costly hospital stays."

Construction of the Social Medicine Supportive Housing in Parkdale is expected to be completed this fall.

During Friday's event, the City announced the Phase Two of the federal Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) to create in total more than 400 new affordable and supportive homes for people in Toronto. Representatives from all levels of government were present.

"Besides providing people with improved health and social outcomes, investments in permanent supportive housing will help reduce systemic and structural inequities; strengthen our housing, homeless and public health systems; and result in cost-savings for all orders of government," said Toronto Mayor John Tory.​

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