We are Dixon Hall. A multi-service agency in the downtown east dedicated to creating a city where everyone thrives.
Here we highlight some of the work we’re most proud of from last year and share stories of resilience from the people we support and from those who support us.
The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.
Resilience is the ability to survive, adapt, and eventually thrive, in the face of life’s challenges. In a world that is constantly changing and presenting new challenges and opportunities, it is vitally important that within our city we empower both individuals and communities to be resilient.
Resilient people create strong, supportive communities; places where everyone can thrive.
What do these resilient neighbourhoods look like?
They are diverse. They have strong, reliable social infrastructures. Engaged seniors. Programs for children and youth. Arts and culture. Employment opportunities. Access to food. Affordable, safe housing. Success and prosperity is shared by all.
These are the neighbourhoods we want to create and support in our city.
The homelessness crisis during a bitterly cold winter, the increased gun violence this past summer, and we continue to struggle with the lack of affordable housing, and woefully inadequate supports for people struggling with mental health issues.
Still, Toronto continues to be ranked as one of the best cities in which to live in the world. We know that may not seem true for all residents. Many Torontonians are living in poverty, lack access to opportunities, and struggle to find their place and a sense of community in this rapidly changing and expanding city.
At Dixon Hall, we work with residents every day to help build their resilience. Our efforts focus on supporting community members going through the most challenging of circumstances, and we connect them with the programs and services they need to survive and adapt.
The Regent Park Revitalization is an immense opportunity to do city-building in the very best way; to create a community where every resident can thrive and share in the richness that the city has to offer. We look forward to continuing to support this project and to working with the residents of Regent Park to build a community people are proud to call home.
This past year has tested our agency’s resiliency, as well. In December, we said goodbye to our CEO, Neil Hetherington, as he moved on to a new role. As we found ourselves in a leadership transition, our staff’s ability to continue the important work they do to support community members was inspiring. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our CFO, Gretchen Daniels, who stepped into the role as Interim CEO and successfully led the organization for the first five months of the year. The support of our Board throughout this transition was also vital to our agency as we welcomed our new CEO.
Dixon Hall has remained a trusted agency in the city since 1929 because we have been resilient and attentive to the needs of our clients. We attract staff throughout the agency who persevere. These qualities enable us to continue to serve our community members despite the many challenges we’ve faced as an agency, and within Toronto.
Though our year has been led with challenging transitions, it’s also given us a chance to pause, reflect, and reset. We’re confident moving forward with new leadership in place, and we’re excited to keep implementing different programs and supports within our community, focusing on building qualities that support resiliency within our clients, community, and the city.
Mercedes Watson, CEO
Rod Bolger, Board Chair
*Proposed Committee Chair
**Non-Board Director Committee Member
We create lasting solutions to end poverty, social injustices, and isolation in Toronto.
A city where everyone thrives.
We believe that everyone has qualities and values worthy of admiration
Commitments we make will be commitments kept
We are responsible for our actions, and inaction
We believe in an inclusive culture of diverse thought, experience, and background
We live out our commitment for social justice through thoughtful action
Lynette has been the Manager of Dixon Hall Music School for eight and a half years. She’s a lifelong musician, who is passionate about the positive impact music education has on young people, particularly as they navigate the challenges of adolescence.
Lynette started playing the drums when she was 11 years old. Her love of music led her to pursue both an undergraduate and a graduate degree in the arts. She discovered the Manager role at Dixon Hall Music School by chance in 2010, and was excited at the opportunity to combine her love of music with her previous teaching experience. Lynette believes music education is important for youth, and recalls the significance of learning and playing instruments during her adolescence.
She sees music as a way to communicate and express emotion, build confidence, and make friends and lasting personal connections. The practice, dedication and commitment required to progress in musical studies also helps young people develop a strong work ethic and is transferable to any field.
Lynette mentors students who are considering a career in the arts, and because of her own personal experiences pursuing work in this field she can be very candid with curious students about what to expect from a life spent exploring one’s love of music.
The annual Music for Life gala is a highlight for Lynette. Each year, she waits backstage with the student performers before they take the stage. It’s a very special experience for her to support students through their pre-performance nerves and help them feel confident as they get ready to perform.
Dixon Hall Music School is a special place not only for Lynette but for other members of the team, as well as for the students and their families. Lynette says she’s touched by the gratitude and positivity students and their families display, and their dedication and appreciation is what continues to inspire her work.
Mat has been working at Dixon Hall Employment Services as a Job Developer since 2015. During his post-secondary education he studied Marketing and Communications, and decided that he wanted to work in the non-profit sector where his work would have a direct impact on people’s lives. Mat emigrated to Canada from Romania when he was 17 years old, and his personal experiences as a newcomer taught him the importance of community engagement and support, along with the value of giving back.
As a Job Developer, Mat works with community members who are looking for work. He helps them to apply for jobs or acquire the skills they need for the job market. He also supports the Incubator program, helping students throughout the program and after they’ve graduated, guiding them to employment opportunities or to further training where necessary. Mat remembers vividly the first hiring event he was part of at Dixon Hall. The event had on-the-spot interviews and offers of employment in the same day! Mat saw the reactions from people who were hired, and their palpable excitement, now that they could start planning their lives. It’s a moment that has stuck with him.
Outside of Dixon Hall, Mat put his principles surrounding community engagement into action. With his partner, he’s created a volunteer meetup group called Fourth Saturday, where people come together once a month to volunteer, and socialize afterwards. He’s also an avid runner, and will be completing the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon this year, participating in the charity challenge.
"Our work with Dixon Hall helps us connect and become more deeply grounded in our new community"
When LoyaltyOne decided to relocate to new offices on King Street East, the company’s leadership prioritized meeting with charities in the neighbourhood to learn about issues facing the community, and see how they could get involved in giving back.
Youth empowerment is the primary area of focus for LoyaltyOne’s corporate social responsibility efforts, and there was an instant connection with Dixon Hall’s work with children and youth in Regent Park.
LoyaltyOne has also supported us through CommunityOne week, the company’s annual employee-volunteer initiative. During CommunityOne week, LoyaltyOne volunteers supported many areas of our work – assembling hygiene kits for homeless men and women, serving lunches at a shelter, delivering Meals on Wheels, serving breakfast to community members facing food insecurity, and helping newcomers practice their English language skills.
According to LoyaltyOne, Lead, Corporate Responsibility, Jeremiah Brenner, LoyaltyOne’s work with Dixon Hall “has helped them connect, and become more deeply grounded” in their new community. We’re both looking forward to continued collaboration.
Silver Hotel Group (SHG) first connected with Dixon Hall in 2017 when their leadership team assembled brand new bikes for our Music School students through a local organization, Charlie’s Freewheels. Through this initial interaction, SHG discovered our vast reach and impact in the community and their team felt a strong connection to our mission – to create lasting solutions to end poverty, social injustices and isolation in Toronto. As a result we became one of SHG’s corporate charity partners for 2018.
SHG feels strongly about giving back to the community which is one of its core values. “Giving was never about just cutting a cheque, rather it’s about being active in the community so that we can all grow together”, says Shivani Ruparell, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at SHG. Employee teams have volunteered in support of several Dixon Hall programs including Meals on Wheels, Community Meal programs, and summer camp for children and youth. Many of their volunteer experiences have included preparing and sharing a meal, which have supported conversations and friendship growth with community members.
Volunteering with Dixon Hall has also given Silver Hotel Group an avenue for team building. Colleagues can get to know one another outside of their traditional work environment, and can develop closer relationships. Bruce Hanna, Director of Food and Beverage for Silver Hotel Group, says that volunteering gives employees a chance to “see each other in a different light and through a different lens”.
We are immensely grateful for Silver Hotel Group’s generous contributions to our programs and we look forward to continuing to work with them to support our community.
“It’s about engaging with our community & growing together”
Resilience means overcoming adversity
We successfully completed renovations at Heyworth House, our co-ed shelter at Main and Danforth
We expanded our Community Meal programs
We engaged more peer volunteers in our food programs
The number of men and women experiencing homelessness in Toronto continues to grow, and puts increased demand on the shelter system. With precarious employment, lack of affordable housing, and mental health challenges impacting our communities, homelessness has reached a crisis point.
Dixon Hall continues to provide support to people experiencing homelessness at our two emergency shelters – Heyworth House and Schoolhouse – and through the Out of the Cold program.
Thanks to funding from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), we have undertaken a new research initiative, the Innovative Solutions to Homelessness project. This ambitious project works closely with individuals experiencing homelessness who access temporary respite centres and the Out of the Cold program. Currently, very little is known about homeless people who don’t use the traditional shelter system and the unique challenges they face.
Increasing our knowledge about this group is key to helping them find and maintain housing. The research findings from this project will inform new strategies to end homelessness.
Funding from ESDC also made it possible for our Housing team to hire an additional Client Intervention Worker. CIWs are crucial to helping people experiencing homelessness move out of the shelter system. Their connections to landlords, knowledge of the barriers to housing, and understanding of the complex needs of their clients all contribute to successfully finding housing and helping individuals.
Together, our two CIWs have successfully housed 52 individuals this year.
Gord lost his home when his apartment caught fire in fall of 2017. He stayed with family, and then at an emergency shelter. Next, he went to the Out of the Cold program where he met our Client Intervention Worker. She helped him find a new apartment. Gord says he loves his new place and that it means a lot to him. He appreciates the simple things like coming home and watching a movie in his new space.
Resilient people seek support
We changed our Meals on Wheels scheduling to get more hot meals delivered at lunchtime
We now initiate immediate services for seniors at risk, so seniors recently discharged from the hospital can receive Meals on Wheels within 24 hours
We launched a caregiver support group in partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Toronto, where caregivers of family members with Alzheimer’s have a safe space for conversation and connection
The population of seniors in Toronto is projected to increase by over 55% over the next 20 years. As seniors in the city live longer, with many of them on low incomes, Dixon Hall’s supportive programs for seniors are more important than ever.
We work with over 2,000 seniors each year, offering programs designed to help them thrive in the community and develop central support circles – a key aspect of maintaining resiliency through the transitions of aging. At Dixon Hall, seniors develop these supportive networks of both peers and professionals.
Healthy socialization can be an important aspect of building reliable networks, and we run several programs designed to offer increased opportunities for seniors to make social connections. Programs like the Social Circle, a group for people living with dementia, keep seniors active and enjoying recreational activities, while giving caregivers and family members peace of mind, knowing that their loved ones are well cared for and safe.
Offering support services like Respite Care, Community Transportation, Telephone Reassurance, and Meals on Wheels at highly-subsidized rates is key to helping low-income seniors age in place, with dignity, and remain in their homes for as long as possible.
Dorothy wasn’t prepared for how difficult retirement would be. Without work to keep her busy during the day, she felt very lonely. She expected to adjust easily to retirement and was unprepared for the negative emotions she experienced. Dorothy’s kids noticed the difference in her demeanour and encouraged her to join a local community centre. There, she found out about Dixon Hall. Now, she attends our Seniors Health and Wellness program, a group of active seniors who meet Monday – Friday. Dorothy says, since joining her health has improved, and that “Dixon Hall is like home, a welcoming and friendly place.”
Relationships are at the core of resiliency
More than 160 youth in Regent Park enjoyed 368 hours of Summer Camp
Our Women’s Health Circle explored holistic health and enjoyed laughing yoga
Toronto Raptor Jonas Valančiūnas made a special appearance at our basketball league’s All Star game
We work with hundreds of young people in Regent Park each year. Adolescence and young adulthood can be particularly challenging times. Our Children and Youth team are trusted figures in the community who help young people develop the resiliency they need to overcome adversity.
All of our programs are tailored to meet the needs of youth in Regent Park. We offer after-school programs, evening and weekend programs, March Break and summer camps, and parental support groups. Youth are engaged through sports and recreation, mentorship and girls-only programs. All programs help teach self-care, healthy relationships, and emphasize the importance of building strong social connections.
By stressing self-care as a key component of our work, particularly in our parenting groups, we can focus on the importance of treating oneself kindly and making time for oneself. We help parents deal more effectively with stressful situations and in helping parents to implement their own healthy self-care practices we can support the development of the same skillset for their children.
“It takes a village to raise a child and Dixon Hall helps us to build that village with support to make me a better mom. You know you have the answers but it takes someone else to remind you that sometimes and that’s what happens here. My kids need this but oh my God I need this too.”
— Jennie, Mom
Resilient people have a positive self-image
100% of graduating students pursued post-secondary education
3 bands created in our Rock Band program recorded EPs
Students performed at 20 events around the city
Arts education helps young people develop many vital skills. It increases emotional intelligence and self-confidence, improves language skills, and increases attention span and focus. Unfortunately, arts education is often out of reach for low-income families. That’s why Dixon Hall Music School is proud to offer low-cost music education to families in Toronto’s downtown east neighbourhood, making arts education more accessible.
We work with over 300 students each year, providing 12,000 subsidized music lessons in 21 subject areas. Our Music School has become a second home for students, a safe space to explore their creativity and express themselves. Students form friendships and long-lasting connections, and develop close bonds with staff. Students grow and mature while studying music with us, and the positive effects of music education carry over into other areas of our student’s lives.
Year after year, almost 100% of our students who graduate high school go on to pursue post-secondary education.
Dixon Hall Music School is a place where young women excel. Our annual partnership with Girls Rock Camp Toronto gives young women a female-only space to explore new instruments and learn about female achievements in the arts.
Daniel has been studying at our Music School for 7 years. He remembers the first time he tried to record a rap song in the studio with his instructor Scott. Scott listened to Daniel and made him comfortable during a vulnerable moment, helping him learn techniques to progress his skills.
The staff at our Music School have made it a special place for Daniel, where he feels comfortable expressing himself and confiding in his instructors. Studying music has also taught him important lessons like harmony – inside and outside of the studio. He uses this principle on the tracks he produces and in his own life, focusing his energies on being balanced.
Resilient people evolve and adapt to change
252 job seekers found employment, 36 entered training programs to upgrade their skills
Our social purpose enterprise, The Show Love Café launched a new menu
215 ramps were created at the Mill Centre in partnership with the Stop Gap Foundation to make Toronto more accessible
In Regent Park, the youth unemployment rate is 17.7%. The neighbourhood is also home to many newcomers, who are looking for work to support their new beginnings.
Our Employment Services team is dedicated to working closely with job-seekers in Regent Park and across the city to help them find employment opportunities.
The job market is continuously evolving, and our employment programs and workshops are constantly changing to equip job- seekers for opportunities in sectors that are growing and in demand. We emphasize the importance of keeping skills up-to-date.
Our Literacy and Basic Skills program helps adults develop and apply communication, numeracy, interpersonal and digital skills to achieve their goals. This often serves as the first-step in employment readiness.
We also work with young people who are receiving Ontario
Works. Our Incubator program is specially designed for youth aged 15-29, to provide them with both the practical and soft skills necessary for employment in either the hospitality industry or skilled trades. Incubator program participants are able to take advantage of placement opportunities at one of our two social enterprises
– the Show Love Café, and the Mill Centre.
Show Love Café is a Dixon Hall project and opened its doors in the Regent Park community in 2015. Since that time, it has functioned as a social enterprise initiative, offering training to young people while also serving coffee, snacks, and light meals throughout the day.
The Mill Centre is a unique, state-of-the-art fully equipped carpentry shop where professional instructors teach construction trade skills to at-risk youth, women overcoming violence and abuse, Aboriginal groups, and the deaf and those who are hard of hearing.
Contributing to the community supports shared resiliency
Home Depot volunteers brightened up the space at Heyworth House with fresh paint and greenery
Silver Hotel Group starting volunteering on a monthly basis, supporting our food programs
LoyaltyOne hosted a community barbecue to celebrate the end of the 2017 school year
Without volunteers, many of Dixon Hall’s programs would not be able to run. Volunteers are crucial to our operations.
1,918 volunteers donated 30,000 hours of time to Dixon Hall last year. We extend a heartfelt THANK YOU to each and every one.
Thanks to volunteers, we delivered close to 75,000 meals through our Meals on Wheels program.
We hear consistently from volunteers who donate their time to Dixon Hall how beneficial they find volunteering and the positive effects it has in their lives. Volunteers tell us they get more through giving back, find peace of mind, meet new people in the community, and feel inspired by the gratitude and appreciation of clients they support.
Corporate teams are an integral part of our volunteer groups. They make significant contributions to our work in a variety of ways, including supporting Meals on Wheels deliveries during lunchtime, serving breakfasts or dinners at our Community Meal programs, and helping out with property improvements at our Carlton Campus and at Heyworth House.
Environments that provide structure and safety develop resiliency
Thanks to generous support * from all three levels of government, and donations from the private sector, foundations and individuals, we have raised over $5-million to construct this important new facility for the young people we work with.
The new youth centre will stand at the corner of Wyatt and Nicholas Avenues, adjacent to the Regent Park Athletic Grounds. The building will be 4 storeys tall, and will have 10,000 square feet of program space. Features of the new building will include an expanded kitchen, several multipurpose rooms, a recording studio, and a jam room.
The new youth centre will be home to both our Children & Youth Department and Dixon Hall Music School. We are looking forward to bringing these two groups together under one roof, and giving youth in Regent Park new opportunities for mentorship, recreation and music programs.
We are also making significant improvements to our Carlton Street Campus. We’re renovating our space on Carlton Street to enhance the facilities and improve the program space for seniors. The changes are designed to provide a more comforting and stimulating environment. By using new furniture pieces, changing paint and colour schemes, improving lighting, and re-designing existing spaces to be used more effectively, we know we can make our Carlton Street Campus even more welcoming to seniors who access the space.
Heyworth House, our co-ed shelter underwent a kitchen renovation this year. We updated the appliances and refreshed the space to better serve men and women experiencing homelessness. With corporate volunteer support, we brightened the dining and living space with an accent wall and greenery.
+$5,066,471 - City of Toronto Grant (44%)
+$3,045,303 - Province of Ontario Grant (36%)
+$1,432,578 - Fundraising (12%)
+$816,765 - United Way Toronto & York Region (7%)
+$288,530 - Federal Government Grant (6%)
+$637,909 - User Fees (2%)
+$279,104 - Amortization (2%)
+$6,162 - Interest
+ $11,572,822 Revenue
–$4,825,886 - Housing & Homelessness Programs (42%)
–$3,271,876 - Seniors Programs (28%)
–$1,600,436 - Employment Programs (14%)
–$1,013,269 - Neighbourhood Programs (9%)*
–$278,805 - Community Development Programs (5%)
–$555,867 - Infrastructure and Support Services (2%)
– $11,546,139 Expenses
* including Children & Youth + Dixon Hall Music School
Signed Audited Financial Statements are available at www.dixonhall.org/annualreports