Founded in 1972, Marissa Bastidas and a small group who set up AIS as a pioneer in the development of innovative programs to help people impacted by mental health challenges so they could participate more fully in their communities.
Many AIS projects such as supportive housing and case management were the first of their kind in Ontario.
In the 1970’s, as psychiatric hospitals closed in Ontario, patients were forced to live without adequate support services. To avoid the revolving door syndrome of frequent hospital admissions and homelessness AIS developed an innovative solution and became a leader in providing supportive housing.
1972 -1976: AIS pioneered a community-based mental health service that was well-received by clients and mental health providers. Board volunteers created a supportive housing model. They oversaw the property management of seven apartment units above a store in the east end of the City of Toronto. This successful experience established a model and standard that many others have followed. Volunteerism was a mainstay of AIS. For over four years, the agency operated solely with the compassion and energy of volunteers!
1986: AIS expanded the successful model. Constructing a 15-unit apartment building in Riverdale provided permanent, affordable, supportive housing to people who were living in transient situations.
Newly hired community support workers provided tenants with a range of services such as assessment, supportive counseling, advocacy, and skills teaching.
1995: Couples and families moved into AIS’s newly built 13-unit building in Toronto’s Beaches neighbourhood to extend this independent model of supportive housing.
1997: AIS created a community development program to complement the support service and to provide tenants with opportunities for developing leadership skills.
2001: AIS purchased a mixed-use residential/commercial building in the Annex to address the growing problem of homelessness on the streets of Toronto. This innovative funding model was a first for the supportive housing community. Revenue from this commercial enterprise has provided additional funds. We hope to one day leverage this building to expand our housing portfolio.
2003: AIS converted a building in downtown Toronto which had been vacant, boarded up and derelict for over a decade. This provides 20 apartments and includes a rooftop terrace for outdoor amenities.
2008 – 2017: Over 105 people now receive accommodation, information, and support through AIS. Specially equipped units for 10 persons who are deaf or hard of hearing were designed to meet their unique needs. Support staff members are proficient in American Sign Language.
In summer 2016, AIS increased housing options to 15 additional clients. Tenants moved into the former PAN AM Athletes' Village, now called 75 Cooperage.
The future: To meet the needs of aging homeless people, AIS plan to build two accessible apartment units in the rear yard at the Riverdale building as soon as funds become available, This will provide existing tenants an opportunity to ‘age in place’ in a community of their choice. To meet the accessibility needs of tenants with disabilities. We have recently improved the buildings by adding automatic door openers, grab bars, accessible height toilets, additional railings, non-slip tub surfaces, visual warning strips on stairs and improved corridor lighting.
Additionally, plans are underway for the creation of a Healing Garden that will give the sense of an urban oasis with the sweet aroma of colourful flowers, the cool shade of trees, and the refreshing taste of herbs tenants can use to spice up their cooking. A recent Tenant Focus Group and Survey shows that AIS continues to provide high-quality supportive housing. . Tenants reported improved overall mental well-being and a sense of purpose as a direct result of having permanent, safe, affordable housing and access to support services.
News reports highlight AIS work:
“Residences contributed to the strength of the local neighbourhood in ways that went beyond mutual respect and friendliness”, an expert study reports. “Housing people with mental illnesses in residential neighbourhoods doesn't harm property values or increase crime,” the Toronto Star wrote.
“In fact, supportive housing can have a positive effect on the community, says We Are Neighbours, a three-year study of the social and economic impact of housing for people with mental illness.” For more, see https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2008/05/23/supportive_housing_strengthens_ties.html
AIS has released it's 2017 Summer Newsletter.