John Howard Society of Toronto
Our Impact Why We Exist
The John Howard Society of Toronto has been providing support to individuals and communities through the delivery of credible and professional counselling services and programs in order to reduce crime and enhance community safety since 1929. It is our mandate to develop and deliver programs that are innovative and rooted in evidence-based research and best practice literature. We work to promote effective, just, and humane responses to crime and its causes
As a non-profit organization committed to providing education, programs and services that reduce the social, economic and personal costs of crime, the Society is dedicated to helping people who have been in conflict with the law and adults at imminent risk of coming into conflict with the law. The John Howard Society has affiliates in each province across Canada. Further, our organization has a positive relationship with all three levels of government, related departments and Ministries as well as with local and national media for whom we have held various press events to share some of our research findings.
Our Story What We Do
History of Organization
John Howard was an 18th century Englishman who dedicated his life to prison reform throughout Europe. He recognized that in his time, the treatment of those in custody was inhumane and that changes were required within the system. His famous report, “On the State of Prisons in England and Wales”, in 1777 led to legislative changes throughout the system and slowly moved public opinion to favour more humane prison conditions. Our reputation and commitment to crime prevention continues to be rooted in John Howard’s legacy, values and philosophy.
In Ontario, Brigadier General Draper, Toronto’s Chief of Police, founded the John Howard Society in 1929. Draper recognized the futility of much of the work being done by front line police officers. They worked tireless to solve crimes and apprehend offenders, when all the time, prisoners who were being released from jail simply returned to circumstances of unemployment, isolation and poverty which served to increase their chances of re-offending. With our rich history in mind, we proudly continue to encourage people to make positive life changes through the provision of effective programs and professional support services.
Accolades and Accomplishments
Over the past five years, the John Howard Society of Toronto (JHST) has been engaged in locally focused research initiatives with a view to disseminating results which influence systemic changes that will affect positive changes in the lives of our clients.
- In 2011, through support from the Toronto Community Foundation, the Society released a Cost Benefit Anaylsis on the provision of Transitional Housing to homeless men leaving prison in Toronto. It demonstrated a savings of over $350,000 per individual through tthe implementation of this housing;
- In 2012, JHST opened our office at teh Dorset Park Hub in Scarborough;
- In 2013, we opened our new housing office at Danfrth and Broadview;
- Also in 2013, we purchased and moved into our new main facility at 1669 Eglinton Avenue west;
- In 2014, in partnership with six other social service agencies, we opened the innovative Reintegration Centre in South Etobicoke directly across from Ontario's largest prison. This Centre is unique to North America - providing immediate triage and referral services to inmates leaving prison; and
- Our work in the area of reentry has attracted significant media attention including two front page articles on the Toronto Star
- 2015 marked some substantial changes for both John Howard and St. Leonard's Societies of Toronto as the amalgamation of the two organizations took place on July 21, 2015
- 30 existing members of the St. Leonard's staff became a part of the John Howard Society of Toronto's workforce, a measure made with hopes of broadening the scope of our service as well as our impact within the community through increased community presence and outreach as well as re-integration
- Also in 2015, we had an Open House event for our Reintegration Centre. Over 150 people attended and we were thrilled to have the Hon. Yasir Naqvi address the crowd.
- 2016 Attendance for JHST's Finding Employment with a Criminal Record (FECR) program has doubled from 60 to 119 when compared to last year
Our Programs How We Do It
The John Howard Society staff are professionals, specially trained to address the counseling needs of our high risk client group in order attempt to enhance each service user’s quality of life while also enhancing community safety. Each client is assessed and the level of intervention based on their individual need is determined. Annually, our programs and services are delivered to approximately 16,000 individuals in a variety of community based locations. Our main office is centrally located in the City’s downtown core while our services are provided at this location as well as throughout Toronto at 19 different locations. We strive to be as accessible as possible and in the neighbourhoods where we are needed the most.
The programs and services that we provide are:
• Healing circles for Aboriginal men in local detention centres in our communities;
• Pre-release planning at all detention centres in Toronto and within federal institutions throughout Ontario for those planning to resettle in Toronto;
- Post-release peer support available to those who access the Reintegration Centre located adjacent to Toronto South Dentention Centre
• Substance use and relapse prevention counselling;
- Harm Reduction Supplies and Support available to both clients and the community
• Anger management;
• Pre-Employment programs & Pre-Employment with Assertiveness Management;
- These programs include: goal orientation, including 6 months post-program guidance
• Community justice (adult court diversion) programs;
• Family violence counselling;
• Housing counselling, referral and support;
• Record Suspension Assistance Programs;
Institutional Counselling Programs
Institutional services are provided at the Toronto South Detention Centre, and the Metro East Detention Centre. Every week at these locations we provide counselling services in the areas of addiction/substance use, culturally specific programs for Black men, Aboriginal healing, housing support, and personal counselling. We are also the only service provider in Toronto offering on-going pre-release planning to adult men in custody.
Staff meet with clients to determine the type of supports required both during and following their incarceration. Many of the Aboriginal clients we see in these facilitates are learning about their culture for the first time in their lives. As a result of the residential school legacy, many were removed from their home environments and never had the opportunity to learn about their own history. These services are provided in both individual and group counselling sessions. Last year we provided service to over 2,000 individuals in these settings. There is a significant lack of treatment programs and support to individuals during custody. There are approximately 600 individuals in each of these facilities everyday that are in need of a variety of services. Our programs are well respected by the staff at these institutions and we liaise with them regularly. Many of the individuals that we serve in these settings have been involved in gang activity. Working with men during their incarceration provides our staff with the opportunity to discuss the reasons that they became involved with gangs in the first place, and to explore possible interventions that might reduce the risk of re-engaging with these activities upon release
Funding and Program Partners
This program receives funding from the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Servies, the United Way of Greater Toronto and the City of Toronto.
It significantly impacts communities by enhancing neighbourhood safety. It is imperative that individuals being released from jails to the community have the contacts and resources that they need to engage in positive and meaningful activities. Many of these men experience a deep sense of isolation and stigma as a result of family breakdown, histories of abuse, mental health, addiction issues and oppression. Our staff has the professionalism and skills required to engage with this marginalized client group in a way that encourages them to explore options and increase their sense of self worth. They are also encouraged to take responsibility for their actions that have caused harm to others and to identify the issues that led them. Finally, they are assisted to determine what interventions are required for them to be able to move on. Overall, the program impact is that our service users will leave correctional facilities with knowledge of the resources that are available to help them to make positive choices.
Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program
"Continuing a long downward trend, the crime rate in Canada in 2013 droped to its lowest level since 1969" (Toronto’s Vital Signs®, 2014)
Our Native Inmate Liaison counsellors work with Aboriginal Clients in custody. One individual, Steve, attended our ‘Spirit Circle’ for approximately two years until he was released. He was particularly active participant and was well liked by other inmates while he was incarcerated. He acknowledge that attending these Circles was an experience that helped him to think about many of the choices he had made in his life. The Circle and the teachings assisted him in reflecting and focusing on changes he needed to make.
Part of his discharge plan included helping Steve to connect with culturally appropriate community resources as well as supports to coordinate times to visit his children. He was eventually released and followed through with his plan to acquire housing through our Post Incarceration Housing Support Program. It is truly inspiring to see a former inmate follow through with the plans he set in motion prior to his release. Since Steve’s release, he has, on occasion, come by the office to say “hello” and to have a 'smudge' with our native staff. He lets us know how he is adjusting to living a life and free from his old friends and destructive addiction driven behaviours. He also tells us of the challenges he is facing as well as the rewards he has received, living a new life with his family. He attributes these changes to our JHS-T program and to his readiness to make changes.
Post Incarceration Housing Program
Our Housing Team assists homeless and under-housed clients to find and maintain housing, offering ongoing support to landlords and tenants through the provision of eviction prevention work and mediation. Our staff are well versed in the Ontario Human Rights Code and in relevant Tenant Protection legislation. Our housing contacts for clients are in both the private and social housing sectors, while additional referrals are made on an individual basis for specialized, supportive or transitional housing options.
Our efforts in Scarborough continue in partnership with the Scarborough Housing Help Centre and the Metro East Detention Centre. A JHS-T worker meets with clients prior to their release from jail and works them upon their release at the SHH. We also work with to assess their needs of individuals being released from institutions across Ontario from both the Federal and Provincial Correctional systems. We strive to assist people to obtain housing immediately upon release to the community in order to circumvent the cycle from street to jail and back again, and in order to mitigate the social and monetary costs associated with the possibilities of re-offending
Funding and Program Partners
This program receives funding through the City of Toronto and United Way.
It significantly changes and enhances the lives of the men accessing this service. These are individuals whose only options for housing are shelters and the streets. Many have chronic health issues and require safe, affordable and well maintained housing. The feedback we receive from clients and funders have encouraged us in this work and we are making every effort to expand this service. Many of these men have never had their own place to live. As a result of low self-esteem and criminal records many are turned away from landlords without advocacy and support. We know that when a person is safe and housed, the chance of them re-offending is reduced.
Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program
"A shortage of rental housing especially in the range that is affordable to low income households, and overbuilding in the condominium sector, are cited as risks for Toronto" (Toronto’s Vital Signs®, 2014).
John Howard Society Toronto’s Post Incarceration Housing Program supports long-term and sustainable transitional housing. In order for the community we live in to be safe and for those we work with to have a better quality of life, mechanisms to serve those most vulnerable members of our community must be accessible.
Andrew is a 37 year old Aboriginal male who has been a client of John Howard Society of Toronto off and on since late 2007. He had previously been incarcerated and had been in conflict with the law for a number of years. He had also been homeless for a number of those years after losing his housing due to incarceration.
Andrew also shared with his JHS T counselor that he struggled with an addiction to alcohol and other substances as well as with some mental health issues which he said he found hard to “keep a handle on” when he was moving back and forth from the shelter system to jail. Andrew also said that he frequently experienced loneliness, depression, and sometimes felt “stuck or trapped”. He didn’t blame society for his life’s circumstances but rather believed that he was caught in a cycle; from addiction to homelessness and incarceration. He wanted and needed change;
Years later, Andrew returned to JHS T to seek help once again and began meeting with a housing worker. With assistance from his counsellor, Andrew was successfully housed in an affordable bachelor apartment. Beneficially, as a client within our ‘Post-Incarceration Housing Support Program', he was able to secure follow-up support through the City of Toronto and also to obtain furnishings for his new rental until via the Furniture Bank. Today, Andrew maintains regular contact with his follow-up worker and also his counsellor at JHS-T. He recently reported that he has not used substances for the past three months.
Crossroads Program & Crossroads Day Reporting Centre
The Crossroad's program is an addition to JHS-T through the amalgamation with St. Leonard's. This program offers 16 beds in an in-mate setting allowing the opportunity to establish a rapport with the staff while catering to the individualized needs identified in the initial assesment period. Clients actively participate in establishing and working towards goals and objectives consistent with their Correctional Treatment Plan. The belief is that the collaboration between the residents and staff will foster and maintain the clients' motivation to change. Varying levels (1 - 4) are designated to considering their compliance to "House Rules" and determine the capacity to which those staying at the house can engage with the community.
The Program was able to assist our clients and the community by lowering the recidivism rate by 86%. The Program also assisted in lowering the amount of unscheduled emergency room visits by 67%. Upon discharge clients have learned vital life skills and have secured their own suitable and safe accommodations.
The Crossroads Program served a total of 50 clients, 35 of which were discharged prior to the year’s end. Of the 35 discharges, 25 were deemed successful, which represents a 71% success rate for discharged clients. The overall success rate of the program for 2015-2016 was 80% (based on all 50 clients served, and includes clients still in the CRF as of the end of the fiscal year). These success rates are lower than the previous fiscal year, but the previous fiscal year saw record high success rates and the decline in success rates happened at a time when the Crossroads Program provided service to a greater percentage of high risk/needs clients than ever before.
"My name is T.B. and I have been a resident at the John Howard Society's Crossroads program at 419 Jones Avenue since March 2016. I have had a great experience since being released. I believe that Crossroads is a great program to help people like me transition back into society. The staff is very helpful and they genuinely care about seeing residents succeed and accomplish their goals. They try to get to know us on a personal level and they treat us withdignity and respect, which is something I'm not used to since being incarcerated. Since the staff gets to know us on a personal level, they learn how to help us in ways that apply specifically to our needs. One such example is I was having difficulty explaining my situation to an organization and my case manager was more than happy to draft a character reference letter for me. In closing, even though I have not been a resident for an extended period of time, my experiences with the Crossroads program have been wonderful. I feel that the staff are doing an amazing job helping us navigate this new journey in our lives.”
Partner Assault Response Program
The Partner Assault Response (PAR) program is available to men who have been mandated to attend the program due to domestic assault charges. All referrals are made through court and probation. To determine eligibility and specific counselling needs men are scheduled an assessment/orientation session. This program is offered 6 days per week Monday to Saturday. Group sessions are conducted throughout Toronto to ensure accessibility for participants. The partners of the men in the PAR program are provided with support including safety planning and information on relevant community resources. This program is funded by the Ministry of the Attorney General.
The PAR Program at the John Howard Society of Toronto has a team of well-trained staff who are able to assist clients to gain insight into their behaviour and support them to make positive changes in their lives. While being supportive and client-centred, this team is also equipped to identify risk factors and intervene as appropriate to address any safety concerns. At the time of the initial intake, our counsellors are able to assess clients' unique needs and offer a plan for each client to access support to meet those needs. This assessment process continues throughout the group sessions, and any emerging issues are addressed immediately. Clients are provided with ongoing feedback regarding their participation in group and their written assignments, with the goal of assisting clients to fully engage with the program material and encourage clients to acquire healthy skills in their lives.
Our PAR team provides a high quality of service to all of our clients and we have implemented strategies to accommodate clients with complex challenges. We serve a high number of clients with mental health issues, substance misuse issues, are homeless, and present with aggressive behaviours. We believe that our individualized approach contributes to the high number of clients with complex challenges who are able to successfully complete the program and are able to demonstrate the positive changes that they have made in their lives. In addition to multiple personal challenges, many of these clients are deemed at high risk to re-offend. Once high-risk factors are identified, we are able to provide an enhanced level of support to these victims and partners to help to increase their safety.
Domestic Violence Court and Probation Referrals
This program is provided to Probation and Domestic Violence Courts to process domestic violence applicatoins in Toronto. All referrals to PAR come through Probation and Domestic violence courts and are referred to appropriate agencies based on a client assessment.
Funding and Program Partners
This Program is funded by the Ministry of the Attorney General
This program assists men to make positive changes in their lives and in their releationships. Through the support provided to the victims of domestic violence, the program works to increase the safety of women and children.
Finding Employment with a Criminal Record - FECR Program
The purpose of the Finding Employment with A Criminal Record program is to assist clients who have been in conflict with the criminal justice system to develop a focused plan of action that will assist them in ultimately securing employment.
Clients in this program are male, age 18+, have a criminal record, and have been referred by an Ontario Works Caseworker (as Ontario Works is our sole fund provider for this program).
The main component of the FECR program is the interactive 12 group counseling sessions that provides participants with the information they will require to succeed in a workplace environment. They learn about the skills required for job searching and skills necessary to maintain employment once they secure a job. Clients are also provided with positive coping strategies in order to improve their confidence and employment opportunities. The group meets every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons for 3 1/2 hours. The goal of the group sessions is to develop short (90 day) mid-term (1 and 3 year) and long term goals (5 year), and also to provide our clients with tools for positive communication and conflict resolution.
Clients meet with the Pre-Employment Goal Co-ordinator twice during the 12 group sessions to formalize and then firm up their Action Plans. Clients also have 6 month post-group support; they can call and/or meet with the program facilitator, and our Goal Co-ordinator stays in touch with them regularly.
The FECR Program has almost doubled its seats since Febraury 2015; we started off with 60 seats then and have now been mandated to serve 119 clients this year. In the last year we have also been able to add an additional component that provides our clients with their own individual LinkedIn account as an additional networking tool. In March of this year we also included special public library session that resulted in all of our participants receiving their certification in 3D Printer Basics!
It has been a wonderful year to watch our clients discover and grow into their employment goals!
Strategies towards Employment Assertiveness Management Program (STEAM)
Formally known as Strategies Towards Employment Anger Management, this program’s name has been changed in order to combat the stigma that had commonly been identified with having an “anger” issue. This has alleviated some of the challenges facing Ontario Works case workers in referring their clients to this program. The name change allows for the ideals ingrained in the program with regards to empowerment to be conveyed more clearly. It describes the acquisition of “assertiveness” skills and more accurately portrays the direction of the content.
Overall, S.T.E.A.M is a Psycho-educational group counselling program that aims to enhance clients’ abilities to obtain/maintain employment. Through this program, clients will obtain communication skills, tools for help manage their emotions, assertiveness training and self-esteem building. The S.T.E.A.M program is ideal for clients with criminal backgrounds and experience with incarceration. It is open to men who are 18 years of age and older, who are recipients of Ontario Works, and who have no outstanding domestic assault charges.
Clients also meet with the Pre-Employment Goal Co-ordinator twice during the 12 Group Sessions to formalize and then firm up their Action Plans. Clients also have 6 month post-group support; they can call and/or meet with staff and our Goal Co-ordinator also initiates ongoing contact.
MTCU Asbestos Worker Training
This training program is offered by Rideau in co-operation with JHS-T and provides participants with a comprehensive understanding of the dangers and precautionary measures required when working in Asbestos abatement. This three day training program includes W.H.M.I.S. training, as well as Fall Prevention and Working at Heights education, in addition the MTCU Worker exam. Upon completion of the course, participants receive a Workers' License, and a 12 week paid placement.
This program has helped over 100 people with criminal or multiple barriers to employment. At the competition of the training, participants receive the following certificate: Working at heights, respiratory protection, whmis, asbestos certificate, workplace safety awareness, and an asbestos license from the ministry plus a 12 weeks job placement leading to full-time employment.
S.T.E.P. Youth Job Program
New to JHS-T, S.T.E.P. (Safer Tomorrow through Education and Play) is a youth job development program that works to recruit employers who will hire youths aged 18-29 who have criminal records. Our job developer makes connections and form relationships with employers within the community who will offer work placements to our clients. JHS-T does have financial incentives to offer employers to hire our clients for up to 6 months, however, our goal is to place our guys into permanent employment once they complete our pre employment program. Clients will be employment ready and will have the skills necessary to be valuable and hard working employees.by forming working relationships with employers and our clients it will reduce recidism and improve community safety, and increase the quality of life for individuals with a criminal record.
ASAP Program (Anger Substance Awareness Program)
The ASAP program is offered through the John Howard Society for individuals; men, women and youth who have been referred through Community Justice Workers from any of the provincial courts.Individuals who are referred to the program have been identified to be experiencing anger in connection to problematic substance use that relates to their charges and or is interfering in their lives in a non-positive way. Through one on one, and group counselling ASAP addresses the specific needs of individuals with respect to understanding their anger, emotional challenges, and the ways inwhich they connect to substance use.
Individual sessions are two hours and focus on the charges, and as well the ability to explore solution focused counseling. This also demonstrates anopportunity for the client to build a rapport with the counsellor, and then find resources that can assist them further in their treatment process. This allows for connection to also be made to other JHS programming such as: relapse prevention, FECR and anger management. The counsellor and client will explore self-care, harm reduction and stress management tools to work towards lessening the dependency on substances to control stress and anger.
Group counselling, which is two three hour sessions focuses on exploring the related experiences of clients, sharing stories about anger and substance use management, and again focusing on resources that are available in the community and through JHS that will be helpful and accessible for clients. The group sessions are very interactive, utilizing roleplays, group brainstorming and experiences to relate and understand the ways anger and substance use are connected. We as well explore self-care strategies, harm reduction and ways to de-stress. All group sessions end with a de-brief.
Individuals in ASAP programming are only clients who are on diversion and referred by Community Justice Workers
Ian has been a client within the John Howard Society of Toronto for several years. He has made great relationships with his counsellors. This year, he began working at our Eglinton West office and assisting with outdoor duties at our transitional treatment houses. Ian works very hard to make our Eglinton office clean and bright. He maintains our small garden in the front and looks forward to helping to plant more in our back to help continue to brighten up our space. Ian’s smile has been said to brighten up our days as staff at John Howard, and his positive energy is quite infectious. Ian takes time to volunteer in his own community of Eglinton West, and has just begun our program with Humber College for academic upgrading.
Record Suspension Assistance Program
This program assists individuals who have been in conflict with the law and who are no longer engaged in criminal activity to truly make a “new beginning”. A member of our staff team conducts a thorough assessment in order to gauge Pardon eligibility. Once eligibility is determined, our counselor works one on one with every individual to demystify and explain the Pardons process. Our staff completes and collects all necessary documentation including police record checks, court information (cpics), to finger prints. Further, applicants are assisted throughout the application process, one step at a time in order to ensure that all information is completed correctly and that unnecessary delays and additional fees are avoided. Should participants require additional support during this process, they are referred to internal or external services and programs as deemed appropriate.
Funding and Program Partners
The Record Suspension Assistance Program is funded by the City of Toronto and by service users.
During fiscal 2015/16, we continued to see how changes to the Criminal Records Act introduced by the Conservatives in 2012 have negatively impacted individuals' abilities to achieve their short- and long-term goals. The record suspension application fee is still prohibitively expensive at $631, and individuals must still wait 5 years for summary offences and 10 years for indictable ones to be eligible to submit an application. With the spike of employers completing background checks since 2010, individuals are relying on social assistance longer.
For the first time at JHST, we saw a decrease in the number of clients we deemed potentially eligible and a corresponding decrease in revenue. Toronto Employment and Social Services continues to be our main referral source as they understand the barriers that criminal record can create. For JHST, the lower revenue has led to a limitation in our ability to reach out to spread the word about.
Nonetheless, our staff and students continue to work diligently to deliver our record suspensions service to both men and women. We continue to facilitate the collection of applicants' fingerprint results from the RCMP as well as criminal record information from criminal courts and local police forces across the country. This service is critical in easing clients' anxiety about the convoluted application process and helps them focus on attaining their short-term goals in the meantime, such as gaining relevant skills and knowledge to increase their employability.
With a new Liberal government in power, we are hopeful that changes to the record suspension criteria reverts to the former pardon system, in which the application fee was only $150 and individuals only had to wait 3 and 5 years for summary and indictable offences, respectively. In January 2016, they have announced a potential reformation of a similar nature. Until then, we will push on, admirably like our clients with fortitude.
Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program
“ Many groups are overrepresented in this catergory (unemployed), including racialized and newcomer youth, aboriginal youth, youth living in poverty or in conflict with the law, youth in and leaving care, LGBTQ youth, youth with disabilities and special needs ” (Toronto's Vital Signs, 2014).
Jack came to our office to meet with our Record Suspesnion worker with an extensive criminal record. He was very open and honest while telling his story, never laying blame on anyone or anything and taking full responsibility for his actions. As he revealed some personal information about his early teenage experiences, it didn’t take long to conclude his environment played a decisive role in his conflicts with the law. He was on “the run” from the police, living for many years in the U.S where he was eventually incarcerated several times. He shared a harrowing story of his experience in a deportation jail in El Paso Texas - where he spent three months waiting for extradition. He described it as “hell on earth”. Jack has stayed out of trouble for the past 12 years, claiming that the John Howard Society of Toronto “offered him a blue print”; directions for leading a life he never knew existed.
The Volunteer/Student Coordinator is responsible for recruiting, training and placing volunteers or students within John Howard Society of Toronto. We have many relationships with local colleges and Universities, including Humber College, George Brown, Centennial and Seneca College. We have continued relationships with University of Toronto, York University, Ryerson, and we are currently expanding our connections to other Universities across south western Ontario region such as Wilfrid Laurier and University of Windsor. We have maintained a great reputation by offering beneficial placements for our students, and meaningful opportunities for volunteering. We are working on developing additional volunteer opportunities including the revamping of our Pen Pal Mail bag Program, (a voluntary program for inmates to engage in platonic correspondence with our volunteers to address their social isolation from family or friends and/or non-criminally involved persons).
This year 30 students will be completing student placements with John Howard Toronto and we are currently recruiting students for Fall Placements.
On average we have 10-20 inquiries a month from potential placement students.
Volunteers continue to be an integral part of our work. We have had 8 volunteers with us over the year. Some of these positions have been dedicated towards assisting us with special projects while others have been and will be ongoing. We average, we receive 10-15 inquiries about volunteer positions a month, and, due to this high interest, we are looking to develop more opportunities for volunteers.
Also, we have recruited volunteers who are currently working on developing a quarterly Newsletter for John Howard that will consist of new developments in the criminal justice system, advocating for changes within the jail systems, success stories from clients, pilot programs within John Howard, and pieces of art, or poetry that have been submitted by our service users.
Finally, volunteers assisted in the development of our new Employment Engagement Video to use for our new Job Development Program.
Next year, we will be comprising a group of Humber College Students who would like to volunteer by assisting with fundraising for John Howard’s Reintegration Center. This recruitment will take place in the fall of 2016.
The Street Referral Pilot Project
This project started on October 1st, 2015 and concluded on March 31st, 2016 and began a new relationship between law enforcement and the John Howard Society of Toronto as well as Public Health (The Works). This was the first street level collaboration between the Toronto Police Service and frontline workers in the City of Toronto to offer harm reduction and referral services to marginalized and street involved community members facing mental health, housing/homelessness, poverty and/or substance use issues.
Officers from 11, 12, 13 and 14 Divisions worked hard with outreach workers, especially through our agency where outreach was new to our work since our move. Through the distributing flyers at community centers, libraries, churches and schools, knowledge was raised about the project. Once news spread and trust was gained, our team were frequently stopped by citizens or business owners looking to assist in any way they could. This was evident in the emails received through the referral website and the donations provided by local businesses to assist our services users with access to much needed resources (e.g.: food, hygiene items).
Throughout the course of the project, officers and pilot partners engaged 378 people in need of help and made 425 referrals to community social services during the project. Over 90 assistance requests for housing help and housing maintenance were received as were 44 requests for mental health assistance. Help to obtain financial support (including OW and ODSP applications) was provided for 52 people. Harm reduction kits and information about John Howard Society and its programs were distributed on a daily basis.
Many of the people helped through this project had been known to police for past criminal activity and were accustomed to interactions for enforcement of criminal violations, leaving most of them with negative perceptions of police. Overcoming this obstacle, changing people’s perceptions of police and building trust, was slow but achieved. Developing rapport with marginalized members of the community took time and repeated effort. Once the project was underway and people on the street became familiar with the officers involved, many actively sought out their assistance. These individuals shared their experience with others and told about how the project could help them, and so the message spread. People’s perception of police changed in a positive way.
Our greatest measure of success were the phone calls our referral workers received from people in the project looking for support to help them avoid crisis situations. The street referral pilot project made very real, very significant changes in people’s lives but also provided invaluable learning opportunities to the John Howard Society of Toronto about the importance of community input, collaboration with people who use substances, the influence of the history of relationships within specific communities and between certain and, perhaps most vitally, the complex role of harm reduction as it relates to enforcement.
Toronto Reintegration Centre
The Reintegration Centre provides assessment and "warm referral" services to inmates upon their release from the Toronto South Detention Centre which is a maximum security jail that opened in January 2014. At its capacity, the jail will house 1650 men. It replaces older jails that have been closed or decommissioned and will deal with future capacity needs with the correctional system as well.
The over-arching goal of the Reintegration Cetnre is to assist individuals leaving the Detention Centre to access services throughout Toronto in as an immediate fashion as possible.
This is done through the provision of community accompaniment (peer support), for releasees to referral points based on needs assessment outcomes.
More than 180 men will be released from TSDC each week and 33-44% will be homeless. Mental health and addiction issues are also prevalent among those released from jails which may present significant hurdles for local social and emergency service providers. Also notable is that within the surrounding communities, there is a lack of affordable housing, while men’s shelters and addiction treatment centres for men are non-existent. In general, social services and resources are deficient and there are concerns about the ability of the existing programs to manage the large number of high needs prison releasees.
In other communities across the City, “service hubs” have formed in order to locate various service providers under one roof to address residence’s needs. In South Etobicoke, our collaboration will be similar. However, its focus will be entirely on meeting the reintegration needs of releasees from TSDC. It is our belief that our presence and ability to respond to these men immediately upon their discharge will help to increase community safety, reduce the likelihood of recidivism and may even prevent deaths resulting from accidental drug overdoses.
Currently, the Reintegration Centre partners include., Cota, African Canadian Legal Services, Margret Fraser and FEAT for Children. We believe that this model will help to improve the outcomes for those who currently ‘slip through the cracks’. Many of these individuals are the same people who have been identified as frequent users of emergency health care, police, and social services.
This program is at the end of the first year in a 3 year funding cycle from The Ontario Trillium Foundation and the City of Toronto
What You Can Do
The Reintegration Centre/Peer Support Program
Activities a donation will support
A grant in this program would help to support individuals to acquire basic needs in their immediate moments post-release as well as the support that they need to move onto the next step in the reentry process. Having clothes and food can help recently released inmates to be feel less desperate and anxious and to able to focus on moving forward and making better choices to keep from going back to the people, places and things that led to their criminal involvement in the first place. The funds would be used to provide us wit the opportunity to purchase hygiene items, clothing, winter coats, boots and other essentials for those who have nothing but the clothes on their back when they are released from jail. It would also provide us with monies for additional staffing of people with lived experience (peers) to act as mentors and to provide support, and to give hope to recently released inmates. It is important to know that many of the clients in this program have very limited social support if any and tend to be isolated.
Through supporting this and other programs at the John Howard Society of Toronto, you are taking positive steps towards creating safer communities across our city. Your support to this program would make a significant difference in lives of many and provide them with viable alternatives and options for leading positive, healthy and crime free lives.
Institutional Counselling Programs
Activities a donation will support
Grant money for this program would assist the agency to purchasing medicine bags and materials for the Aboriginal Healing Circles. We are also in need of funding to purchase DVD’s and educational reading materials for the Relapse Prevention Programs offered at the Toronto South Detention Centre. Finally, ongoing staffing is required to be able to continue and grow our HIPP program that offers life skills and support to Black inmates.
The impact would be significant as additional funding would allow for us to continue delivering the much needed services described above. To be able to advise our service- users these men that a grant has been provided to assist them to make changes would increase their sense of self worth, as often they feel stigmatized from and rejected by society as a result of having a criminal record. To be able demonstrate to them through evidence of your donation that the “community cares” about them, would be a powerful way to encourage them to “give back”.
Record Suspension Assistance Program
Activities a donation will support
A grant for this program would mean additional staff dedicated to enhancing the relationship that we have established with OW and ODSP (regarding their financial assistance for recipients to process their Record Suspension). This would allow for more people with criminal records to be seen, and if eligible, to begin to process their Record Suspension applications. Further, additional money would mean that program efficiencies could be realized through the use of an electronic data base and filing system which would expedite the completion of forms and documentation overall.
KLINK Coffee - A Social Entreprise
Activites a donation will support
KLINK provides jobs and training for people who have recently returning home from prison. It is a social entreprise created with the goal of reintegrating those transitioning from incarceration to post-incarceration. KLINK provides a purpose and function to combat some of the burdens associated with being institutionalized while simultaneously providing an opportunity to regain independence and self-esteem.
With financial support for this program, the John Howard Society of Toronto could help more Torontonians getting back to work and have their chance at a “new beginning".