Social Work Services

Stephen Fenn, Social Worker, DECNET
Photo credit:
Gregory Bennett – Diabetes Canada

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, SRCHC has worked to shift services to a mixed on-site/virtual model, to ensure as little disruption as possible to our supports. Although many programs continued to provide necessary services in person, many clients also worked with their providers in new ways. One of the teams at the centre that has worked creatively in this way is our social services team.

Social workers and social service workers strive to support clients holistically. They take into account the whole person so that they can support their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. The pandemic profoundly affected almost everyone, in many areas of their lives. Many people experienced financial pressures, mental health challenges, and difficulty navigating day-to-day life. It therefore became more important than ever for people in our community to have access to resources such as social workers and social service workers.

Within just the first year of the pandemic, the social services team had 25% more interactions with clients than in previous years. The average amount of new referrals has also steadily increased since 2020. This increase was made more complex because of the social services team’s significantly reduced capacity due to a variety of factors, including complications of the pandemic.

A blended mix of virtual and in-person appointments have been an important part of providing accessible care. For many of our clients, in-person support is crucial because of barriers such as not owning a telephone, not having privacy for virtual appointments, language barriers, and more.

For other clients, virtual appointments significantly improved access to care. Since 2020, more than half of all social work appointments with clients have been virtual. Many clients told us that virtual appointments made it possible to access their providers when they faced barriers such as a lack of childcare, and that they enjoyed the increased ease of service when working with interpreters, as well as the reduced risk of being exposed to COVID-19.

The pandemic brought grief to many areas of our lives, something that was made worse by social isolation. Virtual sessions offered ways for many of our vulnerable communities, such as seniors, to remain connected and able to access supports.

In addition to individual support, the team found innovative ways to provide group-based support. For example, the Growing With Grief group was a partnership with the Women’s Harm Reduction team. Despite being an online group, four of the group’s five participants came to SRCHC each week to access technology so they could participate. This blend of virtual and on-site services was critical to the group’s success: it had near-perfect attendance and all five participants completed the program, which even before the pandemic was the exception for most group-based programming.

Social workers and social service workers are an important part of supporting the health and wellness of our communities. The pandemic has illustrated the need to be innovative and creative in the delivery of healthcare, and all of the staff at SRCHC, including the social services team, are dedicated to providing this support. As we move through the next phases of the pandemic, SRCHC will continue to be an innovator in healthcare delivery.

Earth Day 2022

Kathleen Ko, Health Promoter – Earth Day seed exchange event

Every year, SRCHC celebrates Earth Day, which helps people connect with the living earth and each other. Human beings, and all living things, depend on clean air, water, and soil to stay healthy.

Historically, people living in South Riverdale have been exposed to toxins in the air and the soil from the pollution that was generated by some of the area’s industries. Although some industries are still generating air pollution, today, that kind of pollution mostly comes from cars and trucks.

This issue has brought people together to advocate for change—from demanding soil clean-ups to promoting alternatives to driving (such as transit, walking, and cycling). Because Earth Day is every day, really.

Over the years, people in South Riverdale have worked closely with elected representatives, industry, and government to clean up polluting industries and to promote bicycle lanes and safer streets. They have also worked to raise awareness about everyday exposure to toxins in the home. It’s important to remember and celebrate this work so that others can learn and take action when needed.

This year, SRCHC was not able to host our usual Earth Day outdoor fair—with information tables, music, performances, and most importantly, food and socializing—at our building at 955 Queen Street East. We did host a few smaller events, though, including bike repair “pop-ups” at Eastview Community Centre, at SRCHC, and in our Harmony Hall, where we also hosted a seed exchange giveaway with refreshments of tea and cookies.

This year’s theme is “Invest in Our Planet.” SRCHC is working to reduce greenhouse gasses (mitigation) and to provide some relief from extreme weather (adaptation). We all need to take action where we can. Generally, higher-income earners create more greenhouse gasses because they have a larger carbon footprint, and thus carry more responsibility for climate change. On average, Canadians are the second highest carbon emitters on the planet, per capita. So we can all advocate for solutions.

East Toronto Outreach Project (ETOP) Reflections

Artwork for the walls at the new ETOPS space at
52 Cataraqui Crescent

The ETOP team has had a very busy year, and this article reflects the highlights of this work.

A large part of this work has been the provision of harm reduction supports by a team that includes people with lived experience to the under-served, under-resourced Oakridge community. The Oakridge Hub, an East Toronto Health Partners initiative, provides comprehensive care through its many partners, including Unity Health, St. Michael’s Homes, WoodGreen Community Services, and the Comprehensive Treatment Clinic. This team worked through pandemic-related lockdowns, COVID-19 outbreaks, a hot summer, and a brutally cold winter.

In autumn 2021, we were given a unique opportunity to secure space at 52 Cataraqui Crescent, a small Toronto Community Housing (TCH) recreation centre around the corner from the original location, which was located within the Warden Woods Community Centre, at 46 Fir Valley Court.

The new space offered a greater level of privacy for our most marginalized clients, and as we settled into 52 Cataraqui, we have seen our numbers jump threefold as we continue to build trusting relationships with the community, largely through word-of-mouth recommendations by our regular clients to new move-ins at the local TCH buildings.

We are so excited to be able to plan some fun and educational events this summer in our basketball court, are hopeful for a summer community gardening project, and, most of all, we are excited to hear that some much-needed repair work is happening to our space so that we can safely serve our folks in the way they want, when they want and need it.

We also wanted to also give a special shout-out to Harmony Community Food Centre for the food donations and deliveries. As you can see in the photos, the centre has been instrumental in helping us ensure that people in the Oakridge community have regular access to healthy and nutritious foods!

Gardening Programs at SRCHC

Planting pollinator gardens at
2 Gower Street

As the weather gets warmer and the spring buds and blossoms return, we’re looking forward to another gardening season filled with possibilities. Whatever level of experience you have, even if you are a complete beginner, gardening can be for you. Using whatever green space you have at home—, even a small sunny balcony, or a community garden near you—you can grow something beautiful. Whether you’re interested in growing your own food, traditional medicines, or native plants to support local pollinators, – you can increase your knowledge, experience, skills, and connection to nature.

Learning how to grow and care for different plants can be beneficial in so many ways, including:

  • Physically: Gardening is a physical activity that can be adapted to your abilities, lowers blood pressure, and is a great source of exercise.
  • Mentally: Gardening lowers stress and anxiety, is a mood booster, gets you outside, and is empowering.
  • Socially: Gardening provides an opportunity for social connections and community- building, as well as teaching and learning new skills.
  • Ecologically: Gardening improves soil quality, provides critical habitat and food for local native pollinators, supports biodiversity, and sequesters carbon, which is a positive climate change action.

For more information about gardening programs at SRCHC, contact Melissa at

Community Clean-up Day Spring 2022

Harm Reduction Community Clean Up

On April 22, 2022, staff and members from the COUNTERfit Harm Reduction, keepSIX, and SOS programs held their annual Earth Day community clean-up. The day began with a smudging ceremony, after which volunteers walked down laneways around the SRCHC building collecting garbage. By the time they arrived at Jimmie Simpson Park, they had collected 10 full bags. They also cleaned up along Queen Street East. They didn’t find any syringes or stems—just lots of garbage!

By the time they arrived at the park, our volunteers had also run into other community members who were engaged in the same activity. These kinds of clean-ups help ensure that our community is safer and cleaner for everyone. They’re also a great way for volunteers and staff to work together for the good of our neighbourhood.

Get Involved? The South Riverdale Board of Directors is looking for new board members

The application process for the Board of Directors is now CLOSED for 2022

Board Director vacancies are decided by the SRCHC membership at the AGM in the spring. Currently, a total of 12 members make up the Board of Directors. In order to run for election, you must become a member of SRCHC. For more information SRCHC membership, click here.

What does the Board of Directors do? 

We are a policy governance board, which means we do not manage the Centre’s operations. Instead, we focus on developing and monitoring the governance policies that guide the work of the Centre, and on the strategic thinking and planning that keep South Riverdale CHC at the forefront of innovative care for people who find it difficult to access services elsewhere. Board meetings are held monthly, in the evenings.

Who can be on the Board?

Board directors must be members of SRCHC and consequently, must live or work in our community (which extends from the Don River to Warden Ave. and from the lake to O’Connor Ave.) or be a client of the centre. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been in the community for many years or have recently arrived. What matters most is that you are interested in governance, support the values of the centre and have a passion for equity in healthcare. We welcome people from all backgrounds and it’s a great way to get involved in serving our community.

For more information on joining the board, please visit

Board Recruitment poster 2022

You’re Invited


Wednesday, March 2, 2022

5:30 PM to 6:30 PM

Please RSVP to by Friday, February 25, 2022.

For more information on joining the board, please visit

Seniors Active Living Centre At Harmony Hall

The Seniors Active Living Centre (SALC) provides programming in Bengali, Cantonese, English and Tamil to meet member needs. Although this year was difficult due to COVID-19, virtual programs helped clients stay active and connected. Yoga and gentle fitness classes are ongoing and conducted virtually. Mental health and physical health are important aspects, and exercising in groups may have greater mental health benefits than exercising alone.

The Bengali program has continued to provide support to seniors in need. Once lockdown began, the program moved to virtual programming, a challenge for those who valued an in-person connection. This program promotes social interaction among seniors by offering a variety of recreation, health and wellness activities (now virtually) such as meditation, sing alongs, Zumba and special events.

The Chinese program has provided virtual classes for seniors every Friday. It includes line dance (in both English & Cantonese) and iPad classes. So far, the iPad class has developed 73 videos and 55K views on YouTube!

The English program has successfully offered the following, virtually, to help maintain members’ wellbeing: client assistance, support group, technology classes, information sessions, gentle fitness and yoga. And outdoors, we have offered walk sessions, bingo and tai chi. We will continue using a virtual platform to offer the programs and services.

The Tamil program offered virtual support groups, yoga, singing, dance, drama classes & other workshops. Successful outdoor activities, including gentle fitness, support groups and client assistance, allowed us to remain safe and respect social distancing guidelines. These activities allowed our members to be active and enhance their mental health.

We invite you to join our ongoing virtual activities to stay active, and stay tuned for updates on exiting new events!

Treaty Recognition Day

Together with Anishnawbe Health Toronto, on November 5 at our 955 Queen St E. location, we brought together local knowledge keepers and Indigenous artists in order to continue learning about treaties, and dedicate time to reconciliation. All people living in Canada are treaty people with their own set of rights and responsibilities. It is important to understand the settlers’ roles in colonialism and how people are still benefitting today.

Diabetes Education Community Network of East Toronto (DECNET)

Entering 2022, the Diabetes Education Community Network of East Toronto (DECNET) continues to provide in-person and virtual appointments to clients with Type 2 Diabetes and Pre-diabetes. By late-2021, DECNET returned to both in-person and virtual services at our partner locations, Access Point on Danforth Ave. and the Albany Medical Clinic. Engaging with clients, the team determines the most appropriate way of providing care, virtually or on-site, keeping pandemic protocols and safety in mind at all times. As well, our satellite site at 1245 Danforth Ave. is being renovated in order to create additional counselling space and we hope to start seeing clients there in March.

November was observed as Diabetes Awareness Month across the world. To raise awareness and provide resources and support to the community, DECNET collaborated with the Harmony Community Food Centre and distributed 90 healthy and hearty oatmeal recipe kits at the drop-in community meal program.

Two new registered nurses, Harneet and Princy, were welcomed to our team in December. They have completed orientation and look forward to seeing clients both virtually and at our multiple locations.

All of our group programs continue to be offered virtually via Zoom (and DECNET’s health promoter is available to help troubleshoot if there are access problems). The groups being offered this winter are: Diabetes Support (offered in English, Cantonese, Mandarin and Bengali); Mental Health & Diabetes (T.E.A.M. DECNET); and Exercise (in collaboration with East End Community Health Centre). Additionally, Stephen, our social worker, will be offering a workshop to share tips and tools for coping with anxiety and stress brought on by the pandemic.

Clients interested in knowing more about any of the groups can contact Asmita, DECNET’s health promoter, at 416-461-9043, ext. 2362.

Living With Diabetes During The Pandemic

On November 22, Toronto Diabetes Care Connect (TDCC) and the Cross-Organization Planning Committee (with members from Regent Park Community Health Centre and Bridgepoint Family Health Team) hosted a virtual webinar for healthcare providers called “Providing Holistic Healthcare: Managing Diabetes During the Pandemic.”

Panel members included an endocrinologist (Jeremy Gilbert, TDCC endocrinology lead), registered social worker (Stephen Fenn, DECNET program), diabetes nurse educator (Jane Rajah, Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre) and an individual living with type 2 diabetes.

Previously, in April 2020, as the health care system was shifting to virtual care, TDCC hosted another webinar on supporting individuals living with diabetes during the pandemic. One-and-a-half years later, the aim of the recent November event was to provide an opportunity to discuss the impacts the pandemic has had on people living with diabetes and the health care providers supporting them, and the way care has been provided. Key themes of the discussion were the mental health challenges facing individuals experiencing barriers and supporting connections to resources.

The discussion highlighted many of the challenges people have been facing, and provided an opportunity to share resources and look forward with hope. From the responses of attendees and panel members, it was clear that health care providers are committed to supporting people living with diabetes through the pandemic, recovery and renewal.