Understanding our roots is an important part of our story

In the late 1990’s, East Scarborough was a community in desperate need. Families were leaving the inner city where low cost housing was becoming increasingly scarce, and moving to the inner suburbs to find more affordable housing. Vast numbers of refugees were being housed in the motel strip along Kingston Road. Few services for these new residents were available nearby. The suburban transit infrastructure was inadequate. Simply getting to where the services existed was an enormous barrier.

Fortunately, a group of people working and volunteering in the community (Public Health workers and volunteers from the Caring Alliance - a group from various faith communities), overwhelmed by the need, knew something had to change.

They contacted various agencies that were mandated to serve people in the community but had been unable to identify and reach those who would have benefited from their services. They developed a survey asking residents what they needed. Then, they went door to door, engaging the residents. This was the beginning of the resident-focused approach. Rather than assuming they knew what residents needed, they took the time to ask about - and really listen to - what residents wanted.

Once we had feedback from the residents, the solution to providing services in the community was disarmingly simple. It was clear that no ONE agency or organization could meet all of the challenges and serve all of the varied needs, but collectively the possibilities were enormous.

We spent two years establishing a model that made sense, building trust among agencies, creating a framework within which all players could work. The final result was a partnership of agencies, all of which understood the value of collaboration and who were able to work within a collectively created framework.

After two years of discussion, consultation and building trust among agencies, East Scarborough Storefront opened its doors in a local shopping mall. It was within walking distance of many of the apartment towers in which residents lived. Before we knew it, clients began arriving, thanks to word of mouth. It was clear the services we offered were desperately needed in the community.

Quick Glimpse of Storefront History

  • 1999

    Need for services reaches a crisis point as more than 800 people are housed in local motels

  • 2000

    Agencies and residents meet regularly to find an innovative solution the service crisis in East Scarborough

  • 2001

    The East Scarborough Storefront opens its doors with nothing but one large space and an enormous amount of good will.

  • 2003

    Storefront volunteer project is born

  • 2004

    Storefront model established and receives Vital Ideas Award

  • 2005

    Announcements are made that Storefront would lose most of its funding and its home at Morningside Mall

  • 2006

    Residents and agencies rally: the famous SOS March and letter writing campaign brought 5 funders to the table to fund the Storefront collaboratively

  • 2007

    City houses Storefront in old Police Station at 4040 Lawrence

  • 2008

    Residents, agencies, funders and supporters rally again to create Storefront’s bold new vision

  • 2009

    Storefront takes on broader community development work in a big way, supporting the garden, the market, resident engagement and community capacity building

  • 2010

    Storefront takes on economic development with an innovative approach to employment and business supports. The community urges Storefront to expand its space; youth and architects begin planning (CDI)

  • 2011

    Storefront and University of Toronto Scarborough Campus launch an innovative approach to partnership. CDI youth lead the redesign of Storefront's interior spaces. Storefront begins teaching Community Development to UTSC City Studies students

  • 2012

    Storefront opens the Eco-food hub kitchen and launches our new book Little Community that Could

  • 2013

    Storefront embarks on ground breaking Tower Neighbourhood Renewal work

  • 2014

    The iconic Storefront Courts and Sky-o-swale are built – fostering an increased focus on community building through play

  • 2015

    Storefront launches its Theory of Change, brands its form of community development as the Connected Community Approach. Neighbourhood wide strategy to improve capacity to support youth, KGO All Community Together (KGO ACT) launched

  • 2016

    Storefront begins convening collaborative tables to figure out how people living in poverty in East Scarborough can benefit by jobs being created by public spending in institutions and infrastructure projects; this initiative becomes a place based approach to systems change: East Scarborough Works.

  • 2017

    Sport for Change is launched based on the MYSA model for community development from Nairobi, Kenya. The Storefront develops its sector wide work under the Centre for Connected Communities (C3).

  • 2018

    C3 becomes its own project on MakeWay's shared platform. The Storefront begins work bringing employment specific training to the community under the East End Trades Training Centre. Tower Neighbourhood Renewal is relaunched in partnership with CAPREIT and Public Health: community led design used in planning redesign of property surrounding Storefront