Pictured above, YSM’s Housing Team, from left to right: Enoch, Stephanie Jessica, Kristin, Michael (not pictured Jacinta and Olaide)
30 years ago, YSM opened the doors of Genesis Place, a supportive 26-unit apartment complex. Families are created there, children grow up within its walls and residents face real-life challenges with many able to succeed due to the supports they receive there.
For the past 10 years, Michael has been a familiar face and pillar of the Genesis Place community.
Michael first got to know YSM through nine years of volunteering at YSM’s Food Bank. During that time he faced loss of employment and ended up living in a shelter. In response, Michael sought support from YSM’s Housing department. Today, Michael works at YSM as Genesis Place’s Security Officer, ensuring the safety of residents, YSM staff and other community members.
Michael can often be found in what he refers to as his “office”, a bench in front of Genesis Place, where he keeps an eye on things, greets community members and is available to support and assist those coming and going as needed.
One of his most significant memories happened right there on that bench: “I was sitting out there and two little kids came walking down the street by themselves, hand-in-hand. I was watching them but was afraid to approach them because they didn’t know me. When a young lady, who also works at YSM, passed by I notified her about the kids. She went and helped them return to their parents who were next door in the YSM Davis Centre.”
“I don’t have to be out there on the bench, but it feels important. I greet the kids and parents coming to Daycare, I see staff and community members going by – it gives me a chance to have eyes on everything.”
Serving people in their homes is not always easy, especially during the pandemic when many were confined to their homes, but Michael is able to draw on his lived experiences to manage any challenging situations that arise.
He has crafted his security role to serve as a welcoming face. He supplies his team with frequent gifts of Tim Horton’s coffee, finds needed supplies for residents, gives freely to those around him and is known as ‘Santa Claus’ to all the kids – past and present – in the building, “I feel like a Santa Claus,” he said, “It’s just part of who I am.”
The personal and professional support he’s received from YSM has created a new path for Michael, “since coming to YSM my level of rage has almost completely disappeared. I’m surrounded by people and situations I wouldn’t have had the good fortune to work with otherwise. I’ve really come to admire and respect the people here. So, when I do retire, I’m not just going to sit back – I want to volunteer and I want to volunteer here. I know what YSM does for people, how genuine they are and how they help people. I’ve been helped so much here.”
For our 125th anniversary we’re inviting the city of Toronto to GIVE 6IX to “the Six” in any way, from anywhere, to help change the lives of neighbours struggling with poverty . . .
By donating to charities like YSM you can offer meaningful employment to neighbours like Michael and a safe and welcome home, like Genesis Place, to struggling community members.
What’s your 6IX? Learn more and get inspired at ysm.ca/GIVE6IX.