For the creator of a new men’s drop-in program in Parkdale, Sriram Ananth, the hope is what began as a social program will grow into a force for positive change.
Ananth is a Mental Health and Addictions Counsellor at the Parkdale Community Health Centre (PCHC) at Queen Street West and Dufferin Avenue.
The program started on the first Thursday in January and Ananth said there were so many men in attendance the room was virtually bursting at the seams.
Ananth, who lives in the Kensington Market area, recently took on his role at the health centre in mid December, but based on his initial outreach he said he quickly learned there was a significant demand for a men’s drop-in.
“Although programs like this have been run in the past at the centre, getting that going again seemed like a good idea,” Ananth said.
The weekly drop-in is geared to men of any age group who are dealing with or who have a history of dealing with homelessness, substance abuse and mental health issues. At least 30 men attended the first session.
The focus on men was something that was identified as a need, he said, adding staff also identified it would be a useful space.
“They wanted a safe space to be able to socialize, but also work on developing this group in a way they want to go. I am hoping it will be self-directed eventually.”
In addition to a social space, Ananth said there has been interest in making it a community work group where the gentlemen get together and give back through volunteerism.
“There could also be workshops on social assistance or health access, topics identified by the members of the crew,” Ananth said.
On their second Thursday meeting, held Jan. 17, the group went on a Parkdale history walk where the participants shared their personal history with the area.
“Some of the guys have been here so long they know so much about the area,” Ananth said. “There is a lot of talent and amazing resources amongst the men. I am hoping a lot of that will be channeled into the group.”
Many of the men are extremely knowledgeable about the community and have amazing stories to tell about their life journeys Ananth said.
“Many of them are active in different community advisory groups and are active as volunteer peer support, they are the ones who help out their own friends on the street... and they get helped by their friends as well.”
Ananth said his dream is for this men’s drop-in program to grow into an active community group where the men are engaged in changing some of the systems of marginalization they face.
“Eventually I would like it to be a group that organically develops into a source of positive community change,” he said. “It could become a network that identifies gaps in access, identifies areas that need to be worked on in terms of health access, in terms of social assistance and various things and takes action on that.”
The men’s drop-in takes place every Thursday in the Board Room at PCHC, 1229 Queen St W, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.
The budget for the drop-in isn’t much, Ananth said, but it is enough to buy some food and supply a few tokens.
For more information contact Ananth at 416-537-2455 ext. 308, firstname.lastname@example.org