homeless yoga toronto

Toronto will soon have yoga classes for the homeless

Toronto city councillors, as we learned last week, are making a concerted effort to improve the lives of vulnerable people in the downtown east area.

Part of this means physically cleaning up streets and parks around neighbourhoods such as Yonge-Dundas, Sherbourne and Dundas, Cabbagetown, St. Jamestown and Regent Park.

Another, far more considered part will involve extending the current range of social services available to those in need — all with existing resources.

Toronto City Council will consider a 23-part, 12-month action plan next week that, according to the Community Development and Recreation Committee, can be implemented within a year.

The first 11 items in the plan pertain to mental health, substance abuse and harm reduction; measures such as suicide prevention workshops, overdose prevention training, supervised injection sites and distributing naloxone kits to shelters.

The last six focus on community safety and violence prevention, economic opportunities and enforcing illegal dumping restrictions.

Everything else is about homelessness, shelter support, volleyball, soccer and yoga.

You see, one of the planned measures, action item 11, recommends that the city offer more "planned recreation programs and leagues to individuals living in shelters or are affected by Homelessness."

These programs would be spearheaded by the department of Parks, Forestry and Recreation and follow the lead of leagues like Toronto's Downtown East End Softball League, which includes teams made up of staff, residents and former residents of various shelters and drop-in centres around the city.

"Being connected to the real world is such a big step to getting out, to getting settled in your own place," said Councillor Paula Fletcher to CBC Toronto this week about the proposed move.

Fletcher says that city-run recreational classes, like yoga and tai-chi, are already available to people experiencing homelessness. Those programs are open to everyone, however, not just the homeless, which makes some reluctant to join in. 

Fletcher says that homeless individuals have indicated they'd rather participate in  activities  "geared solely to others in the same boat as they are," at least at first.

"Building your life back is what it's all about," says Fletcher. "Not staying in a shelter the rest of your life."

Lead photo by

Jesse Milns


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