Matthew Cutler, Director of Community Engagement
Charitable number: 11931-0761-RR0001
About this organization
The 519 Church Street Community Centre is a meeting place and focal point for the creative enhancement of a vibrant healthy downtown community. We respond creatively and passionately to the needs of the local neighbourhood and the broader LGBT communities by providing resources and opportunities to foster self-determination, civic engagement, and community enrichment through social recreation, volunteerism, arts and culture, and community participation.
History of Organization
The 519 was established in 1975 as a public-private partnership of the City of Toronto. Over the past 35 years, The 519 has worked together with our local community to develop programs and services which meet the needs of the diverse communities we serve. Within our partnership model, the City of Toronto provides core funding to ensure public access to our building and we leverage community, corporate and foundation partnerships to provide groundbreaking, innovative and community-responsive programming to the LGBT and downtown communities.
Accolades and Accomplishments
The 519 has established itself as leader in serving diverse downtown and LGBT communities. Over 250 community groups rely on our support and our space to deliver community programming. Our programs and services provide community development and community engagement opportunties for seniors, trans people, families, newcomers and refugees, queer parents and families, and our broader neighbourhood and LGBT members.
The 519 is working with our partners and members to build stronger, healthier communities by meeting the immediate needs of the communities with which we work, while leveraging our knowledge, resources and capacity to address systemic issues and to build the capacity of our communities to create change.
The 519 offers many programs and services to meet the emerging and ongoing needs of the communities we serve. These programs include:
- Family and Children's Services - Our family resource centre and queer parenting programs provide opportunties for queer and urban families to meet one another, develop skills and make connections.
- Trans Programs - Trans programs provide support to trans people from youth programs like Trans Youth Toronto and Healthy TransActions to meal and support programs like MealTrans.
- Social Enterprise - Our restaurant FABARNAK and through events at The Centre, we're providing meaningful training and employment opportunities to members of our commmunities who have faced barriers.
- Newcomer and Refugees - Our settlement services provide support to refugees who are fleeing countries of persecution and settlement support such as employment and housing assistance to recent newcomers who are trying to make Canada their home.
- Research and Education - Our staff provide workshops and training opportunities for students, corporations and other organizations in addition to our formal training programs Project Open Door and the TransAccess Project.
- Older LGBT Programming - Through our drop-in programs, events and our leadership of the Senior Pride Network, we're working to make our communities welcoming places for LGBT seniors.
- Community Services - We offer a variety of staff- and volunteer-led programs including our free counselling program, our volunteer legal clinic and tax clinic and our sunday drop-in for homeless and underhoused people.
The 519’s Healthy TransActions (HTA) is an active healthy living drop-in program for trans and questioning youth. The goals of HTA are to provide a comprehensive physical activity and health promotion program for youth who would not otherwise be engaged, as well as to work with local organizations and individuals, through community-driven advocacy and education, to decrease barriers to access for trans youth.
Weekly in HTA, trans youth enjoy sports, social recreation and education opportunities that are accessible (free and in safe space), fun and relevant to this specific community.
We know this kind of health promotion program is unique and not easily replicated, in large part because safe spaces for trans youth are not created overnight and few exist now. Without real access, youth withdraw from physical activity, having dire short and long-term physical and mental health implications.
We have developed an education strategy to decrease the barriers to access which are enforced by service providers (leagues, schools, fitness centres, facilities, instructors, etc.). We have been running workshops for individuals and groups on improving trans accessibility for both mainstream and queer sporting organizations.
Funding and Program Partners
HTA works in partnership with The 519’s Trans Youth Toronto (TYT), which is the longest running trans youth
program in North America. TYT is a supportive social space for trans youth to connect, speak openly, share meals and find resources.
The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has supported HTA since 2010 through Healthy Communities Fundand was a 2012 recipient of a Vital Ideas grant from the Toronto Community Foundation.
HTA is currently delivered in partnership with Shape Your Life Boxing, Sherbourne Health Centre and FoodShare.
Since 2012, HTA has helped youth in our communities to make healthy lifestyle choices as well as to building physical, mental and social resiliency. In that time, we met 210 unique trans youth who made 730 visits to the program, offered 260 hours of accessible programming for trans youth, and engaged peer volunteers who donated 319 hours to program preparation/delivery.
Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program
"Only 9% of boys and 4 % of girls are meeting the new Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, according to the 2011 Canadian Health Measures Survey." (Toronto's Vital Signs, 2011)
These statistics are alarming low, and still do not reflect the dire experiences and physical activity practices of trans youth in our community. Physical activity as it is usually delivered presents real systemic barriers for young trans people - the possibility of marginalization and violence exists and persists.
“Jamie” is 22 and identifies as genderqueer. Jamie revealed they are not confident with their body or physical health, but do not pursue physical activity and historically have always avoided school gym classes. Jamie identified many personal barriers to accessing sport; cost, gender segregation, harassment in changerooms, lack of trans-positive recreation organizations, fear of transphobia, discomfort in sport spaces, and accessibility for their disability. Jamie identifies as having a physical disability and mental health challenges. When asked how their disability effects their experiences in sport, Jamie said they wish they “didn’t feel like shit for not being able to do something.”
Jamie began to attend HTA in the spring and has since been able to explore and improve their physical capacity. They particularly enjoyed pilates. “Pilates = amazing! Invite them back and have more wellness activities.” For most of their life, physical activity seemed like something they would never enjoy. In HTA’s safe, affirming environment and under the guidance of trans positive instructors (the Pilates instructor is a genderqueer youth), Jamie said they’d never enjoyed physical activity so much nor felt so supported. With HTA they have since tried dance, yoga, Frisbee, boxing and even meal preparation.
Activities a donation will support
Financial support for this program will enable us to serve more young people and to increase the capacity of fitness facilities throughout Toronto to provide safe, welcoming spaces for trans youth.
With financial support, The 519 will be able to ensure that every young trans person has the resources to live a healthy, active life.