Through COVID-19, Toronto’s The 519 has been advocating for and responding to the most urgent needs of LGBTQ2S communities…
By Dean Lobo
For 46 years, The 519 has served as a valuable and vibrant hub for LGBTQ2S communities in Toronto and beyond, as well as for residents of Toronto’s Church and Wellesley neighbourhood. As Canada’s largest LGBTQ2S community centre and service provider, it has been an affirming first touchpoint for many queer, trans and two-spirit folks looking to find community. We had 546,767 visits between April 2019 and March 2020.
Our COVID-19 response
In March 2020, The 519 building – usually a vibrant and busy space – had to close in keeping with public health measures. Though we could not offer our programs and services in the usual way, our Army of Lovers mobilized quickly. We built a response model that addresses and meets urgent community needs, and our commitment to service has remained firm.
Through the tireless, round-the-clock efforts of our staff, we:
– prepared and served 35,148+ meals to improve food security for street-involved, homeless and marginalized folks;
– distributed 24,895+ essential supplies including clothing, toiletries, hygiene and harm reduction kits;
– addressed social isolation among older and vulnerable folks through 4,604 friendly check-in calls and referrals;
– increased our communities’ access to justice through many virtual supports: The 519 Legal Clinic, Refugee Mock Hearing Program, Trans ID Clinic and other legal resources to 560 clients;
– advocated for LGBTQ2S rights and elevated important issues pertaining to our communities, examples being our letter to the Prime Minister seeking solutions to the increasing LGBTQ2S abuse in urban communities across Canada, and our letter asking for immediate government action to save Toronto’s LGBTQ2S Village and queer/trans-owned local businesses; and
– provided trauma-informed phone counselling for 214 community members.
To a new year of equity, justice and love
2020 might be over, but the pandemic continues to impact the people we serve. While we look forward to a time of recovery, we are thrilled about the many programs and services we have planned throughout 2021 to ensure that our communities are supported.
– In keeping with the challenges of winter and the growing need around food security, we have adapted our meal service program to offer community members a weekly pick-up of frozen meals that can be reheated and enjoyed.
– During meal pick-up, our staff members continue to check in on the well-being and needs of community members for essential supplies, referrals or additional supports.
– We are keeping families, children, our trans communities and older LGBTQ2S adults engaged through a variety of virtual programs.
– We continue to advocate for LGBTQ2S rights and increase our communities’ access to justice through our anti-violence initiatives, public legal education workshops, The 519 Legal Clinic, Tax Clinic, new partnerships and more.
We are still on the front lines, every day, for equity, for justice, for love.
Support LGBTQ2S communities – support The 519!
Our much-needed community-based response does not have secure funding, but with your continued support, we can continue to support our communities during this time of great need.
Join us in our work! To support our essential work, you can donate online at The519.org/donate.
DEAN LOBO: (He/Him) is an experienced communications professional based in Toronto and the communications specialist at The 519. He reported extensively about important issues impacting queer and trans communities in India before immigrating to Canada in 2018. His interest in LGBTQ2S advocacy led him to work at The 519.