Samantha grew up with her grandmother in Brampton who has cared for her all of her 26 years. She attended Judith Nyman Secondary School and when she graduated, Samantha grins as she says how the principal described her as the Belle of the Ball, all fancied up for graduation in a gold sequined dress.
Samantha fell in love with Tien in her early teens. “I’ve been in love with him since I was 14. He put a smile on my face every time I saw him.” After they were married, they both lived with Samantha’s grandma together. It was Tien who most keenly saw the opportunity ahead of them, says Samantha, when he said to her, “Enough, we’ve got to try to live on our own.”
Although Samantha worries a little about her grandma living alone without her, she made the hard choice to more independent living with Tien in the Pan Am Legacy Housing (with the auspicious address of 20 Palace Street), owned and operated by Fred Victor. She says it’s been really great. “Denise (manager) has helped me with my chair and in so many different ways. She’s a good landlord. And Luke and Suham, too!”
20 Palace Street has been on the burner for several years. In 2011, Fred Victor responded to an RFP from the Province, and with one other non-profit affordable housing provider, “won” the process that would lead to acquiring a brand new 10-storey apartment building in the Canary District, a small piece of the legacy from the Pan Para/Pan Am Athletes’ Village.
In May and June 2016, tenants began trickling into the building. A massive fundraising campaign, FreshStart, raised the funds needed to make alterations to the building and that campaign was followed by the ingenious “HelpFredFillaHome” campaign, to raise money for furniture inside the apartments. Leon’s came on board as a partner of the FillaHome campaign and not only provided deeply discounted furnishings, but free delivery and set up inside the apartments.
Key to the success of this project has been the many community partners that have stepped into the housing mix. They are Covenant House – youth; The Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture — traumatized newcomer families; The Royal Canadian Legion, Ontario Command — veterans; and PACE Independent Living — for people who have physical disabilities. PACE provides on-site daily support and is the organization that is there for Samantha and Tien.
This is a new community building with approximately 300 tenants including children and youth who are now securely and affordably housed at this site. We couldn’t be happier… or prouder.