By Geoff Gans
- Easy rail access and a mix of large Victorian homes in Parkdale make this ‘Village by the Lake’ one of Toronto’s 1st commuter suburbs; in the summer residents flock to Sunnyside Amusement Park.
- The Depression puts an end to Toronto’s construction boom; many large homes in Parkdale are divided into multiple units, making way for a working-class; the neighbourhood is soon labeled a slum.
- Gardiner Expressway built between 1955-1964 cutting off Parkdale from the lake; high-rise buildings are erected to house displaced middle-class however most families flee the neighbourhood.
- 1000’s of long-term patients are pushed into Parkdale after being discharged from nearby Queen Street Mental Health Centre (now CAMH) and Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital (closed for good).
- PARC is created as a kind of sanctuary where psychiatric survivors can go, be heard and connect with peers. (1980)
- 1st psychiatric survivor, Pat Capponi is hired at PARC; an outspoken writer and advocate, Pat brings much-needed attention to Parkdale’s housing disaster.
- 2 integral PARC programs start-up: Writers Group and trips to Camp Kandalore. (1988)
- PARC members and staff develop a community based on dignity and respect (many cockroaches and mice are also along for the ride).
- Meanwhile real-estate boom attracts 1st wave of gentrifiers to Parkdale; buyers are drawn to the Victorian housing stock but lack understanding of neighbourhood’s internal workings.
- PARC buys the building at 1499 Queen St. W.
- 2 members are hired as Drop-in workers.
- PARC’s Writers Group publishes Kiss Me You Mad Fool – a full-length collection of prose and visually art.
- The murder of PARC member, Patty Stewart, is a catalyst for the formation of a Members Steering Committee.
- On the evening of February 20, 1997, beloved PARC member, Edmond Yu, is shot and killed by police on TTC bus while experiencing a mental health crisis.
- PARC’s service delivery model expands to include housing, outreach, kitchen and employment.
- Caribbean, South Asian and working artist communities are attracted to the cheap stock of loft and apartment-style housing in Parkdale.
- Mobilized by the death of Edmond Yu, PARC creates 10 units of supportive housing on the 3rd floor of 1499 Queen St. W.
- In partnership with Working for Change (formerly Ontario Council of Alternative Businesses) 2 employment facilitators are hired, developing skills and creating wage-earning opportunities for PARC member.
- PARC’s mission is solidified: “A community where people rebuild their lives.” (2006)
- Peer crew leaders are hired to work in the kitchen helping to serve over 100,000 every year.
- Harm reduction group Imperial Breakfast Club forms.
- Knowledge is Power – a 14-week anti-oppression training program is created and offered to service-users @ 4 Toronto Drop-In Network sites, including PARC. For its work developing the curriculum, PARC is recognized with an Access, Equity and Human Rights Award. (2007)
- PARC’s Drop-in opens 7 days/week.
- 194 Dowling Avenue is identified as site for supportive housing project; negative reaction from Parkdale residents sparks creation of Ambassadors Project, training PARC members as public speakers and changing attitudes around the neighbourhood.
- Tibetan and Roma communities call Parkdale home; neighbourhood is now considered a ‘landing strip’.
- Full-time chef hired in PARC’s kitchen.
- Tenants move in to Edmond Place – a unique peer supported housing building for people with lived experience of mental health and addiction issues.
- PARC’s Writers Group publishes a 2nd collection of prose and visual art called Let’s Face It.
- A Member’s Census is completed to better define the issues, experiences and specific needs of PARC members.
- Gentrification moves west to Parkdale, introducing new cafés, restaurants and condos; Parkdale is popular for young singles, couples and families seeking active community as well as attractive and affordable property and rental rates.