Welcome to Working for Change, a grassroots Social Justice organization led by the communities we serve. We are a movement that derives it’s strength from the passion and leadership of people with lived and living experiences of struggle, stigma, poverty and marginalization. Rooted in the psychiatric survivor and Mad Pride movement, we celebrate these lived experiences as being the building blocks of wisdom, courage and strength. Our core mission revolves around social enterprises that provide supportive jobs for folks who are far removed from the labour market and providing training, leadership development and ongoing support to enable people to be successful on their employment journeys while also being agents of lasting social change. Our non profit business model helps us to reinvest into our communities constantly. Join us in creating a more inclusive, accessible, equitable, and just world.
Read about our story.
To provide training and employment opportunities to people who have been marginalized by mental health/addictions challenges, poverty, homelessness, violence and refugee/newcomer issues; to speak out against marginalization; to work to change policies that adversely affect our communities.
A home, a job, a friend and social change
We envision a society where everyone has access to meaningful employment, adequate housing, a society that no longer stigmatizes people with mental health/addictions issues, a society where no one is hungry, and where social enterprises are a thriving and vibrant sector of the Canadian economy.
Working for Change is an organization that values:
Work is a critical part of recovery and overall wellness. Without this access, some way to connect, people spiral further. There is a deep desire for access to work, however, the wider workforce remains hostile.
Lack of access to work deeply exacerbates poverty. The destabilizing impacts of poverty further traumatize people and is a great risk factor for poor physical and mental health. Poverty greatly increases stress.
Poverty also increases feelings of hopelessness. It affects self-esteem and people’s social connections, leading people to further self-isolate in shame. Stigma plays a role in addiction, overdose rates are higher among the unemployed.
Economic strain arises when those grappling with mental health and addiction issues rely on costly emergency services and shelters. In Canada, this results in an annual cost of over $50 billion and the overall decline in productivity and quality of life.
Equips people who have been without access to work for a long time, get ready to work again. The 12 week immersive programs, allow people to transition slowly into work, helping them build professional, and social skills, by working in a group setting to confront their own fears, prepare for work and begin to plan for the future.
At the end of the 3 month training period, WFC helps people find jobs in their social enterprises or in other organizations. It also provides support mechanisms for people to be successful – mentoring, guidance, support systems from other survivors.
Access to work is the most direct pathway to independence and dignity. It takes people who are vulnerable sometimes a long time to get there but thats where a supportive, stable workplace goes a long way.
Pathways for Growth
Working for Change prides itself on the internal mobility that staff experience over time. Almost all our leadership positions are filled by people who started at an entry-level and worked slowly towards greater responsibility and leadership over time. Several of them are graduates of our training programs. People who were once homeless are now managers and directors.
Survivors into leaders
Lived experience advocates join leadership and advisory spaces to inform policy and systems level change. Our grads and staff sit on the boards of several non profits, and advisory councils – shaping the conversations around health equity, harm reduction, housing, refugee rights, violence against women, human rights, disability justice, police reform and the social determinants of health.
Working for change owns and operates several nonprofit, Work Integration Social Enterprises. The social mandate of these small businesses is to provide supportive, stable, trauma informed employment for people with lived experience of mental health, addiction, homelessness, trauma, gender-based violence, incarceration, and refugee histories. These lived experiences often mean that people face chronic and persistent challenges in accessing work which plunges them into poverty. Research shows that people with severe mental illness experience between 70-90% rates of unemployment. We help to address this. Revenue from our social enterprises go directly into staff wages and supports. Through access to work, people are able to move slowly into more independent and dignified living, relying less and less on systems supports such as shelters, Emergency Rooms and food banks. Our enterprises operate in two areas: Food Services and Landscaping/Horticulture.
With a blend of two retail cafes located in the Queen W neighbourhood and a catering kitchen that serves nonprofits who are addressing the needs of the unhoused to whom we provide healthy meals at scale, OTW is our flagship brand and serves our community in partnership with our anchor partner CAMH.
The Raging Spoon is a catering enterprise located in Parkdale, that serves excellent food at variable price points for a wide customer base. Think of using our services for your next meeting or event!
For 16+ years, The Raging Spoon has catered to the GTA, providing jobs for those with mental health/addiction concerns in food service. Serving west-end and central Toronto. Perfect for meetings, conferences, and special events.
A social horticulture business. We install/maintain plants for BIAs, nonprofits, hospitals, private sector, and community. Designing outdoor/indoor plantings for streetscapes, offices, and institutions.
Empowers marginalized individuals to influence decision-makers on policy. Graduates join a speakers bureau advocating for change, addressing stigma, and discussing topics like poverty, mental health, addiction, homelessness, DV, and newcomer issues.
Since 2011, WSO offers a 12-week gender-focused leadership program to explore social justice issues. Graduates join advisory boards, engage in exchanges, and form a Speakers Bureau. WSO won the 2013 Women Transforming Cities Best Practices Award.
Lived experience is valued in social services for its empathy and support skills. Work opportunities empower those in poverty to improve their status and contribute. Our program uniquely trains relief workers for shelters, drop-ins, and housing programs.
12-week training: food/horticulture jobs. Prepares long-term unemployed with pre-employment support and on-the-job training. Graduates often work in our social enterprises: Parkdale Green Thumb Enterprises, Out of This World Cafe, Raging Spoon Catering Company.
Stacey Bowen battled an 18-year drug addiction, finding her turning point when her daughters sensed her struggles despite her efforts to hide them. An irrepressible woman, Stacey tells her story fearlessly. How she babysat the neighbours’ kids and was paid in crack. How she spent her student loan money on crack. How she had to move out of her neighbourhood because the dealers were too enticing. How she went to rehab three times. Finally, she attended Voices from the Street. After this program, she embraced honesty and shifted from self-focus to empathy for others. This transformation empowered her to advocate for those with similar experiences. She rekindled her passion for writing, completed a counseling diploma, and now resides with her grown daughters. Stacey’s impactful advocacy includes lecturing at treatment centers, advisory roles, counseling, and promoting mental health employment. Currently, she is joining the Fred Victor Centre as a shelter worker. Stacey’s mission is to amplify the voices of individuals with “lived experience,” urging for mutual understanding and collaboration in decision-making.
Stefan recently joined Out of This World (OTW) in February 2023 and his prospects have already improved. Initially homeless due to mental health and job challenges, he stayed at a shared 24-hour respite center in Toronto, which posed difficulties given the diverse struggles of fellow residents. An OTW social worker introduced him to a job opening via Investing in Neighborhoods. They collaborated to create a resume and apply.
Soon, Stefan started his first shift at the OTW Café. Working there holds great significance for him, offering an escape from shelter life and a pathway to stability. Transitioning to temporary housing, contingent on employment, has also positively impacted him. Stefan envisions a future of independent living, supported by OTW and his social worker.
We are actively seeking corporate sponsorships and welcoming individual donations. Our enterprises were hit hard by Covid, like all small businesses. We require support for our recovery and to sustain our one-of-a-kind training programs.
To explore providing a corporate sponsorship, please email Anita Pasard at email@example.com.
To donate, visit our page on Canada Helps.
Contribute your skills and time to meaningful initiatives.
Know someone with specific skills for our board of directors? We’re looking for individuals who are aligned with our mission.
Have business expertise to share? Join us as a volunteer consultant.
Join today! To explore opportunities, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dawnmarie Harriott, Program Manager/Peer Support Facilitator
Speakers Bureau & Leadership Employment Training
1499 Queen Street West Suite 203
Toronto ON, M6R 1A3
Phone: 416-504-1693 x 233
Hours of operation: 9:30am-5:30pm
Lubna Khalid, Program Manager
Speakers Bureau & Leadership Employment Training
1499 Queen Street West Suite 203
Toronto ON, M6R 1A3
Phone: 416-504-1693 x 231
Hours of operation: 10:00am-5:30pm
Working For Change ©2023
Working For Change is a registered Charity ( BN: 884795352RR0001) in Ontario, Canada