20-20 Vision Short Essay Contest: More than just housing

Tenant youth share their perspectives on TCHC and the community. For our 20th anniversary, we held an essay contest and asked youth tenants to write about their experience and vision for the future.

What is the role of a housing provider?

Is it enough to just provide a place to live, or do all social housing providers have more responsibility to tenants and the surrounding community?

For Toronto Community Housing’s 20th anniversary, we held the 20-20 Vision Short Essay Contest and asked youth tenants to write about TCHC’s current and future role as a housing provider. We also asked them to address the challenges TCHC faces, and what they think brings their community together.

We received dozens of well thought-out entries from communities across the city. Many essays focused on a few common themes. The first is that access to housing provides stability.

Community programs and supports were also identified as an important theme in helping tenants thrive. Many participants identified opportunities where TCHC or community agencies can step in to fill a gap and provide necessary services.

As one of the participants writes, “Having a roof over one’s head is not the only necessity. Other ways to help people would be to provide subsidized daycare for tenants so more parents would be free to work. There could also be workshops that offer community kitchens, art therapy and more to allow people to come together and learn while encouraging healthy living.”

Many essays touched on the positive impact of community leaders and events that bring people together. Participants also noted the challenges TCHC faces and offered creative ideas for how we should improve. Some addressed large-scale issues like the need for more diverse viewpoints in decision-making. Others focused on more local concerns that impact them on a daily basis.

The essays we received showcased a range of unique youth perspectives and ideas. With so many great submissions, the panel of judges had a tough decision selecting the three winners.

Noshin Ullah, our first place winner, is a third-year law student. She wants to contribute to developments in research, policy and social change. As part of the first place prize, she had the chance to chat with TCHC’s President and CEO, Jag Sharma. They talked about her work in curating oral histories from her local community of Regent Park. Noshin also spoke about how vital it is to include youth voices and ideas when it comes to developing youth programming.

Ahmed Adan, the second place winner, is a Power and Energy Engineering student. His goal is to shed light on youth engagement and empowerment. Ridda Ahmed, the third place winner, is in the first year of her nursing career. She hopes to take on leadership roles to address health inequalities.

Thank you to everyone who submitted such thoughtful, well-written essays. Congratulations to all our winners!

As we look forward to the next 20 years at TCHC, it’s important to think about how we should continue in our role as a social housing provider. As our participants noted, social housing is not only housing. For many, TCHC offers stability, community, and opportunity.

In the words of first place winner Noshin, “Though challenges remain, TCHC is and will continue providing homes and hope to many. It is with this hope that we tread towards a brighter future for all of us.”

The bios and essays from our winners are available to read online. Thank you to Wealthsimple Foundation for sponsoring this contest.