There are boxes to sort through and paintings to hang, and the internet connection can be a bit spotty at times.
But Murray Jose, executive director of the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation (TPWAF), says staff are ready for business at their new location at 200 Gerrard St E.
“I’ve still got some unpacking to do,” Jose says, pointing to a collection of files and pamphlets piled on a desk inside his corner office, “but we’ve been fully up and running for a few weeks now.”
In December TPWAF relocated from the AIDS Committee of Toronto building, where it has been a tenant since 1993, to a newly renovated 9,000-square-foot space near the Sherbourne Health Centre.
The new accommodations include the building’s street-level floor, which houses TPWAF’s food bank and Food for Life programs, and the third floor, which contains offices and community space.
The move was part of TPWAF’s ongoing Strategic Planning process, launched on the foundation’s 20th anniversary in 2007 to identify ways of improving service to the roughly 5,000 clients it assists annually.
In particular Jose says the foundation wanted an area that would reduce crowding and foster a sense of community that was highly valued by those using TPWAF’s programs.
“When we talked to clients through this [consultation] process we learned that, without specifically intending to, we had created a home, a place where people would feel comfortable… we wanted a physical space to match what we’d created in a psychological sense,” he explains.
Accessibility was high on the list of criteria for a new office, Jose says. Unlike its old quarters, both floors can be reached by elevator and the foundation has sought final approval to construct a wheelchair ramp leading into the building.
The accommodations include a spacious reception area, rooms for community classes and an abundance of office space — far more than the roughly 20 TPWAF staff could possibly occupy on their own.
TPWAF says it plans to use the extra room to host other community AIDS organizations in the hopes of becoming a “point of access” for HIV support services. So far, the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention, Fife House and McEwan Housing Support have been given offices, and Jose says there is the potential for further partnerships in the future.
Jose notes that while the move involves tradeoffs, like moving farther away from the Church-Wellesley area, the organization remains proud of its history of involvement in the gay and lesbian communities and will continue its close relationship with the AIDS Committee of Toronto.
“We’re still every bit as compatible and committed to each other’s goals as we’ve always been,” he says.
Andrew Brett, ACT’s communications director, echoes that sentiment in an email to Xtra.
“ACT will continue to work collaboratively with TPWAF to provide complementary services to people living with HIV/AIDS,” Brett writes.
He adds that ACT is in the process of finding a new tenant to take over the sublease.
An estimated 15,000 people living with HIV call Toronto home, nearly a quarter of Canada’s HIV-positive population.