The Dream Team was formed in response to the prejudice and discrimination that exists against people with mental health issues. The Dream Team began as a group of consumer/survivors and family members dedicated to demonstrating the life-altering benefits of supportive housing for people living with mental illness, while reduce mental health stigma. Today, the Dream Team is a consumer/survivor group comprised of 22 members, and they operate out of their sponsoring agency, Houselink Community Homes.
Originally, the founding Members of The Dream Team were board members for various Toronto based supportive housing organizations. From these boards, a group emerged that was made up of staff, board members and a few consumers/survivors. This group was concerned with the negative societal attitudes and sentiments that existed in regards to supportive housing and mental illness. In 1999 the Consumer/Survivor Members of this group were encouraged to create their own, ‘consumer only’ group. This separation marked the inception of The Dream Team.
The name ‘The Dream Team’ emerged quite organically during one of the first meetings. All Members recognized that they had a common dream: That everyone with a mental health issue would have access to safe, secure, and affordable supportive housing. Hence the name ‘The Dream Team’ was coined.
In an effort to combat the wide-spread and persistent mental health stigma and NIMBYist (Not In My Backyard) sentiments held by many Torontonians, The Dream Team began to expand, and recruit more Members. They did outreach to community organizations and schools in order to educate the general public about the importance of supportive housing for those living with mental illness. This was done by sharing their personal stories via ‘speaks’. The Dream Team quickly began to receive positive feedback about the strong impact that their ‘story sharing’ approach was having on people. This success led to increased bookings and exposure.
During this time the Team was operating without a budget, so meetings were held in boardrooms and offices that were generously shared by local supportive housing agencies. It wasn’t until 2 years after the inception of The Dream Team that they began to receive some federal funding (SCPI). This funding allowed them to hire their first coordinator, and A.I.S. (Accommodation Information and Support) became their sponsoring agency through which their funding sources would flow.
While the Dream Team was raising awareness through their speaking engagements they were also engaging in research that would help to get more supportive housing units built in Toronto. The first research project that the Team became actively involved in (as principal investigators), was entitled ‘We Are Neighbours’, (de Wolff, 2008). This was a significant project for the Team, as the research proved that (contrary to popular opinion) property values around areas with supportive housing structures would increase, and crime rates would NOT increase. This report concluded that neighbourhoods would prosper with a supportive housing unit in the neighbourhood. Furthermore, it revealed that in several neighbourhoods these buildings were a positive neighbourhood presence; positively impacting upon the social & economic well being of the entire neighbourhood.
Since this first project, the Dream Team’s profile as an innovative and passionate Consumer /Survivor activist group has steadily grown. Over the years, the Dream Team has been legally and politically involved with several endeavours. They have been, and are currently, involved in speaking out against political injustices, filing legal complaints, successfully challenging discriminatory bylaws, and spearheading inventive campaigns in order to raise awareness about supportive housing and mental health. These projects are very unique as they represent some of the first instances in which Consumer/Survivors (in Toronto) have made their voices heard at the legal and political level. It is this trailblazing, activist spirit that has come to characterize the Dream Team. Their mission is clear, and there is no looking back as they tirelessly march forward with their message of hope and change for the future.