The Dream Team is made up of about 20 members:
Aldo was born in Italy and came to Canada when he was two years old. Presently, he’s the caretaker of three houses in Parkdale and two properties in Brampton. Aldo has volunteered with St. Christopher House’s community kitchen for over ten years. He has also been on the Brighter Days committee affiliated with Habitat Services for ten years. Aldo has been a Dream Team member for nine years. He likes camping, bike-riding, and going to movies. For over 35 years, he has also been a freelance disk jockey and is a pro at being the MC for weddings, banquets, baptisms, engagements, disco dances and house parties. His biggest memory is when he did a book launch for Houselink at the Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre. To this day, Aldo MCs for Habitat Services and COTA at every dance they have. Aldo is very proud of being a member of Houselink Community Homes and the Dream Team.
Cathy was born in Toronto, Canada to her parents who emigrated from Europe. She has been with the Dream Team for four years. Recovery has been a long process and she got the most support from George Herman House, a group home for young women. Her immediate family lives in the Toronto area. She currently lives in supportive housing. She has been volunteering at a nursing home for seven years. Her future plans include making music, documentaries, and attending University of Toronto for Television and radio. She has a love for music and all things creative and artistic. Two of her favourite inspirational quotes are: “The birds don’t worry about where their food will come from tomorrow” (Ma) and “Even if it’s cloudy, the sun is still shinning behind the clouds”
Christine was born in March 1982 and is of French and American heritage. Her parents immigrated to Canada in 1975.
Christine was raised with a sister who was 3 1/2 years older than her. Her family was quite close, since they were the first generation of Canadians. Bilingualism is very important to her family and Christine was educated entirely in French up to the college level.
In the course of her life, Christine has changed career paths. She graduated as a Horticulturalist. She also is an accomplished singer and visual artist. Christine loves working with people and does Peer Support work for people with disabilities. One day, Christine hopes to have a great vacation and be able to return to London, England, a place where she felt very much at home on her first visit.
Dawn was born in Kolkata (Calcutta) India and immigrated to Canada at age 11 (1970) During high School Dawn had experienced social problems after suffering her first breakdown resulting in missing 3 months of school. She lives in a coop with her cat. Her family is very close and they travel together several times a year. Her 20 year old daughter is attending Concordia University in Montreal where she is studying studio art and art history. Dawn enjoys knitting, reading and cooking. Dawn is a member of a film club where they meet once a month and watch two movies and discuss these films afterword. Dawn is a very spiritual person and states that her faith in G-d has helped her in her journey through life. Dawn stated that being a member of the Dream Team has given her the opportunity to grow and gain employment skills. She is also a chef with Houselink.
Esther came to Canada from Kenya as a student to complete Grade 13 and go to university. This was her first time living away from her family, friends and community. She felt isolated, but was determined to do well. She completed Grade 13 and went to York University where she was befriended by a seemingly harmless Christian group which turned out to be a cult. This group gave her a sense of belonging. When trying to leave the cult, she almost immediately had a breakdown. She dropped out of university and was admitted to the Wellesley Hospital psychiatric unit. Once when she was discharged from the hospital she was given permanent housing with Houselink. Her admissions to hospital were greatly reduced. Supportive housing has made a great impact on Esther’s life. She is glad to be able to speak out for the Dream Team and advocate for more supportive housing.
Hugh came to Canada in 1975 from Glasgow, Scotland. He had served 5 years in the British Military, attached to the UN peacekeeping forces. He was sponsored by his sister to come to Canada. Hugh worked in the auto parts industry for 8 years. A breakdown led Hugh to lose his job and his apartment. He eventually got better and worked in the electronics industry. After a major bout of depression, Hugh sought help from his family doctor. Hugh then became an inpatient at a psychiatric facility with where he was diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder. Unable to live with his mother due to her poor health, Hugh was later referred to supportive housing. Since then, he has lived in several supportive housing units, and now lives in a one bedroom apartment with his own kitchen so that he can do his own cooking. He says having his own place feels pretty good.
Ken was born In October 1963, in Zwiebrucken, Germany to a military family. His father was in the Air Force. He spent much of his youth between Toronto, Ontario and Prince Edward Island. He also had a short stint in Manitoba. Ken has worked at many jobs in his lifetime. He has done everything from bagging groceries to being a health care aid. Presently Ken is working for Houselink as a cleaner. His interests include social activism, theater, movies, sports and cooking. He joined the Dream team in the summer of 2008 and is on the finance and membership committees. Ken speaks with politicians, high school and university students about the Dream Team and how supportive housing has changed his life. He has also participated in rallies such as the “Red Tent Campaign”. These activities have been primordial in Ken’s recovery.
Laura Lesser was born and educated in Toronto. She has worked as a critical care nurse. The high stress and long hours associated with nursing made it difficult for Laura to continue working in this field. She has also been a Peer Support Worker at Edmond Place, a supportive housing agency for addiction and mental health consumers, and she is presently working with PARC Ambassadors on a food security project in collaboration with West End Food Coop. This is Laura’s 7th year on the Dream Team. She was involved in the Team’s report “What Stops Us from Working?” and is currently one of the Peer Advocates. Laura has two children and two grandchildren. Following a two- year court battle with child protective services, Laura gained custody of her grand-daughter who lives with her to this day. In her spare time, Laura enjoys crocheting and traveling. Friends, family and employment have been the main components in her recovery.
Leslie was born in North Bay, Ontario and is the eldest of 5 children. Leslie moved to Toronto when he was 16. His longest job was working in the advertising department of a major Toronto newspaper for 7 years. He left the newspaper because of a combination of depression, anxiety and addiction issues. Presently Leslie lives in Edmond Place, a supportive housing facility affiliated with PARC and Habitat Services. Leslie became a member of the Dream Team because he got upset about the poor quality of supports for mental health and addiction consumer/survivors. Leslie represents The Dream Team on St. Michael's Hospital Mental Health and Addictions Community Advisory Panel and is also a member of the Habitat Services Brighter Days Committee, a PARC Board member, PARC Ambassador Team Member, CAMH Empowerment Council Board member, and is a Peer Constituency member of CAMH board. Also is past member of COTA Health Recovery Advisory Council. A strong belief in spiritual values, helping others, and participation in advocacy activities for mental health and addiction survivors have all been a key part of Leslie’s recovery.”
Linda is the founder of the Dream Team. She was originally on the Board for Mental Health Services and spoke out at a meeting stating that there needs to be more supportive housing and an end to stigma and discrimination against mental health consumer/survivors. She organized with other like-minded people and that is how the Dream Team was formed.
Linda had a tumultuous childhood. At age 8 she was pulled out of school to go to work for the family. At age 13, Linda was sent to Toronto to live with her paternal great grandmother. Linda took literacy classes from Progress Place and has now discovered the joy of reading. She was homeless for many years and through Progress Place she acquired housing with Mainstay where she has been for 16 years. She lives with 4 cats. Linda has won many awards for her courage to stand up and now enjoys her leisure time as a stand-up comedienne.
Lisa left home at age 15 thinking that she could do better on her own. She had a confusing childhood being moved between her separated parents. Lisa valued education, but left school at age 15 to work. She spent the next 15 years of her life in rooming houses and boarding homes. She was also doing street drugs. Lisa eventually saw psychiatrists and counsellors and was diagnosed with a variety of mental illnesses. She was prescribed an anti-depressant. One day Lisa went to a women’s shelter where she got her stability back. She was referred to a house that provided her with a secure place to live. After a year she got pregnant with her son. She moved to Mainstay Housing where she has been for the past ten years. She says: “…once you are in a place of your own I think the stability is good. It has enabled me to grow.”
Margaret’s history of mental illness began in 1965 with only occasional episodes of schizophrenia, which was managed with medication. In 1977, she became very ill and suffered hallucinations and delusions for the next fifteen years, which were treated with medication. Over the years, she lived in a variety of different types of housing, but her goal was to have an apartment of her own. Once Margaret moved into a market-rent apartment, she had to go to a drop in every day for her main meal because she could not afford both food and rent. Five years after she applied, she got a subsidized apartment and had the money to buy the basic essentials. She is now living in a group home for senior women, where there are many supports in place. Her experience demonstrates how important appropriate housing is for a person’s state of health and well-being, Margaret firmly believes that housing is a human right and nobody should be denied affordable and appropriate housing.
Mark hails from Montreal. He is the parent of a son who struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder. In his desperate search to find help for his son Kenny, he was able to connect into the system providing mental health services of supportive housing with Chai Tikvah Foundation. Habitat Services and COTA also provided the essentials for Kenny’s recovery. Kenny eventually got his own apartment and has been working for the past 13 years with SPRINT senior services in North Toronto. Several years ago Mark developed an infection in his spinal column, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down for a period of time. Mary Lou his wife has been his “rock” during his rehabilitation. Being home together again is the ultimate joy. Kenny has been a major support as well. Mark says that “Supportive housing is the foundation to recovery.” Mark sits on the Board of Directors for Habitat Services.
Michael is a social justice advocate, a campaigner for quality supportive housing for people with mental health challenges, and a Peer Support Specialist/advisor. Michael works with a number of mental health advocacy organizations, among them the icha (inner city health network) advisory board, helping to design recovery oriented medical services in the Greater Toronto Area, and the St. Michael’s Hospital’s Community Advisory Panel, helping to design more appropriate mental health services. Michael also does stand-up comedy about being in the Mental Health System and raises therapeutic lovebirds.
Neil received a B.A in history at the University of Western Ontario before graduating with an MBA from the University of Windsor in 1969. He worked for a while in the business hub of Toronto, at King and Bay. He then went on to work in the social service sector and currently works at A-Way Courier, a consumer/survivor run business. Neil had a bad speech impediment and has used both psychological and mechanical approaches to overcome his stuttering. He also went through a stage early in the 1980s when he had substance abuse issues. He now embraces public speaking and has been a member of the Dream Team since 1999, where he sits on the finance committee and example group. He is a proud resident of St. Jude’s Community Homes, an active member in his church, and sits on the board of House of Compassion. His favorite quotation is one by Madame Curie, which states, “There is nothing in life to be feared, only understood.”
Phillip used to live on the street. He has lived in supportive housing for the past 23 years. After graduating with a B.A. in Anthropology from Concordia University, he moved to Toronto to look for work. The only jobs that he could find were minimum wage, unskilled labour.
Phillip was evicted from his apartment in 1989, lived on the streets for 1 year and then got a room in a substandard rooming house for 2 years. After this experience, his COTA worker got him supportive housing with Houselink Community Homes. That’s when his life began to turn around. Houselink gave him an opportunity to develop skills he never had a chance to use before. This led to his work on the Houselink Board, the Dream Team, HomeComing Community Choice Coalition and the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONPHA) Board. Phillip discovered that although he didn’t fit into mainstream jobs very well, he had a passion for volunteer work.
I was raised by a single Canadian-born mother and am the youngest of six children. I have never seen or met my Canadian-born father who died of a drug overdose. My mother raised my family using Ontario Works; a program also known as welfare. We moved to Regent Park when I was twelve. When I was twenty-eight years old, my mother passed away. After that, I got involved with drugs for eighteen years. During this time, had two girls, one when I was thirty-two and another when I was thirty-four, which I raised as a single mom. At the age of forty-six, I went into treatment and got clean and sober.
I went back to school; when I was forty-seven I graduated from the George Brown College “Assaulted Women's and Children's Counsellor/Advocate” diploma program. I also got an "Advanced Counseling" certificate. In the past, I have volunteered at Toronto Western Hospital, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (C.A.M.H.), Covenant House Toronto, Red Door Shelter and St. Felix Centre. Some of my paid jobs have included: Addictions Counselor at Renascent 21 day Treatment Facility, drop-in worker at "The Meeting Place," and, temp-reception work at "Working for Change," a non-profit organization that helps people with lived experience find employment. I am presently an inclusive employment peer worker at the Dream Team. In my free time, I enjoy nature. My Long Term Goal is to become an Author and continue with "Motivational Speaking."
Veronica is of Aboriginal and French ancestry. She is in pursuit of more knowledge about her Aboriginal roots, natural ways of healing, as well as the importance of spiritual healing and living. She is currently finishing up her training with PREFER to become a peer support worker. Veronica is a proud member of "The Women Speak Out" team and the Toronto Community Housing (TCH) tenant’s team with "The Speakers Bureau" (which changed her life). She is presently working at a drop- in that promotes wellness groups (W.R.A.P and Pathways to Recovery) for TCH tenants in a peers helping peers capacity. Veronica has joined The Dream Team because of her interest in activism, and advocacy. She shares her life experiences, good and bad, to promote personal recovery, as well as public education around government issues, medical systems, and policy changes concerning supportive housing, mental health and addictions. Veronica tells her story of recovery, and her hopes and dreams in order to encourage others. In her spare time Veronica enjoys writing and has been published in two international poetry books. She also enjoys music shows, live theatre, family/friend gatherings, and of course writing and talking!
Peter Lye passed away May 21 2014