By Kyle Craib
Exploring the city of neighborhoods.
This society is not an easy one to navigate. Life happens. All kinds of difficulties and hardships along the way can make getting into the workforce for some a near impossible challenge.
This was the case for one young, single mother who was raising two small children at home. Because of the expensive nature and chaotic schedule of child care, she was faced with a real difficulty when she attempted starting her career.
But this would not be the end of her story.
Enter: Double Take thrift shop, a division of Yonge Street Mission (YSM), located on Gerrard Street East near the northern end of Regent Park. The simple storefront is seemingly a mirage that masks the rather large shop, which is revealed as soon as you set foot through the door. The bright afternoon sun peeks through the windows lining the storefront and casts a shadow over the meticulously organized racks of clothing nearby, that endlessly extend to the back wall. Despite the size, an atmosphere of “comfort” is present from the soothing background music all the way to the friendly staff.
She applied to Double Take with a barren resume; never having any job experience before in her still young life. Despite this, she remained determined and met with Kathy Webster, Double Take’s store manager, for an interview at a chance for a new opportunity to start her career.
Webster has been instrumental in helping this cause get to where it is today. She, alike many Double Take employees, helps build the necessary skills for each employee by giving them goal setting exercises that expressed what they want to do, how they want to do it, and what steps and timelines they have in mind.
She instantly impressed Webster, showing intelligence, great speaking skills, and a “twinkle” in her eye beaming with excitement. Before long the job became hers, allowing her to continue to grow and develop her skills in a space where she could learn while furthering her career.
Since then, she has shown improvement across the board, not backing down from new challenges and preparing herself what is ahead in her still young life. While managing her working career, she has since been able to support her young family and provide for them to the best of her abilities.
This success story is just one of many which this Regent Park thrift shop has nurtured. Double Take hires from within the community, focusing especially on those who need this extra help the most and providing a stepping stone towards further employment.
“For people who might have obstacles to regular employment, whatever that may be… by working here they can develop their job skills and put something on their resume that they can be proud of,” Webster explained. “It’s a huge confidence builder for them. And that’s, in a nutshell, what we do. We build confidence. We help.”
The Regent Park community itself is experiencing a transition, shown in destruction of much of the low income housing developments in favor of newer high rises. On the other side of Gerrard Street across from the shop, the former 1940’s public housing experiment was recently demolished after tenants were forced to relocate only a year ago according to an Urban Toronto report.
The fate of this apartment complex at the corner of Gerrard and Parliament Street represents a trend in the community. Only 25 per cent of the community housing developments built in Regent Park in the 1940’s still remain, with future demolitions on the horizon, according to Urban Toronto.
This could be a grim reality with housing concerns for many community members in Regent Park and surrounding areas, leaving Double Take to step up and do its part for those who are struggling. Even when you first approach the thrift shop, a short but impactful phrase is displayed on a sign with bold letters in the front window immediately demonstrates the need for this second hand shop.
Along with their help with community employment, Double Take is committed to providing quality clothing, shoes and housewares with an affordable price tag for all; even for those who cannot afford a price tag at all.
“Some of the people who come in here are in real, dire need. So what we do is give them gift certificates to shop here, so instead of going to a clothing room where someone hands them a sweater and a pair of pants, they can actually choose what they would like to wear.” Webster said.
The warm and inviting environment of the quiet shop provides an easy and worry free shopping experience. The sharp sound of metal hangers being slid across the stainless steel racks periodically breaks up the light indistinct chatter among the customers and salespeople alike.
The shop floor is filled to capacity, ensuring each customer has a dignified experience and choice of the items they want. A large portion of their donations come from the annual YSM clothing drive along the Toronto PATH, along with contributions from members in the community.
A total of 6,500 bags of clothing were collected during the drive and stored in Double Take’s expansive warehouse facility. This was used to help fulfill 45 per cent of the shop’s yearly clothing needs! Despite this large number, they are still focused always on quality over quantity.
“All the clothing on the sales floor goes through a commercial grade steam press, and only the clothing in good condition and quality will make it onto the floor. It’s about respect and dignity, just because someone has very little to spend does not mean they should have to rummage through bins [to find clothing],” Webster added.
The shop is entirely not for profit. Any money made is reinvested into other programs operated by YSM in an effort to make as big of an impact as possible on Toronto’s neighbours in need, and help create many more stories of success.
Landau, Jack. “Demolition Underway for Final Regent Park Phase 3 Buildings.” Urban Toronto, urbantoronto.ca/news/2019/03/demolition-underway-final-regent-park-phase-3-buildings.
“Mission.” YSM, www.ysm.ca/mission/.