Cima Irannejad

Cima Irannejad

2015 Leadership Award - York Region

Scarborough Housing Help Centre

Nominator Comments:

Demonstrate Strong Relationship Building Abilities: SHHC’s focus in the Region of York is to outreach tenants and landlords from the newcomer communities and include them in the dialogue around housing. Given  the extents of geographical and  linguistic diversity, it became necessary to find space throughout the region where members of the newcomer community congregated naturally and work out agreements with the management of the organizations/agencies where newcomers congregate. In addition to three Newcomer Welcome Centres in Richmond Hill, Newmarket and Vaughan, Cima identified churches, community centres and stores which are well known among the Korean and Farsi speaking communities, took the lead in approaching the appropriate managers/decision makers and worked out space sharing relationships with them to provide the best possible service to clients.  The success of her work may be best gauged from the fact that SHHC presently serves members of the South Asian, Chinese, Farsi and Korean communities from seven different locations ranging from Vaughan to Markham.

Promote and celebrate diversity: Notwithstanding their increasing numbers, landlords and tenants from newcomer communities have been conspicuously underrepresented in the dialogues around housing. Cima came up with workshops that reached out to newcomer landlords, had them translated into 4 languages spoken by newcomers in the York Region- Chinese, Farsi, Korean and Tamil and doggedly reached out to landlords from these communities in order to include them in the dialogue.  Through her efforts, SHHC has significantly increased the numbers of affordable rental units on the market as a result of reaching out to newcomer landlords. Besides increasing numbers of rental units, this approach brings diverse cultural communities through a common means of housing dialogues.

Prior to 2014, SHHC had considerable success in establishing itself as a leading provider of housing services in Markham. It had started attracting attention from clients in the northern and western parts of the York Region- given the distance and limited transportation means, the clients requested our organization to provide services from locations closer to them. The first task was to identify locations throughout the region which were accessible ( transportation wise) and were natural locations community members for congregate and interact.

In conjunction with her management, Cima identified specific religious institutions and service organizations in different parts of the York Region satisfying the above criteria. She reached out to management overseeing the identified locations, visited them,  and discussed accessing  space with a clear explanation of how housing services would have a positive impact on their clientele. Each location posed a different kind of challenge- some showed lack of interest, others had concerns about unforseen crises while others requested financial compensation. Cima liaised back and forth with her management and the organization and negotiated arrangements satisfying the requirements of the service provider overseeing the location in question. Where agreements couldn’t be reached, Cima identified other possible locations in the neighbourhood, cold called organizations and went through negotiations till agreements could be reached.

Cima’s approach to community engagement was unique because she would facilitate workshops for seniors in their first language through use of interpreters. The approach had an immediate impact because it achieved the doubly impossible- information for one of the most underserved populations in their first language! The services and approach were uniformly appreciated by organizations and community members- the word of mouth helped stabilize programming in all eight locations and requests for more services

As a result of hearing about Cima’s success in working with the underserved Farsi senior community in Parya, Korean seniors reached out  to her and requested for similar services in Korean.

Cima discussed possible locations for the seniors and concluded that they were most comfortable in meeting in churches and stores catering to the needs of their community.

Cima identified possible churches and stores and cold called the organizations, offered to visit them to explain the importance of housing services and answer questions. After pursuing five different leads, she

successfully identified two locations and negotiated specific time slots for SHHC. She recruited Korean speaking volunteers who could outreach and interpret for her as necessary.  Cima ensured that seniors with transportation issues were given bus ( i.e. VIVA/YRT) tickets and that they were provided with personalized information about bus access from their house to the store/church.

When I mentioned the impact of Cima’s work with her Executive Director, I found out that the needs identified in the Korean community as a result of her work helped her organization establish, document and demonstrate the need for housing workers with expertise in Korean and the Korean community. The demonstration of such need enabled her organization to obtain funding for a part time staff who could focus on the Korean speaking community in the Region of York.

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