Judith Thomlinson used to be homeless and attributes a pottery program called Inspirations for homeless women in helping her get off the streets. Organized by Sistering and supported by the United Way for 20 years, it’s about to be closed down.
Read an excerpt of Samantha Beattie’s story below:
Inspirations Studio, a place where low-income women create pottery pieces to sell and build a new life, is closing.
It was created 23 years ago by Sistering, an organization that offers support to homeless and vulnerable women in Toronto. The United Way’s Toronto Enterprise Fund has supported Inspirations Studio for the past 12 years, but won’t be continuing in 2018.
“Toronto Enterprise Fund’s mandate is to develop sustainable social enterprises that can cover business costs. Inspirations hasn’t been able to reach that level,” said United Way spokesperson Laura Quinn.
“They’re really more of a social program, than a social enterprise, but they do good work.”
About 30 women work at the studio, located at 2480 Dundas St. W. All have experienced homelessness and mental health issues and receive income assistance. Each year, they sell more than $50,000 worth of pottery, and keep 80 per cent to 100 per cent of their profits.
“Coming here a couple days a week, they’ve got a schedule, they’ve got a place to go, they’ve got people to celebrate holidays with, but they also have a group of people for when they need support,” said coordinator Theresa Morin.
She’s seen participants strive for sobriety so they can better their craft, find permanent housing and attend the program regularly, and gain confidence when people buy their wares.
To become sustainable, Inspirations Studio would have to take a larger percentage from each sale, which, said Morin, would result in it paying participants less than minimum wage.
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