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Posted by on Apr 2021 in All Stories, Features, Sector leadership, Sector voices, Slider, Uncategorized | 0 comments

The 2020 ONPHA Award winners: Where are they now?

2020 ONPHA Award winners

ONPHA’s awards program celebrates community housing excellence. ONPHA Award winners go above and beyond their mandate to respond to the needs of their communities, demonstrate innovative problem-solving, and act as sector and community leaders. 

Our 2020 winners received their awards in the midst of an unusual and challenging year. We caught up with them to see how the award has impacted their organizations and what they’ve been up to over the past year. 

Huron Women’s Shelter, Second Stage Housing and Counselling Services, 2020 ONPHA Award for Excellence 

Huron Women’s Shelter, Second Stage Housing and Counselling Services is dedicated to providing residential supports, counselling services, and other forms of assistance to women at risk of gender-based violence and their families. 

Regarding the impact of winning the Award for excellence, they say: 

“We have noticed the community’s engagement and general knowledge of our agency and the services we provide has increased. We have had an increase in contact by women who require our services [and] income from fundraising has increased steadily in the last several months. The most significant thing [we] noticed was that team members were pleased and proud to be recognized for their creative, compassionate hard work.” 

As for the developments of the past year, they’ve seen a number of changes and describe the pandemic as something of a wake-up call for their organization: 

“This year marked some very significant changes for Huron Women’s Shelter, Second Stage Housing and Counselling Services. One of the most significant changes has been the hiring of Corey Allison our Executive Director. Corey brings a wealth of knowledge, compassion, and vision and is a tremendous advocate for women and children. 

Through the first and second stages of the pandemic our team became very aware of some of the cracks in the system and our need to change. The pandemic opened our eyes to the importance of ensuring shelter services are there for women at high risk of gender-based violence and that our program offers much more then residential services. We also set out on a journey to learn how to support women who were not at high risk, in need of housing and/or required our support in different ways. This journey has brought our team to a “Care Lead” focus way of working. Each woman using our service will be offered staff Care Lead who will then walk alongside a woman to support her in navigating systems, advocate for her, refer her to programs/services and empower her to make the choices that are best for her.    

The next step was hiring a new leadership team. A Manager of Programs and Service, Manager of Executive Administration Services and Manager of Fund Development were hired in August of 2020.  

The most recent and monumental change was reviewing our staffing needs and developing a brand-new schedule to ensure the best service possible and to align with the care lead focus of work. This means that all staff will be working as one team in many different program areas. The schedule allows for some overlapping of staff to lessen isolation and encourage team collaboration. The schedule will also give staff more flexibility to meet women in a… park, a coffee shop etc. As there is staff overlap one staff person will always remain in shelter to offer onsite in person support or on the crisis line.    

It has been a great year of inspiration and change and we are looking forward to even more growth in the year to come.” 

Lean more about Huron Women’s Shelter, Second Stage Housing and Counselling Services. 

CityHousing Hamilton, 2020 ONPHA Innovation Award for Vanier Towers Community Service Hub 

CityHousing Hamilton worked with residents and a variety of community partners to establish Vanier Towers Community Service Hub. The hub provides supports for mental and physical health and addictions including at-home withdrawal support, social recreation, art therapy, a community kitchen and meals, and community garden services to the community. 

When discussing how the award impacted the organization and the Vanier Towers project, they tell us: 

“Receiving the ONPHA Innovation Award was a collective achievement for CityHousing Hamilton, our tenants, and community partners. This award gave everyone involved in the Vanier Towers Services Hub a sense of pride and recognition that despite some challenging times we continue offer services that go beyond housing. Our City Council and Board of Directors have seen this award as a symbol of how CityHousing Hamilton is more than just a place to live. Awareness of the challenges faced by the Vanier Towers community is growing, leading to new opportunities for funding and partnership.” 

About the challenges and opportunities CityHousing Hamilton has encountered throughout the pandemic: 

“Since CityHousing Hamilton received the ONPHA Innovation Award we have continued to be creative and flexible in how we adapt to challenges caused by COVID. Although many aspects of our business operations have been interrupted or delayed, we know that the needs of our most vulnerable tenants have increased. CityHousing Hamilton continues to work closely with our tenants and community partners to meet the changing needs of our communities in several ways, including:  

  • Continued to partner with Wesley and St. Matthews to deliver non-perishable and pre-cooked meals to individuals facing barriers to accessing community food services.  
  • Conducted a second round of wellness calls with vulnerable tenants to provide information and referrals to social services.  
  • Through these calls we identified that high-risk tenants were struggling to attend medical appointments as public transit is a possible point of exposure to COVID. CHH obtained a grant to fund transportation by taxi to medical appointments for vulnerable tenants to ensure they can receive medical care.  
  • Improved communication for tenants through a CCTV program in our largest seniors’ building.  
  • Increased digital equity and connectivity by developing agreements with several internet providers to offer low-cost home internet for social housing tenants.
  • At Vanier Towers we are seeing the negative impact of isolation on tenants living with mental health conditions and have worked with community partners to deliver social and recreation programs focused on improving coping skills and mental wellness.  

CityHousing Hamilton knows we all have several challenging months ahead of us but we are proud of our staff (and tenants) for facing uncertainty with collaboration and innovation.”  

Learn more about CityHousing Hamilton and their Vanier Towers Community Service Hub. 

Lori-Anne Gagne, Executive Director of Victoria Park Community Homes, 2020 Sybil Frenette Outstanding Leadership Award winner 

Lori-Anne Gagne has been a dedicated member of the community housing sector for 28 years, serving in a variety of roles. As Executive Director of Victoria Park Community Homes, she has boosted the organization’s influence and made it one of Ontario’s pre-eminent social housing organizations. 

Of winning the Sybil Frenette Outstanding Leadership Award, and the latest developments at Victoria Park Community Homes, Lori-Anne tells us: 

‘Receiving the Sybil Frenette Award for Outstanding Leadership recognizing the work Victoria Park had done around The Village was indeed an honour and a highlight in my personal career. It was also motivation for the entire team to keep up the great work we do every day and to push ourselves to our fullest potential.   

Over the last year, we are so proud to have introduced our Quality Control Checklist portfolio wide and our work on developments. Victoria Park is getting ready to cut the ribbon on our newest development which consists of a 24, one-bedroom unit apartment building that will provide much needed affordable housing to the community of Halton Region.  

In addition we have started our rezoning process on our most ambitious development to date. The Caledon Community Collaborative is a partnership with Hamilton East Kiwanis and Ellis Don to develop approximately 300 affordable housing units ranging in size from 1 and 2 bedroom apartments up to 3 bedroom townhomes. Again, this will add much needed affordable housing and community development in Hamilton.  Please feel free to follow our development at” 

Learn more about Lori-Anne’s inspirational career.

Guy Clairoux, Ottawa Community Housing resident, 2020 Tenant Achievement Award winner

Guy at the OCHC celebration of his award

Guy Clairoux has been a resident of Ottawa Community Housing’s Regina Towers for nearly a decade and is a fixture of his community. He has been a reliable member of the Tenants’ Circle, a group of tenant leaders in the building, for the past seven years. He has become a valued partner to OCHC staff, working closely with many departments to advocate for the needs of the building and its residents. Guy’s leadership by example and concern for the well-being of his community are an inspiration to his fellow residents, as well as OCHC staff.

Guy relayed some of the impacts that he has felt since winning the Tenant Award last year: 

 “I have been able to share my experience of winning the award to inspire others in the community to volunteer and get involved. It has given me the confidence to take part in Community Outreach outside of my building. It has allowed me to feel a part of the greater community by giving back and being part of something bigger than myself”. 

OCHC tells us that “tenant engagement has certainly had to change due to the pandemic in the last year. Guy has continued to be innovative and flexible in ways to bring people together through the gardening group and sharing resources, such as food, not only to his building but also the broader community”. 

Learn about Guy and the impact he’s had on his community. 

Do you know an ONPHA member organization that is going above and beyond or finding innovative ways to serve its community? Know a sector leader or tenant leader who inspires the sector and/or those around them? Visit us at to nominate them for an ONPHA Award. 

Questions about our awards program or eligibility? Contact us at

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