On July 7, 2021, a small group of people gathered in Thornhill for the official ribbon cutting of the Lou Fruitman Reena Residence, an affordable housing project designed to meet the diverse needs of people with developmental disabilities.
The residence was built by Reena, a non-profit organization that “promotes dignity, individuality, independence, personal growth and community inclusion for people with developmental disabilities” through a range of services and programming. While Jewish values are a part of everything they do, they serve people from all backgrounds. Currently supporting over 1,000 individuals and their families, Reena embodies a person-centred approach by prioritizing and developing services and supports based on the needs of those accessing their programs.
The Azrieli Foundation has been supporting Reena since 2008 and was a key donor to the Lou Fruitman Reena Residence. While Reena already provided housing through group homes and supported living apartments, the Lou Fruitman Reena Residence is its largest project dedicated to independent living to date. The accessible building has room for more than 130 tenants and features state-of-the-art facilities and amenities, including specialized units for complex care, respite suites and day programs. It is conveniently located near public transit, shopping, medical facilities and employment opportunities. This housing model allows residents to live autonomously in their own apartments and access services needed to live independently, while also being part of a community.
The communal activity floor of the residence has been named in honour of the Foundation and is known as the Azrieli Hub—reflecting that the space will be the lively centre of the residence, where people, with and without disabilities, will gather to socialize and participate in fun programs. Staying true to the “nothing about us without us” motto often used in the disability rights movement, a passionate, involved group of Reena-supported individuals worked together to select the name. The Azrieli Hub includes a teaching kitchen, a wellness centre, a games room and an exercise room with an indoor soft track and a Hoyer lift, which enables people with mobility issues to use it. The Reena community is excited about the many things they will be able to do with the space.
Since the ribbon cutting in July, residents have started moving into the building. With the success of the Lou Fruitman Reena Residence, Reena plans to move ahead with more independent housing projects.
Visit Reena’s website to learn more about their outstanding and wide-ranging work, from outreach programs to community gardens to social enterprise and beyond.