Get to Know Us: Tasha Castagnier

The director of LOFT’s 416 Support for Women program, Tasha shares her passion for professional development and the importance of Black History in the health care sector.

Tasha’s lived experience, coupled with the praise she had heard for LOFT, inspired her to join our organization in order to work in the mental health and addictions sector. Initially hired as a case manager, Tasha is now a director at LOFT’s 416 Community Support for Women program.

Commonly known as the 416, this program provides drop-in meals, housing assistance, mental health and addictions case management, and health and wellness services for women. As a director, Tasha oversees programming. She and her team strive to remain flexible, constantly adapting to meet the changing needs of their clients.

The 416 is a vital resource because it provides women with a sense of community. “The clients we serve are isolated in different ways, for various reasons,” she explains. “For many of them, the 416 serves as a safe space and a family.”

One of the things that Tasha appreciates most about her job is the opportunity to participate in staff growth and professional development. She wants her team to feel supported and well-equipped to do their work. “Caring for Carers” is a vital part of what allows LOFT to support the most vulnerable in our community.

Providing care during a pandemic is no small task. The team at the 416 has been tested during the challenges of COVID-19. Staff members have had to navigate difficulties in their personal lives, and Tasha admires their creativity and resilience. “I’m very proud of our team and how we managed to find new ways to support each other over the past year,” she shares.

Tasha believes in professional development through understanding and education. February, as Black History Month, provides an excellent opportunity to strengthen our community. “As health care professionals, it is important that we know the history and understand the historical challenges, systemic racism, and oppression that Black Canadians face in order to improve things for our staff and clients,” she explains. “It is important that we do not repeat the same oppression. It is our responsibility. Black History Month highlights that, but we need to do this work every day.”

Since last summer, Tasha has been working closely with CEO Heather McDonald on developing LOFT’s Anti-Black Racism strategy. The work focused on connecting with Black-identified staff to hear, first-hand, about the experiences of racism within the organization. It is a vital initiative to address the impact of internal anti-Black racism and ensure both staff and client’s safety.

From 2019 to 2020, Tasha worked at Ryerson University as a professor in the certificate program that bridges learning for internationally educated social workers. The program educates employers about the systemic barriers that newcomers face entering employment in Canada and how organizations perpetuate barriers to their growth and advancement. “I have enjoyed connecting students with many LOFT programs to provide placement opportunities for folks from this program,” she says. “It has also led to quite a few students being hired on after their placements. This helps support the diverse perspectives and experiences within our staff team.”

When she is not dedicating her time to the 416, Tasha enjoys cooking and spending time with her family. “I like to cook and bake. That’s my favourite way to express my creativity and love.”

Michelle Obama, the former First Lady of the United States, said “Don’t waste your seat at the table.”  The quote resonates with Tasha. “That’s something I’ve been working on in my professional career,” she says. “I want to use my voice to expose issues relating to all equity-seeking groups whenever I can.”