Get to Know Us: William Shin

The Director of LOFT’s College View and Simon Supportive Housing Services discusses the important role partnerships play in supporting clients during the pandemic.

William’s first encounter with LOFT was when he met some of the staff at a conference in 2008. “They were a very passionate, close-knit group,” he says. “I was only a student at the time, but they left a positive impression on me.”

After completing his Master of Social Work at the University of Toronto’s School of Social Work, William’s decision to join LOFT was affected by this initial encounter. He was especially drawn to LOFT’s model of supporting senior clients to transition back into independent, community living through coordinated, integrated care.

With us for 12 years, he is now the Program Director of LOFT’s College View and Simon Supportive Housing Services. This long-term housing program provides care that is tailored to seniors who struggle with mental health and addictions. While some clients live with us, others live in the community or at Toronto Community Housing.

“Some clients find themselves in a hospital with no Canadian status or health coverage and nowhere else to go,” William explains. “That can put a great strain on the health care system, but we can help people transition back into the community.  Our goal is to help them live independently by providing the services and personal support they need.”

William values partnerships as critical to this work. As he puts it, “mobility is a big barrier for our clients,” says William. “We work with hospitals and other health care providers, allowing our clients to receive support at our sites rather than travelling to attend appointments. These services have been offered remotely during the pandemic, and we facilitate this connection.”

Connections are particularly important to maintain in the context of the pandemic, yet incredibly complex to navigate. “Clients who have struggled with mental health challenges in the past are experiencing them more intensely during the pandemic,” William says. “If they suffer from anxiety, depression or paranoia, they’re even more vulnerable.  It is challenging for staff, but we continue to reassure our clients and reinforce safety protocols at all times.”

While necessary, safety measures have had detrimental impacts on the senior clients. This has been difficult for William and his team to contend with, both emotionally and logistically. “Our seniors were already at risk of isolation, and this situation has made things worse. We try to be creative, but nothing can replace social interaction.”

Adding to this, William recognizes the personal challenges that are common to frontline workers in the context of the pandemic. “The fear, stress and anxiety don’t go away,” he explains. “Supporting staff and practicing self-care are incredibly important.” With two young children at home, William also knows how difficult it can be for parents. “Juggling everything has been very challenging,” he says. “I’m grateful that LOFT understands the situation, and I feel very supported.”

In his free time, William has been connecting with his family through exploring Ontario, finding creative ways to enjoy travel close to home and keeping active with sports whenever possible. Active in his local church community, he has also served as a Board Member for the Korean Canadian Women’s Association. “I’m a second-generation Korean,” he says. “I grew up in Canada, but I recognize my heritage and I want to keep it alive. I want my children to know their grandparents’ language and stay connected to them.”

William is proud of the progress LOFT is making towards being inclusive and equitable. “I’m thankful to be working at an organization that is diverse and striving to be more so, while also being open and transparent,” he says. “I think one of the hallmarks of LOFT is our humble attitude. We know what we do well and where our expertise lies, but we’re also willing to grow.”