As co-founder and Chief Investment Officer, Moez Kassam has led the Canadian hedge fund, Anson Funds, to deliver some outstanding returns for his investors over the years. The firm has grown to manage $1.4 billion in assets and span a range of investment strategies. But Moez Kassam’s influence has not been limited to the financial realm. He is also known for his active involvement in various charities such as Homes First Canada, an organization that provides housing to those in need.
Moez Kassam believes his success can be leveraged to make a positive impact. A successful entrepreneur, Moez Kassam has become increasingly focused on identifying ways to support programs with such an effect. His mission is shared by his wife, Marissa Kassam. She is Vice President of Philanthropy for Royal Bank of Canada Capital Markets, and previously worked at J.P. Morgan in New York, Hong Kong, and London. Together, they manage the Moez and Marissa Kassam Foundation, which serves as the vehicle for their charitable work.
The Moez and Marissa Kassam Foundation has emphasized ways to support causes close to home. They have given donations to the Sinai Health Foundation, the Michael Garron Hospital, the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, the Canadian Foundation for AIDS research, and Homes First Canada. Despite the focus on local community programs, The Moez and Marissa Kassam Foundation has also sought to help people overseas. Their efforts have extended to the Indian subcontinent to strengthen neonatal care and train doctors to transform health care in poor communities.
The foundation engages leaders from multidisciplinary backgrounds to amplify its work. Organizers, entrepreneurs, elected officials, writers and artists are some of the accomplished individuals the foundation seeks out for inclusion in its important missions.
“The complex challenges of today’s societies are interconnected and require collective approaches to succeed,” says Moez Kassam. “Deeply rooted problems require an all-hands-on-deck approach that mobilizes talent, energy and commitment across communities, organizations and economic sectors.”
There is probably no issue more deeply rooted than homelessness. In times of prosperity or times of recession, the issue continues to worsen. It is a challenge for governments and charitable organizations, but also for every concerned citizen and business leader.
The Moez and Marissa Kassam Foundation is working to address the problem head-on in Toronto and in communities across North America. One of the ways it is doing this is by supporting Homes First Canada.
Homes First offers housing to Toronto’s homeless with 15 shelters that are lifelines for people in need, especially those from displaced and marginalized communities. The organization provides places to stay and essential support services to more than 1,600 seniors, families, and single adults across the Greater Toronto Area every night. From these statistics alone, the impact that this organization has on the population in the GTA is evident, but more still needs to be done to solve the problem.
The homeless population includes children, veterans, survivors of domestic abuse, and even individuals with full-time, low-wage jobs. Lack of affordable housing plays a major role in homelessness, as well as unemployment, mental illness, and drug addiction. These common factors, especially addiction, may result in neglect towards those affected – however, they may need it the most. Moez and Marissa Kassam recognize for many individuals, the root causes of their issue are complicated and often ignored.
According to Homes First: “The high needs of homeless adults are being further compounded by age-related illnesses and health conditions. Our agency has developed a support model that includes medical/psychiatric services, medication monitoring, assistance with maintaining personal hygiene and clean-living spaces, financial management, navigating the criminal justice system, and a host of additional age-specific supports. All staff and volunteers are trained to work with individuals with complex mental health, substance use, and life skills issues.”
“This comprehensive approach to homelessness is the key,” says Moez Kassam. “Given the magnitude of the problem and the many obstacles faced by any charitable organization working on the ground, it’s remarkable what this team of dedicated and talented people is able to achieve.”
Moez Kassam points out that there are many ways individuals and businesses can be involved in helping to solve this issue. For example, businesses can contribute goods to organizations helping the homeless. Restaurants or grocery stores can partner with local organizations that collect unneeded food. Donations of clothing, furniture, and electronic devices can also make a big impact.
Businesses with unused or under-utilized space can make facilities available as shelter, especially in colder months. They can encourage their employees to volunteer and make it easy for them to do so. Businesses can also implement programs to allow homeless individuals to work at a company as apprentices, interns, or employees, allowing them to gain valuable skills and expand their future employment opportunities.
As previously touched on, the neglect of mental illness and drug abuse can be confronted by businesses as well. Simply instating systems to provide mental health, addiction, and domestic abuse resources to employees can make a huge difference.
Everyone hoping to solve this complex issue must make a long-term commitment, Kassam believes. The crisis won’t be solved quickly – the time to help individuals and families living on the street, or at risk of falling into homelessness is now.
“Homes First Canada needs our help,” he says. “And thousands of desperate people in Toronto and beyond need Homes First.”