Friday, March 24, 2006

Take Your Shelter, Please!

This week's NOW magazine has an exposé on Toronto housing issues. Which wouldn't be complete without an article on the Don Valley. Notwithstanding the fact that only a tiny fraction of Toronto's homeless population lives in the valley, it rates an entire article. Here's the link so you can read it yourself.

Predictably biased, it presents living in the valley as a bucolic getaway from the rigours of street life. A picture of a tidy campsite accompanies the article. What it doesn't say is that most of the campsites are a toxic stew of garbage and refuse. There are several abandoned sites and none of the former residents have done any cleanup.

It also neglects to mention that most of these sites are on the floodplain, and yes the Don does flood occasionally.

Are we, the Task Force, heartless 'eco-defenders' seeking only to protect the wilderness? Whatever you may conclude from the article, the only point we tried to make was that we support the city's Streets to Homes program. A successful strategy that relocates street people into rental accommodation - a program with a good track record so far. The Don Valley, while an urban wilderness, is far from the best place for our homeless to hang out - many of whom need access to health services which you won't find in the valley.

1 comment:

JW said...

Since NOW quoted me, I thought I'd share with you the response I forwarded to NOW.

Letter to Editor
NOW Magazine

Having failed to recognize my opinions in the position that Kris Scheuer ascribes to me, (NOW Mar 23-29) let me say that I believe that homelessness is unacceptable. City Council has supported the proposition that there exists a right to a home, but there is no “right” to public space. I agree. Living in the Don Valley is particularly problematic, because it’s a floodplain. Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans and Michael Brown, former head of FEMA, were both tragically slow to respond to the needs of people living in the path of floodwaters. We shouldn’t be. That’s playing Russian roulette with people’s lives.
Ms Scheuer found it deeply fascinating that our Don Task Force talked to the police about vandalism, graffiti, garbage, raves and, among these issues, potential conflicts involving people living in the valley. She, not I, related the first four issues to homeless people. As for the latter, tell me, where else does a population largely made up of disaffected males, many with substance abuse problems, not pose a potential policing concern? But as for ending homelessness in the valley, I support the city’s Streets to Homes approach. This is a breath of fresh air after years of malign neglect.

John Wilson