Month: September 2018

Let’s Be Real Part 2.

Last Thursday, while handing out coffee in the early morning, I watched a man change from engaging in a simple conversation with me to random racist outbursts to knife-wielding strung-out drug user.

There was no nearby police presence, but one witnessed as the user took out the knife while the witness was passing by. The witness walked out of the way from the user in defence. When the knife-wielding user turned to me,  he uttered something incomprehensible, before he began to put the knife away.

Shockingly, I wasn’t scared, I was mad.

Downtown Toronto has far too many drug dealers, users, persons with mental health issues and poverty. What’s upsetting is that there is far too much of each, the group is growing, and the city is failing us all by doing nothing. Worse, the city fails to address the issue and instead enabling the situation with needle waste deposit boxes around the ward.

Let’s be real: Toronto Centre wasn’t always like this. I’m in shock that the downtown streets have become so unsafe over the years.

One of the most recent warmer days in September, me and a volunteer gave out popsicles at Moss Park. Again, I witnessed multiple illegal activities openly done around the park and community centre and I’m upset. It’s become a way of life now around Moss Park. And it wasn’t always like this.

When I lived over at Harbour Light on Jarvis and Shuter street four years ago, I was on the university rowing team. I used to walk outside from Harbour Light at 4 am and head eastbound to my rowing club for first launch. This occurred four days a week. No incident occurred during my walks from housing to the club and even then, I was aware that the area was bad. But not as bad as it is today. How am I now witnessing knife-wielding at 7:30 am outside College Park? Yonge and Carlton? One block away from police headquarters? Again, I’m upset.

I won’t be the city’s elected politician and not speak up about what is obvious and apparent. The city needs to address the issue of increased gang-related activities that are affecting drug users and everyone in the ward. Band-aid solutions as short-term programs, closures of community centres (Regent Park) for at-risk youth. Increasing yellow boxes around parks, churches, and major streets for needles and harmful drug-related products is not addressing the real issue.

Let’s provide ongoing mental health services and programs for people in our ward to get the help that they need. Let’s stop enabling drug users with tools to get high and dispose of their waste. Let’s not “temporarily” close down community centres that keep at-risk youth safe and away from gangs. We need our community centres open so that another youth does not fall victim to gun violence.

Let’s be real: it’s time for a change, and the lack of services and enabling yellow waste boxes is making the community unsafe and harder for police to do their job.

Nuit Blanche TO! Road Closures in Affect till Sunday 11am

About

Nuit Blanche Toronto is a free, annual, city-wide celebration of contemporary art, produced by the City of Toronto in collaboration with Toronto’s arts community.

For one sleepless night, from sunset to sunrise, the familiar is discarded and Toronto is transformed into an artistic playground for a series of exhilarating contemporary art experiences in unexpected public spaces.

Since 2006, this award-winning event has featured nearly 1,400 art installations by approximately 4,900 artists, generating over $311 million in economic impact for Toronto.

Road closures

Numerous road closures will go into effect at 8 a.m. or 4 p.m. on Saturday to allow for the set-up of some of the exhibits. The roads will then remain closed until 11 a.m. on Sunday. Here is a list:

  • Bay Street from Richmond Street West to Dundas Street West (8 a.m.)
  • Hagerman Street from Elizabeth Street to Bay Street (8 a.m.)
  • Elizabeth Street from Foster Place to Hagerman Street (8 a.m.)
  • Albert Street from Bay Street to James Street (8 a.m.)
  • James Street from Queen Street West to Albert Street (8 a.m.)
  • Temperance Street from Bay Street to 30m west of Bay Street (8 a.m.)
  • Dundas Square Street from Yonge Street and O’Keefe Lane (8 a.m.)
  • Borough Drive between Brian Harrison Way and Town Centre Court (8 a.m.)
  • Queen Street West from Yonge Street to University Avenue (4 p.m.)
  • York Street from Richmond Street West to Queen Street West (4 p.m.)

Public transit

The subway will be running all night to accommodate festival-goers. Service on Lines 1,2 and 3 will run every 10 to 15 minutes between 1:30 a.m. and the regular resumption of full service at 8 a.m. Service on Line 4, however, will operate according to its normal Saturday night and Sunday morning schedules.

Meanwhile, the TTC says that its blue night service on the 300 Bloor-Danforth and 320 Yonge routes will still run all night as scheduled.

The TTC also says that there will be no fares for riders at any Line 3 station so that everyone is able to check out art installations that will be located inside those stations.

There will be some diversions on surface routes due to road closures. Those routes are as follows:

  • 6 Bay bus
  • 5 Avenue Road bus
  • 94 Wellesley bus
  • 505 Dundas streetcar
  • 506 Carlton streetcar
  • 300 Bloor-Danforth bus
  • 501 and 301 Queen streetcars

Let’s be Real 13 Part 1

Let’s be real. Toronto Centre has issues in mental health addiction, poverty and homelessness. In part 1 of Let’s be Real 13, I will discuss poverty and homelessness.

At one point in my life, I fell on hard times and ended up becoming homeless. Salvation Army Harbour Light Transitional Housing Program helped me get back on my feet, but unfortunately, not too many people can say the same. Part of my success from recovering from homelessness was because I was determined and I fought like hell. I had willpower, determination, tenacity, and refusal to give up.

Toronto Centre social housing is falling apart, and I’ve seen the current state that it’s in first hand. So far, I’ve canvassed in buildings where staircases are riddled with condoms, urine, blood, and needles. And I’m angry.  Garbage in the hallway, boarded up apartment units, floors with 1000s of flies circling the hallway and I’m upset. Many Social housing buildings have become so unsafe for residents that it leaves vulnerable people displaced and trapped in a system that is failing them.

Homelessness is a concern that is neglected at the city level. I’m upset that the city is failing the most vulnerable people in our community and that no one has addressed the obvious: that there are more people becoming vulnerable and living on the streets.

The city had a shelter crisis last winter, and very little was done to protect the homeless. I fear that this winter will be a repeat of last year.

One major issue people are finding with shelters in the ward is that the shelters are unsafe. A spot where violence, drugs and theft are common, people choose to take their chance with the streets to keep them away from the crimes inside shelters. Also, useful to note is that some people who use the shelters often prefer the downtown shelters over locations in Scarborough and beyond, because downtown Toronto is more accessible to services. This leads to issues such as overcrowding during the cold season.

Another sign that’s becoming harder not to miss is that some members of the homeless community have become too comfortable being homeless. Not all persons on the street are like this. I’m referring to the people who made a career out of panhandling, have found a safe living area that allows them access to some or all basic necessities and may even act as security for the area so that they don’t get kicked out for trespassing. I see it more and more outside my workplace and many parts in the ward.

Another shelter relief that is being used by the homeless community is the 24-hour food establishments. 24-hour restaurants have made it easier for people to use as a respite if a person occasionally orders an item off the menu. And what can be done about it now since it has become the norm? This issue is not just a Toronto problem but rather a global problem. An article published recently on CNN.com discussed McDonald’s in Hong Kong is home to people who are homeless and also people who sleep at the restaurants just so they can pay their bills.

Toronto Centre needs leadership that will address these real issues and work with the community so that members are properly housed and supported. Because this trend of homelessness is getting out of hand.

#letsbereal13

Death Political Crawl

Canvasing, promoting my platform, hearing feedback on community issues, while dealing with ward changes has been tough on me and everyone involved. I get asked a lot more about the size of the ward implications for me more than ward issues and how I can help the community.

What has it been like to campaign during these unknown times?

Going up against incumbents and different well known community leaders?

The downtown core hasn’t seen anyone with your stance of leading in a long time. Good luck.

The downtown core hasn’t seen anyone like you running ever, good luck.

One youth from the MLSE Lauchpad community sports program asked me how have I been handling the situation. I told him that it’s like the political version to the football movie, “Facing the Giants”. The scene where the footballer puts a 140lb Jeremy (later we find out he actually weighs 160lbs) on his back, and crawls blindfolded across the entire field (100 yards). In the movie, the coach told the footballer that he would crawl 50 yards.

I have no idea the weight being put on my back or the surprises that have been and continue to come my way during this election, but giving up is not an option. Toronto Centre needs a strong leader that will go the extra mile during times of uncertainty. I don’t want to be the 50 yard individual running for City Councillor, I want to be the strong, 100 yards with 160lbs on my back representative for Toronto Centre.

The city has real and hard issues that has been neglected for far too long. I am focused on community involvement and feedback, so that we as a community, can make it across the field as an example of a successful new ward under the 25 model.

Thank You Candidates

Thank you to all those who have engaged in the opinion piece earlier this week. I was impressed with the responses in general and I do like to keep an open mind when hearing and engaging with the community.

Shout outs to the candidates that put their name forward under the 25 ward in July. I think that those who registered during the initial release of the new model and campaigned, has showed a lot of courage.

The race hasn’t been easy for candidates; with the announcement of reduction, the protesting, the legal battles and the confirmation of ward size. I think it shows a true testament to those that put their name forward initially and stayed true to the path. I wasn’t happy with the council slashing, but it didn’t stop me, or others for announcing their intentions to run under the 25 model.

I think the elections has shown members of the public, the people who went against the slashing, legally fought against the slashing, and then ultimately put their names forward, question who’s interests are they serving.

The members of the public watched candidates’ friends turn into foes. Looked on to see who served to help their friends’ get elected and then ultimately toss them aside. Questioning: is that a leader I want to represent me?

City Council is bipartisan, so many candidates stayed silent during the protest. And rightfully so. It’s in our democratic society to protest and I won’t stop an individual from protesting under the law. I wrote the opinion piece to start a conversation about the province powers over the city and my overall take on protesting the issue. I don’t condemn protesting. I felt that the council slashing protest view needed to be said during the mist of the chaos. I applied for City Council in Toronto Centre and the last thing I want to do is tell someone to not protest or for people to attack me for their right to protest what they feel is unjust.

Looking back, I would have personally liked to have seen a protest and legal proceedings for an immediate referendum rather than a protest stoping a government in charge of overseeing municipalities. Members of the community who showed up to vote for or against would do so. Will there be many voters who stay home? Possibly. The voters that stay home are not silent in the matter. Staying silent also speaks volumes. Suggesting that maybe they just want a representative to do their job.   

Affordable Housing

Affordable housing in Toronto is a major issue that needs to be addressed quickly with involvement from all three levels of government. Upon my meeting with community members as well as regular research online, I have been impressed with housing intiatives that are currently in placed around the world.

In Detroit, Tiny Homes Detroit has created beautiful rent to own homes for people with low income that want to have a place of their own. This initiative is great and low cost to build, is an excellent example of sustainable affordable living.
Read more about Tiny Homes Detroit Here.

 

Another alternative for housing that I think would be great for Transitional housing is Shipping Container Apartments. This alternative will also be quick, as well as low cost to build. Poverty and homelessness is on the rise in our community and I think that our city would be better shape if we could help all who live here.  Retired TTC subway cars can also be used for this innovative housing initiatives.

To read more about Shipping Container Apartments, you can read the article from inhabitant.com here.

As well as Apartments For Homeless Article from Business Insider here.

Safer communities

While canvassing #Toronto Centre, I have met and chatted with the community about their concerns. I wasn’t able to reach the tenant in this unit, but noticed the letter on the door. #TorontoCentre we need to feel safe and secure in our area. Our homes is where we should safe and not be in fear of theft and safety. Let’s get our city back to respecting and looking out for one another #communityfirst #TOPoli #ward13 #gladysforward13