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.