Monday, February 22, 2021

COVID Testing In Regent Park

The Regent Park Community Health Centre has teamed up with Fred Victor and Unity Health Toronto (comprised of Providence Healthcare, St. Joseph's Health Centre and St. Michael's Hospital), to provide free Covid-19 testing to area residents in Regent Park and Moss Park. Currently testing is held every Wednesday from 1:30 pm to 4 pm, on a drop-in basis, at Fred Victor, located at 40 Oak Street.

According to Michele Heath, the Director of Community Health at the Regent Park Community Centre, although the rates are not out of control, it is still high and that’s why it is important to ensure free pop-up testing so that everyone in the community can access.

Regent Park is one of the more populated communities in downtown Toronto and it is important to have easy, free access to the testing to keep down the curve.

The 40 Oak Street site has the capacity for 20 people at a time and can accommodate 50 - 60 people on each day the test is run. 40 Oak Street was chosen for that its strategic location. It has an open and big space, in addition to the in and out exits, making it a great location and facility.

“We wanted to do anything to help in this.” said Darryl Spencer, the Senior Manager of Housing Services and Drop in Services at Fred Victor’s 40 Oak Street site.

“It’s been a challenging time over the last year, hopefully in the future potentially the vaccine out of a location like this would be an ideal scenario for us. ”

It is notable that residents are becoming more aware and serious about taking safety precautions; wearing masks and making sure to get tested if they are around people who might have got COVID.

“We have been tested before,” said two Regent Park residents waiting in line to be tested. They both expressed their interest to get tested to make sure that they and their families are safe.

“ We might have been in contact with someone who might have gotten Covid,” said one of the residents, confirming that they both wear their masks, frequently wash their hands, and stay away from crowded areas.

Michele encourages everyone to get tested especially, “If people are feeling ill and if they have been in contact with someone who has COVID.”

Andrew, a registered nurse from St. Michael’s Hospital agrees, “It is a good thing to be here in Regent Park to be able to catch any cases. Even if you think it’s just the regular flu and you have mild symptoms, you might have Covid,” warns Andrew.

The results come up within two days and residents get contacted if their results are positive.

The Regent Park Covid-19 testing site demonstrates the long-standing partnership between the Regent Park Health Centre, Fred Victor and St. Michael’s Hospital. 

 Watch full video here:
https://youtu.be/NNMK_vWU0FY

 

Written by
Nea Maaty

Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre

 

A Conversation with Annamie Paul, Leader of The Green Party of Canada

Black History Month is an annual observance during February every year to celebrate and appreciate African History and the histories of Peoples of African descent here in North America. It began in 1926 as a way of remembering important people and events in the history of African Americans. February was chosen because it coincides with the birthdays of two important figures in African American history that black communities had celebrated since the late 19th century; that of President Abraham Lincoln who issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all people held as slaves, whose birthday was on February 12, and of abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass, whose birthday was on February 20.

In honour of Black history month, The Corner in partnership with St. James Town TV, is interviewing inspiring Black leaders from the St. James Town area, who are serving their community and willing to share their experiences and aspirations with others. One such person is Annamie Paul.


Annamie Paul is an activist and lawyer, and having won the 2020 Green Party of Canada leadership election to replace Elizabeth May, is the first Black Canadian and first Jewish woman to be elected leader of a federal party in Canada.

Following her leadership win, to gain a seat in the House of Commons, Annamie ran in the October 26, 2020, Toronto Centre Riding by-election, which was called following the resignation of Bill Morneau. Annamie was defeated by Marci Ien, a former broadcast reporter and talk show host. This means that Annamie Paul is the only leader of a federal party in the House of Commons, who is not a Member of Parliament.

Annamie had an inspiring childhood in St. James Town; coming from immigrant parents who were trying to start a new life in Canada. Although her mother was a teacher in the Caribbean, she couldn't get her certificates accredited easily. As a result, her family had to start from scratch.

“When I see people in Saint James Town, I see myself, I see the same hope and opportunity that my family came with.” - Annamie Paul

Annamie strives to make every effort to make sure that the community could have better opportunities, because they deserve to be leaders.

Annamie started her journey attending high school at Toronto's Runnymede Collegiate Institute and studied law from the University of Ottawa, followed by a Master in Public Affairs from Princeton University. She was called to the bar in Ontario in 1998.

Annamie founded the Canadian Centre for Political Leadership from 2001 to 2005 and has worked in civic engagement and international affairs positions, including in political affairs in Canada's Mission to the European Union and in the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court.

Annamie talks generously about people who supported her and still support her. “ No one makes it alone, there are people who will support you emotionally and financially. People will give you time to listen to you or to give you good advice,” said Annamie, who continues to serve as a mentor when someone needs advice in their career or needs support that will push them forward.

Annamie talked about some of the struggles that face people in the community starting from being an immigrant. Immigrants could have been way ahead from where they are now, with more support. The stereotypes that people have about the community is not true, claims Annamie, for instance, that St. James Town doesn’t have enough education when the community has an excessive number of graduates and even people with multiple degrees.

Annamie had a similar experience with her family. Prior to immigrating to Canada, her mom was already a teacher for a number of years despite her young age. No one believed that a black woman could achieve that much at a young age. Her Mother had to go back to school to get her degrees. She had to start again from the beginning, get her degree from York, then her masters. She managed to do this while working with 4 kids and while sending money back to her family in the Caribbean.

“It should not be that challenging to pursue your career and get your credentials accredited”- argues Paul.

These experiences motivated Annamie to be active in encouraging youth and aspiring them to leadership roles in development of their communities.

Annamie believes that St. James Town is a very diverse and strong civically minded community. This brings lots of opportunities. According to Annimae, with the right support more leaders will emerge.

“ Every single person in Canada should be equipped by the support they need to be able to fulfill their potential and their vision of a satisfying life,” says Annamie Paul.

Watch Full Video Here:
https://youtu.be/eSjYugPzJVE


Written by
Nea Maaty

Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre


In Conversation with MP Marci Ien

In celebration of Black History Month, The Corner in partnership with St. James Town TV, is interviewing inspiring leaders from St. James Town whose circumstances, struggles, and challenges are ones that most of us may be familiar with. In these interviews these leaders have been generous with their times and have opened their hearts by and sharing their stories and experiences with the community. In this article we are going to talk about a woman we are proud of who came out of our community in St. James town. Her name is Marci Ien.

Black History Month is an annual observance during February every year to celebrate and appreciate African History and the histories of Peoples of African descent here in North America. It began in 1926 as a way of remembering important people and events in the history of African Americans. February was chosen because it coincides with the birthdays of two important figures in African American history that black communities had celebrated since the late 19th century; that of President Abraham Lincoln who issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all people held as slaves, whose birthday was on February 12, and of abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass, whose birthday was on February 20.

Marci Ien is a Canadian politician serving as the Member of Parliament for the riding of Toronto Centre. 


Ien had a long experience with broadcasting and media. She was a broadcast journalist for CTV. She co-hosted the CTV daytime talk show The Social from 2017 until 2020. She was also a reporter for CTV News and a co-anchor on the CTV morning program Canada AM.

In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, Marci covered the protests in the streets and was the only Black panelist on her talk show.

Marci used that opportunity to share her experiences and talk about Anti-Black racism and inclusivity. Referring to the video footage, " When I saw of George Floyd laying down there I saw my own father, or uncles, or family members." said Marci. Ien talked about traumas that usually stick around People of Colour for years. Using the term "Macroaggressions" the show inspired her to talk about things that happened to her and to other Black people she knows. The struggles a black person would face to keep a job and to go through their daily life.

When she started speaking, her message got immediately delivered. She received many supportive messages telling her: " You're not talking for your benefit, you are talking for our benefit. " said Marci.

Ien joined the Liberal Party and on September 17, 2020, and when the riding opened up in Toronto Centre, she was announced as a candidate. She won the by-election on October 26, 2020.

Having once lived in the community, Marci holds a particular affinity to St. James Town.

St. James Town is an inspiration to Ien. The spirit and diversity of the community helped formed her vision of how she can serve her community.

"It's all about service. After 30 years of serving in journalism, I wanted to serve in a different way." said the MP.

Ien has a wonderful history of activism on social issues. In 2008, she was the recipient of the Black Business and Professional Association Harry Jerome Award in the media category. Then she was granted the Planet Africa Award for excellence in media in 2014. After one year she garnered a Canadian Screen Award nomination in the Best Host category for her work on Canada AM. In 2016, she was honoured with an African Canadian Achievement Award for her journalistic achievements.

Marci Ien is an inspiring example of leaders in St. James Town. Her persistence, energy, and belief, informs her giving and passion to serve her community.

Watch Full Video Here:

https://youtu.be/_kEdiw6qZEw


Written by
Nea Maaty

Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Friends of Ruby Home


In the Moss Park community, located between Jarvis and Sherbourne Street, on 257 Dundas street, you will find a colourful rainbow accented building that The Friends of Ruby call “Home”.

The Friends of Ruby Home was designed to appeal to youth, not just any youth, but LGBTQI2S youth between the ages of 16 - 29 years who are in need of transitional housing and support.

Friends of Ruby was founded in 2014 by Egale Canada as Egale Youth Services to meet the needs of LGBTQI2S youth in the Greater Toronto Area. LGBTQI2S refers to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Two-Spirited. The catalyst for providing the home was Egale’s “Not under my roof” study that shone light on the crisis of LGBTQI2S youth homelessness due to disproportionately high rates of family rejection, violence and trauma.

“Not under my roof” is a sentence that many LGBTQI2S youth hear at a sensitive age, growing up with their families. It's a repetitive message of rejection, harassment, and unacceptance that they have to deal with while exploring their identities.

According to Lucy Gallo, the Director of Youth Services and Housing, the Friends of Ruby Home is a powerful place that aims to assist young people to overcome the traumas and rejection that they have experienced in their lives, and even sometimes violence.

 The Friends of Ruby Home is inspiring at many levels not only in the design but also in the name.

“ A few years back, there was a young person who had many traumas and many struggle,” say’s Gallo. “Ruby used to be a regular visitor to the space and this person would only connect with Ruby. This person wasn’t engaging or connecting with any other activities or youth.” said Gallo.

Only Ruby, the name of the Golden Retriever that would visit at the house, could break the ice with her. Working with Ruby, staff was able to build a bridge between this young person and the rest of the youth.

According to Gallo, Ruby was a connecting point for this young person. Ruby then became a part of the support team and that’s how they got the name.

Friends of Ruby Home located in the Moss Park community, is unique among services to LGBTQI2S youth because it offers Mental health and housing services, instead of just mental health supports.

Unfortunately, there are many young people from the LGBTQI2S that have suicidal thoughts due to the high rates of family rejections and the traumas they face. In addition, Black, indigenous, and People of Color in the LGTBQI2S community have been particularly affected during Covid-19 pandemic. By offering counseling services, and a warm supportive home environment, Friends of Ruby Home, enables young people to find themselves and their lives again.

The acquisition, design and construction of the Friends of Ruby Home came to life through the sponsorship of the City of Toronto, Toronto Community Corporation, Daniels Corporation and Yabu Pushelberg.

This partnership reminds us that it takes a village to raise a home!

To watch the interview:
https://youtu.be/U7GjkbY4tpw


Written by
Nea Maaty

Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre

COVID Testing in St. James Town

The corner has announced restarting COVID-19 testing again in St James Town. Testing is being carried out by Sherbourne Health Center and is taking place at the St. James Town Community Corner (The Corner), located at 200 Wellesley St. East.

The testing will last from January through March, 2021. It is free of charge and anyone could pop up to do the testing without an appointment.

The results come up within 2-3 days and health professionals are sure to contact those who got positive covid results to inform them, and see if they need any help with staying home in quarantine for 14 days. In addition, The Corner offers multiple wrap up services including gift cards, free meals for those experiencing food insecurity, grocery delivery and information on isolation rooms as well as any kind of financial or medical assistance that residents could be in need of.

This is not the first time The Corner has offered the free pop-up testing clinic during the pandemic. “Public health started last year in October of 2020,” says Dr. Warda Iqbal - the family physician at Sherbourne Health Center. She continues, “we did about 8 weeks at that time then we took a bit of a break around the holidays and now we are back for around 12 weeks”.

“The clinic runs every week. We are here on Tuesdays from 1-5 on and on Fridays from 9-1,” explains Dr. Iqbal. Although the clinic was developed for local residents living in the St.James Town area, they don’t turn anyone away and will still do the testing even if the person is not from the area.

Shova Adhikari, the community Engagement Facilitator at the Corner, explains that one of The Corner’s role is to conduct outreach and promote awareness of necessary information about COVID 19 stating that, “we update the notice boards day to day with information, and we also translate it to different languages that are spoken around St. JamesTown.”

In addition, as part of The Corner’s intake and assessment process, if someone doesn’t have a family doctor, The Corner works in partnership with Sherbourne Health Centre on connecting them to a doctor from the neighborhood, or will give them information about family doctors in their area. “Educating them about the importance of having a family doctor who has a track of their medical history and could help them in the future understanding their health conditions,” explained Nayanthi Wijesuriya, the Intake and Client Engagement Lead for Health Access, at The Corner.

The testing will last till March and Dr. Iqbal encourages anyone who feels unwell or has experienced some of the symptoms or has contacted someone who has positive COVID 19 to visit the Corner and try to get tested as soon as possible. It is also advised to stay home and “isolate after the test until you get the results.” states Dr. Warda.

If you live in St. James Town and want to get tested for Covid-19, drop by The Corner, at 200 Wellesley Street. 

To watch the video:
https://youtu.be/Gc41kjrRhpw


Written by
Nea Maaty

Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre

 

Moss Park TV - THE GEORGE STREET & SEATON HOUSE REVITALIZATION

SEATON HOUSE GETS A MAKE OVER

With the revitalization of Regent Park considered a success, the area west of Sherbourne Street, considered part of the Moss Park community, is witnessing a symphony of construction activity. George Street, once the privy of rooming houses, low-income housing and Toronto’s largest homeless shelter, is now getting a City of Toronto initiated makeover. It now appears that governments are embracing the notion that the continued wellbeing of our communities requires a certain level of fiscal investment, and that the social safety net needs to be expanded, not diminished.

The center piece of this construction activity is the George Street Revitalization project, located west of Sherbourne Street on the northern part of George Street, in the Moss Park area. Initiated by the City of Toronto, the revitalization project prominently features the modernization of Seaton House, the City’s oldest and largest homeless shelter.

Seaton House has operated as a men’s shelter since 1931 when it was located at 320 Seaton Street and was moved to 339 George Street in 1959. Throughout its history the facility has provided a range of services and supports for transient men looking for work, and to a population comprised of men who were experiencing chronic homelessness, along with health and mental issues, and substance abuse issues. Seaton House presently has the capacity for 484 beds, although at times this figure reached 700, and it is fair to say that Seaton House has struggled meet the increasingly complex needs of its clients.

In 2013, City Council approved the idea of replacing the existing Seaton House facility with a new one. The new facility will include:

  • A long-term care home with 378 beds

  • A 100-bed emergency shelter for men

  • An innovative 130-bed “transitional living” service for men and women who need more care than traditional supportive housing can provide, but less than what a long-term care home involves

  • A service hub for program clients as well as members of the surrounding community

  • 21 units of affordable housing with supports

According to the City’s plan, “The George Street Revitalization (GSR) will see the reinvention of the northernmost block of George Street and transform Seaton House men’s shelter into a world-class facility providing specialized care for vulnerable populations, including a long-term care home, a transitional living facility, an emergency shelter, affordable housing, and a community hub serving residents of both the site and the local neighbourhood.

GSR will be the catalyst for a more safe and vibrant community for all in the heart of the historic Garden District in Moss Park. 

In addition to the redevelopment of the Seaton House facility, the George Street Revitalization will feature Seniors Services for homeless seniors and ground breaking services for healthy aging. According to Aderonke Akande, from the City of Toronto’s Social Development, Finance and Administration division, the idea is to create a community hub, that brings together multiple services under one roof that meets the needs of a specific community or neighbourhood. Considering the number and variety of services that the new centre will be offering, integrating these services will be essential to how people will be able to make the most of what the facility has to offer, and how different social service agencies can better support individuals in an integrated way. Having all those agencies located in one place, has the potential to dramatically improve the experience of clients as they work to resolve their health needs and as well as their long-term housing needs.

The expectations for the new centre are certainly high from the standpoint of the City of Toronto. Finding a solution to the institutional inadequacies that became associated with Seaton House, over crowing, rampant drug use, and the administrative mismanagement that seemed endemic, proved to be irreconcilable without a complete overhaul.

Like the revitalization of Regent Park, the goal of which was to transform Canada’s oldest social housing complex into a mixed-income, mixed-use neighbourhood, the George Street Revitalization in Moss Park seeks to re-envision the way social services are delivered: under one all-inclusive and integrated state-of-art facility.

To view our conversation with City of Toronto staff, Aderonke Akande, and find out more about the George Street Revitalization

https://youtu.be/ORYAuXChIw8

 


Written by
Dimitrije Martinovic

Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre

 

Moss Park TV: GEORGE STREET REVITALIZATION – Long-term Care

Transformational long-term care facility for some of Toronto’s most vulnerable populations being built in the Moss Park area.

With the revitalization of Regent Park considered a success, the area west of Sherbourne Street, considered part of the Moss Park community, is witnessing a symphony of construction activity. George Street, once the privy of rooming houses, low-income housing and Toronto’s largest homeless shelter, is now getting a City of Toronto initiated makeover. It now appears that governments are embracing the notion that the continued wellbeing of our communities requires a certain level of fiscal investment, and that the social safety net needs to be expanded, not diminished.

In addition to the redevelopment of Seaton House, the city oldest and largest men’s shelter, (see part one of the George Street Revitalization), the George Street Revitalization will feature a long

-term care facility and senior support services. The goal of these new services in the community of Moss Park, will be to expand that housing continuum for seniors who maybe homeless, and who have used the shelter system as a form of long-term housing to transition out of the shelter programs into long-term care. As Paul Raftis, General Manager, Seniors Services and Long-term Care, at the City of Toronto, puts it: “The George Street Revitalization Project goes beyond rebuilding the facility to really being able to re-imagine integrated care and developing a campus of care for individuals so that they can get the right supports and to make sure that the right supports are available to them. Having so many different services at one place is really going to allow the individuals to get the care that need.”

While the City of Toronto does maintain ten long-term care homes, with two thousand six hundred and forty-one residents, there are no programs specifically focused on older adults who are experiencing homelessness. In fact, older adults who may be considered homeless, face significantly higher mortality rates than the general older population. According to a report by the Institute for Human Development, Life Course and Aging, older homeless people face “respiratory problems, stomach ulcers and gastritis, circulatory problems, dental problems, eye problems, blood pressure, and asthma or shortness of breath, and are likely to die at a younger age.” Mental health (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and dementia) is also a considerable factor among older homeless people, with women statistically experiencing higher rates than men.

Combined with these complex health and mental issues, older homeless adults also face substantial institutional barriers when it comes to accessing social assistance programs. For example, health services may not be available when and where they need them, they may have to wait too long, and may not be able to afford them.

In general, having a lack of knowledge of the existing range of services available to senior adults is yet another barrier that contributes to the unique situation faced by older adults who may be at risk for homelessness.

The expectations for the new centre are certainly high from the standpoint of the City of Toronto, meeting the needs of so many vulnerable and marginalized people will be a challenge, but none-the-less critically important. Time will tell what the eventual effect will be, and whether or not the George Street Revitalization project and the coming together of best practices in a high-tech facility, will really make a great place and a great experience for the clients who are going to live there?

To see our interview with Paul Raftis, General Manager, Seniors Services and Long-term Care, at the City of Toronto
https://youtu.be/njtQYRrlSzg

 


Written by
Dimitrije Martinovic

Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre

 

THE 220 OAK STREET RENEWAL PROJECT

220 Oak Street gets an up-grade to its exterior and interior facilities.

220 Oak Street is a high-rise apartment building located on the eastern edge of Regent Park and is therefore not part of the greater Regent Park Revitalization. Built in 1972, it has twenty-seven floors, and is owned and operated by Toronto Community Housing. Residents of the building comprise a broad range of low-income residents from a diversity of social and ethnical backgrounds that include families, newcomers, seniors, and people with mental and physical disabilities.

Paradoxically, social housing has always presented opposing interpretations, on the one hand there are the misconceptions and stigma associated with being on social assistance (most often perpetrated in the media), while on the other hand there are the personal stories of resilience in the face of complex social and physical challenges. When asked about life at 220 Oak Street, most residents would highlight the sense of belonging to a community that is both vibrant and supportive of one another. It is only after that consideration that people then begin to reveal the other more difficult and troubling conditions of living at 220 Oak St, such as inadequate amenities and drug dealing and shootings in the area. And so, it comes with great celebration to learn that after a prolonged period of what might have seemed like neglect, that Toronto Community Housing has stepped-up with a significant design upgrade to key areas of the building.

These changes were presented to residents at a community meeting held via Zoom on November 23, 2020. In the presentation, representatives from TCH and LGA Architectural Partners (the firm hired to complete the renewal project) outlined the areas that will be overhauled. It must be noted that the designated areas for renewal, and the changes needed therein, were arrived through years of negotiations with TCH and considerable campaigning, awareness raising by TCH residents who felt arbitrarily left out of the Regent Park revitalization due to their location on the other side of river street.

The areas slated for renewal cover what might be considered the most fundamental to the functioning of the building and use by residents, these include in the exterior design; new accessible paths and areas, new crosswalks and dropped curb areas, new accessible tenant program areas, new areas related to safety and security, new turf areas, new planted areas, new and existing trees, and paved areas within scope & paved areas outside property. The interior design covers expansions to the laundry area, activity room, a computer room and library, gym, community room, community health services, arts space, e-bike storage, multi-purpose rooms, tv room, a commercial kitchen for those residents who might have a small food enterprise, and space dedicated to residents who might be trying to launch a social enterprise, such as a café, or bike repair shop.

As Miguel Avila-Velarde, 220 Oak Street resident puts it:

"The ambitious $30 million, Renovation project of 220 Oak Street will ensure that our building is in good working / operation shape for years to come like an old vehicle it will get new tires, new batteries, a refurbished engine, to avoid future tragedies in the future.   

A good example of avoiding a tragedy. is replacing our old electrical wiring, ventilation, plumbing and communication systems. That will avoid accidents like at 650 Parliament Street in 2018 where all the electrical wiring caught fire and the residents were displaced for 2 years. 

 The renewal will ensure our building becomes energy efficient, the internal components and the outside structure to stand for years to come to the pleasure of future generations. 

The current amenities for residents are old, and outdated. New and Improved   amenities provided to the residents will contribute to the Mental Health and well-being of the community of 220 Oak Street."

It would appear that the impetus for the 220 Oak Street Renewal Project is part of new wave of infrastructure investments, which seeks to transform existing TCH sites (250 Davenport, Alexandra Park, Allenbury Gardens, Don Summerville, ​Firgrove-Grassways, Lawrence Heights, Leslie Nymark, and Regent Park), through working more closely with residents to build back sustainable communities and neigbourhoods that reflect the needs of residents. And perhaps it is a closer step toward overcoming the misconceptions surrounding the lives of lower income people: just because your income is below a living wage, does that mean you should accept sub-standard housing? Fortunately, TCH has joined the residents of 220 Oak street in saying NO!!!

Watch the video below:
https://youtu.be/e85JNP6LbBw


Written by
Dimitrije Martinovic

Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre


Seaton Area Residents Take Security into their own Hands

What does one do when you are often awaken in the middle of the night by the carryings on of an illicit drug trade and sex trafficking in the street below or regularly find drug paraphernalia and used condoms outside your home? What do you do when you are told that police can’t do anything about minor assaults, vandalism and break-ins in the area due to the lack of community officers or an unwillingness to arrest or prosecute offenders due to covid-19?

Well, if you are David Saad, you join your local Neighbourhood Watch Association and get together with your neighbours to hire a private security company to patrol your homes.

David Saad, is a father of two residing in a house located in the Seaton and Dundas Street area, and he is leading a fight to make his neighbourhood safer. David and his neighbours have started a GoFundMe campaign, to raise the funds needed to hire security guards to nightly patrol five streets (Seaton, Ontario, Milan, Berkeley and Poulette) from Dundas to Queen street. The area is a mixture of low-income housing, rooming houses, retail and commercial properties and expensive residential homes. The area is also home to a vulnerable population of homeless persons, and drug and opioid users as well as a number of supportive services.

In the face of the growing gap between the rich and the poor, it is hardly surprising that more and more homeowners are turning to private security and gated communities as a solution to protecting their homes and dealing with poverty.

David, however takes issue with those who label him unsympathetic to the concerns of the poor or say that his actions are victimizing the already victimized - people who are already dealing with poverty, health, and substance use issues.

“I take a bit of issue that poor people are criminals because that is not true in my experience,” says David. “the homeless people who are in and around the neighbourhood aren’t the problem.”

David argues that the problem is drugs and sex trafficking, intoxication, the assaults and the break and entering in the area. Even so, David admits that the issues are complex and that there are no easy solutions to either poverty, or those that engage in criminal activities as a survival strategy.

David labels himself and many of his neighbours as progressives who are coming from a place of kindness and compassion. David strongly believes that a guaranteed Universal Basic Income, in which everyone receives a liveable income, could help.

Additionally, the security guards, that David and the neighbourhood watch has contracted, are only on the streets after 10 pm and do not physically touch anybody. When they spot illegal activity just their mere presence is a disruption and the people involved move along elsewhere. David also claims that the guards are First-Aid and CPR trained, and carry Naloxone, a medication that is used to counter decreased breathing in the case of an opioid drug overdose. Finally, David maintains that the guards will also be fully accountable to their group for any complaints of security guards overstepping their authority and violating the zero-touch policy.

According to the GoFundMe page, the private security guards costs $206.00 a night and the group hopes to raise $75,000. Despite David’s well intentions, one can’t help think that perhaps this money could be used more effectively elsewhere - towards substance abuse prevention, a poverty action group or providing food security to the marginalize. But as David says, the issues are complex. 

Watch the video:
https://youtu.be/TLmhv_6C-Ko


Written by
Adonis Huggins

Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre