Sunday, October 23, 2005

Not In My Backyard


Not In My Backyard.

That's what they called us when we opposed a recent city plan to create a 'Home for the Homeless' in our area. I have tried to see whether they were right.

You see, like any big, major, growing city, Toronto has a homeless problem. They clog up downtown streets on the 5 o clock rush hour, begging for alms as cars stop for the lights. They sleep in open parks. Many see them generally as a nuisance, a bunch of people who will NOT help themselves and rather CHOOSE to live the way they do. That's what City Hall was accused of, not caring enough for the less fortunate.

What does City Hall do? They decide to build a bunch of 'Home For The Homeless' shelters around the city, away from the downtown core. Well, they say, you can't fight City Hall. We did.

Toronto has some obscure clause added to its constitution during amalgation that lets area residents have a say in any city project. And boy, did we pack the school gyms and wherever they held a public meeting.

It was ugly, it was brutal. The city did everything in its power. They deliberately booked rooms with lower capacity. They scheduled the meetings in bad weather. Our area councillor, who is as left as you can get, was very much for the plan. He repeatedly tried to argue that we should be doing more for the less fortunate. We were mentioned in the Toronto Star.

The regular special folk were there too. They were bunch of social activists, writers, 'humanists', and other city workers all arguing why we should support the plan. Sure, it was not near their homes.

We had our concerns. We are near a river, and our property value would plummet, causing us to lose tens of thousands of dollars, were we to resell. The children now are let loose to play in nearby fields, but with the arrival of homeless the atmosphere of a residential area would be lost. Parents were skeptical of assurances that the 'bums' would only sleep for the night and not venture into our area during the day. Nobody here locked their doors, left the cars out, and tools lay around in the backyard. We did not want that feeling spoilt.

NIMBY. Nimbysts.

That's when the taunting started. It grew ugly. Racial insults started to flow. It's amazing the amount of hatred and vitriol we keep locked up inside ourselves for normalcy, but can unleash in times of stress. The cops grew edgy. But the residents held firm.

In the end a compromise plan was adopted by the city. The 'Home for the Homeless' would be scrapped. Rather, the city would fund a plan to create a Habitat for Humanity project. Instead of a shelter, these are a bunch of actual homes that will be awarded to actual families who are too poor to buy a proper home.

As we left the hall, one resident started to murmer, "This is just double speak. We are gonna fight this too." And many agreed.

NIMBY? I don't know. But I can relate to it.



Ivan Prokopchuk said...

I take it you're a guy (hard to tell from the picture).
That being established, I assume you are well fed and middleclass.
The homeless. I have spent two years with them, and not entirely as a tourist. For whatever reason, if they were not assholes before, they soon become assholes. Too many drug crossovers, too much time
spent in institutions. Just plain undersocialized, agrressive.
Generally speaking, don't waste your love.
I was nearly killed having spent time in a homeless shelter. Try to stay out of there.
Ivan Prokopchuk

Aisha said...

interesting. in my property class we learned about these sorts of tactics. interesting to read it come to life.