~ a growing and changing community
I was going to write a short post on the outcome of the May 31st meeting that was held at David Appleton (33 Pritchard Ave) but as you may be well aware the hot debate has been on the news and all over social media.Residents in Ward 13 and Ward 11 seem to be standing in solidarity in not at all liking the idea.The majority are particularly upset about not even knowing there was a meeting and only to find out by a neighbour.When I arrived at 7pm the front lawn was packed with well over 100 people because inside was already at capacity.People showed up as early as 6:30.
The following is the beginning of a great dialogue initiated by Deane Franny– a resident in Rockcliffe-Smythe. She is also a social worker, works in the inner-city with people experiencing severe and persistent mental health and addiction issues and who often experience homelessness.
“I live in Rockcliffe-Smythe. I am also a social worker, I work in the inner-city with people experiencing server and persistent mental health and addiction issues and who often experience homelessness – I frequent shelters almost daily. I am also a part-time shelter worker. I have both a vested interested in this community as well as the well-being of the marginalized people to whom you plan on providing emergency shelter.
First, I would like to identify that from what I could tell, the information provided to this neighborhood was in English which is the mother tongue of only 46% of people in the neighborhood according to the 2011 census. Also, my friend who lives on Runnymede in Ward 13 and lives 230 meters from the proposed site did not get an information flyer about this meeting, nor did her neighbors. This falls outside of the City’s own ‘Engagement and Best Practices for Emergency Shelter Guidelines’ as reported on page 53 of the document titled ‘Infrastructure and Service Improvement Plan for the Emergency Shelter System’ dated March 9, 2015’.
Second, I would like to note that the city provided “references” on their web-link for this particular project that states “The research* shows that there are no negative impacts on property values from proximity to shelters, supportive housing or subsidized housing.” After carefully reading the research documents provided by the city to support this claim it became clear that none of the 3 references specifically address homeless shelters. In fact all of the references focused on supportive housing. The study by Dear and Wilton included group homes, mental health outpatient facilities, subsidized housing, and foster homes …not shelters. The Furman Centre Policy Brief also only addressed the impact of supportive housing on surrounding neighborhoods, not shelters. The Project HOMEs report focused on residential services. In fact, when I looked closer at Project HOMEs programs it should be noted that to qualify a person would have needed to complete a substance use disorder treatment program and demonstrate a commitment to a recovery life-style. These references provided by the city were not reflective of what the city is proposing for Rockcliffe-Smythe. If the city is going to site such a claim, then the residents of this neighborhood deserve it to be backed up by good quality, evidence based, and relevant research.
The previously discussed references provided by the city supports what those who work with people who are experiencing homeless already know and what is well documented in the research — such as the Chez Soir/Homes First Study – that housing first models and supportive housing work to keep people off the streets and out of shelters and that is where the city needs to be focusing its investment. This neighborhood and this city could only benefit from an increase in mixed income, mix use housing – such as transitional units for those experiencing homelessness or who are marginally housed. The research the city presented to support this project and The Homes First Study demonstrates housing first models are cost effective and save the entire system money and other resources. Most importantly, housing first models increases the quality of life for vulnerable people. I have seen firsthand the positive impact gaining housing has for someone as they achieve and maintain self-sufficiency and I have also witnessed the detrimental impacts shelters have on people. Sleeping mass amount of men in boarding like facilities is not humane, it is often impossible for people to do better when we as a society don’t show them they deserve better.
Although property values are always a concern to home owners as many of us have invested substantial amounts of our economic and personal resources into our homes, as a community we are also concerned with the wellness and comfort of the area in which we live. From my experience, men’s shelters and mainly the outside of them can be intimidating, particularly as a woman. The St. Clair/Runnymede corner is the artery of the neighborhood and is what connects this area to the Junction and Runnymede Neighborhoods. Because of the railway tracks we have no other options of transferring through neighborhoods when on foot. Part of the Toronto Strong Neighborhood Strategy for neighborhood improvement areas is to create more walkable neighborhoods and to revitalize thoroughfares that connect communities, such as these ones.
Poverty has been growing in the cities inner suburbs. Rockcliffe-Smythe has been determined by the city of Toronto to be a priority neighborhood, otherwise known as neighborhood improvement area – the city has defined this as ‘a neighborhood already impacted by unnecessary, unfair and unjust differences’ and it is these inequalities that divide Toronto and prevent social cohesion – a divide that can clearly be seen by the already stark contrast between the Junction/Runnymede side of the train tracks compared to the Rockecliffe-Smythe side of the track. Being a neighborhood improvement area also means this neighborhood falls below the benchmark for what it means to be a strong neighborhood.(http://www.toronto.ca/…/20…/cd/bgrd/backgroundfile-67382.pdf). My concern lies with the high needs and low infrastructure in Rockcliffe-Smythe to support a huge influx of people with really complex lives. It seems irresponsible to bring 100 vulnerable people into an already vulnerable community, directly across the street from a large scale mental health supportive housing complex, and into a neighborhood not strong enough to support them. How is this community supposed to be able to support our new residents? It is important to note that the community center in this neighborhood is exclusively for seniors (55+).
People using the shelter will need to be integrated into the community and that community needs to be able to provide adequate support and treatment. There are 140 neighborhoods in Toronto, 31 of them have been given priority status – what rational is the city using to situate a shelter of this capacity in an already struggling neighborhood? After the closing of Seaton House it looks like this shelter will be the third largest in the city next to Salvation Army Gateway (118 beds) and Maxwell Meighan (250 beds).
According to The Homeless Hub (a research database on homelessness), evidence indicates that it is best practice to disperse supportive/affordable housing for it to have a positive effect on a neighborhoods. “The impact of an affordable housing development on the surrounding property values tended to be positive when located in areas that were typically wealthier. By contrast, when affordable housing development are located in areas where there is a higher proportion of vulnerable or economically marginalized residents, these developments tended to result in continued negative effects on surrounding property values.12 … When affordable housing is relatively dispersed, research suggests that the impacts on surrounding property values are neutral or positive, but can become negative once a critical mass of units or developments in a given area is reached”.13 Arguably, if the shelter is put on the proposed site, it would not be considered ‘dispersed’ considering the demographics of the area.
It is also widely known that concentrated poverty has a multiplying effect, particularly when there are clusters of high poverty neighborhoods beside each other. Rockcliffe-Smythe would be an example of this as we border Mnt. Dennis, Weston-Pellem Park, Keelsdale-Eglinton West, and Beechborough-GreenBrook, all also considered priority neighborhoods. Research also suggests that as the social environment multiplies there are constraints on progress for individuals already experiencing difficulty. According to the Toronto Strong Neighborhood Strategy 2020 the city should be activating neighborhood friendly policies using a neighborhood lens which means “implementing system-wide changes in the way services are planned and delivered, so that impacts on the neighborhood are regularly assessed, and harmful effects on the neighborhood are minimized.” This report also highlighted that various levels of government have responsibility for a wide range of decisions that affect life in local neighborhoods. Why is it that some communities are provided with ‘community consultation meetings’ and this community was provided with an information session?
My questions and concerns are as follows: What best practices were used in determining this was an appropriate site for a 100 person shelter? How has the burden and benefit for this neighborhood been analyzed? And do this findings show equity and efficiency when examining the city as a whole? How does moving a shelter into a priority neighborhood fit with the City’s Poverty Reduction Strategy and Strong Neighborhood Strategy? How is this decision sensitive to the needs out our community? What are in the city plans to improve this area, as it is designated? What evidence do you have that suggest that a shelter of this size would help maintain and increase the wellness of this neighborhood and this corner in particular? Most importantly what will be put in place so that this neighborhood could support the needs of shelter users? And what evidence based relevant research do you have to back your answers up with?”
please see/join the conversations at our RSCA facebook group
It is my understanding Ward 13 Councillor Sarah Doucette is FOR the shelter
and Ward 11 Councillor Frances Nunziata is AGAINST.
Sarah Doucette was not at the May 31st over capacity meeting.Frances Nunziata was.
She has also taken the initiative to hold another meeting,
before June 23rd when:
The staff report recommending the shelter will be presented at the meeting of the Community Development and Recreation Committee; the committee is made up of 6 City Councillors. The agenda for the Committee meeting is published and distributed to the Councillors 1 week before the meeting. It is at that time that it would be best to start contacting committee members (if you wish to do so)
in a bigger venue this coming Thursday,June 9th at 7pm
at Archbishop Romero Catholic Secondary School, Cafeteria
(99 Humber Blvd S) MAP
This time Sarah Doucette will be there.
Here is an article from InsideToronto.com about the issue.
For those of you who live in Ward 13 and particularly on Ryding Ave and Maria St.( 2 streets south of the proposed shelter) you would do well to get/stay in touch with your neighbourhood representative,
Your neighbour in the neighbourhood,