Proposed shelter in South Etobicoke faces NIMBY campaign
Against the backdrop of looming mass evictions and attempts to shut a shelter in Midtown Toronto, some in New Toronto want to block a proposed one and are making some dubious claims to do so.
Proposed location of a shelter in New Toronto
With a looming wave of mass evictions facing tenants in Toronto and an ongoing crisis based on decades of growing inequality and an utter lack of affordable housing, an ugly campaign is unfolding in two of the city's neighbourhoods. In both wealthy Midtown Toronto and the traditionally more working class New Toronto area of South Etobicoke, groups claiming to represent local residents and businesses have launched NIMBYist efforts to close or stop existing or proposed homeless shelters.
Parkdale Organize is one the groups mobilizing to fight looming evictions
The controversy around the Roehampton Hotel shelter in Midtown Toronto has garnered more media attention likely due to the area around it being more well-to-do.
Under the extreme conditions of the pandemic the city fast tracked opening the shelter and it is now planned for it to be in place for at least another two years. A number of local residents have claimed, without any actual statistical substantiation, that the shelter has led to an increase in crime.
They organized a protest on Saturday, August 15 that was met by a substantial counter-protest of those who support the shelter.
Some residents have also expressed their opposition to the flyers shelter opponents have mailed out.
In the wake of the protests the local City Councillor and a reporter have accused the admins of the anti-shelter Facebook group of "allowing bullying, harassment, misinformation and now doxing,"
While this has been unfolding a similar debate has been occurring in South Etobicoke about a proposed shelter at 2950 & 2970 Lake Shore Blvd. W. just west of Islington Ave.
After word of approval of the shelter came out representatives of the local Business Improvement Area Association said that the neighbourhood should have been consulted more while others organized a petition in opposition.
Some opponents of the shelter distributed a flyer against it under the name of the New Toronto Ratepayers Association, a nebulous group that appears to have just been created and that does not even have a website.
This flyer has a distinct alarmist and "what about the children" tone to it and contains a number of misleading claims. Disgracefully it says the shelter will be a "tipping point" and alleges there are already numerous community supports and shelters for the homeless which is not true.
The list has almost nothing on it that actually provides shelter housing for the homeless and includes a number of things like a women's shelter. community centres, a senior citizen's advocacy group, a medical clinic, etc. These are not homeless shelters. Implying that they also, somehow, make the area more dangerous or are problematic is completely wrong-headed.
Grotesquely the list includes co-op and subsidized rental housing and, most shockingly, calls the nearby prison a "2,000 bed facility" as if it is a place the homeless can or should be able to check in and out of! This really tells you all you need to know about the sentiments at work here.
New Toronto and all of South Etobicoke is a neighbourhood that was gutted during the deindustrialization era of the late 80s/ealy 90s with the closing of the factories that used to provide stable and relatively well paid employment. Traditionally working class, as the area has recovered many have been pushed out by gentrification and skyrocketing housing prices and rents.
Homelessness and the issues, indignities and cruelties associated with it are an already existing reality in the community. One half of the proposed shelter location is a building that has been underused and at times largely vacant for many years. It will provide easy access to mass transit, services, job centres, etc. It is no closer to schools than any other properly accessible location anywhere in the area would be. Clearly some would rather see shelters in isolated or industrial areas, but that would run totally counter to their purpose and would make them very difficult and even impossible for some to use.
Fortunately many have risen to the defense of the proposed shelter.
An online petition voicing support has over 600 signatures. It reads in part:
The proposed shelter in South Etobicoke would be a safe way to help individuals stay off the street, and work towards stability, sustainability, and a hopeful future. With any social service, it is important to meet the needs of the people where they are. The specific location on Lake Shore Blvd West is necessary because that is where the homeless population has a greater need of services.
You can can sign it at: Homeless shelter support in South Etobicoke
These struggles are important battles in the fight to determine what kind of city and communities we want. A metropolis where more and more people are marginalized, unable to afford housing, driven out of neighbourhoods and where wealthy and NIMBY residents can stop greatly needed shelters and services that are the bare minimum of social solidarity, or one that at least attempts to work towards fighting homelessness and where emergency services are readily available citywide and not hidden away or absent altogether?