Canindia News

What happens when a homeless shelter is set up in an exclusive neighbourhood?

Pradip Rodrigues

A couple of weeks ago, there were media reports about residents in midtown Toronto who were understandably fed up with the dozens of homeless people living in hotel Roehampton. 

To house people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic, the city has leased three properties, the Roehampton hotel and two adjacent buildings on Broadway Avenue in Toronto. The site at 55/65 Broadway Ave. is closing at the end of this month, but the city has a two-year lease for the Roehampton, 808 Mount Pleasant Rd., with an option for a third year. 

But hundreds of residents are up in arms against the two remaining homeless shelters and have launched protests highlighting safety and law and order issues. They point out that the area has become unsafe, dirty and dangerous and what goes without saying is that the homeless people loitering in the area are to blame. They smartly refuse to point fingers at the marginalized individuals as that would risk the stigma of being called racist. So instead they are training their firepower against politicians who they blame for not consulting with them before taking the decision to house these people in their backyard.

I am willing to bet that had there been the kind of consultations they seek, we’d still be discussing it to this day and the issue would have been resolved with the homeless shelters being created in buildings in Malton or Malvern. The well-heeled residents of Yonge Street in the Eglinton area would happily raise millions and even volunteer their time in these shelters, just as long as it was not on the street where they live.

This not-in-my-backyard sort of thinking can happen in any wealthy neighborhood in any country both rich and poor. 

Just two weeks ago, the New York Times came out with a story on residents living in the Upper West Side where the median cost of a home is in the region of $1.4 million. The residents were up in arms against a “temporary” homeless shelter set up by the city’s Department of Homeless Services without even warning them first.

The Hotel Lucerne at 201 W. 79th St. is now home to more than 300 homeless men, many of them methadone users and “recovering” alcoholics.

These residents are naturally left-leaning Liberals who can normally be found protesting ICE when they remove illegal immigrants, they would certainly be out protesting anti-black racism and would wholeheartedly support anti-racism initiatives. But like the residents of midtown Toronto, they have nothing but love for the homeless, but just wish the authorities would move them out of their neighborhood. Their property values could suffer over time, drugs and crime could infest the area if these homeless shelters remained.

Usually politicians side with wealthy residents who happen to be their donors and wisely zone homeless shelters and subsidized housing developments in poorer parts of cities usually filled with racialized minorities and a few disempowered whites who find themselves stranded in these neighborhoods. 

Poor immigrants who are too busy trying to get by don’t care about one more homeless shelter given that they could well end up there if things go south. Blue-collared whites who decide to protest a homeless shelter filled with racialized people runs the risk of being labelled “RACIST.” Reason being that less educated protesters would honestly and naively say what they really think about the homeless. Some would foolishly scrawl some hateful words on the homeless shelter or toss some stones. Such ‘hate’ would no doubt appall the well-heeled liberals now protesting homeless shelters in their midst.

Residents of Upper West Side in NYC and midtown Toronto are highly educated and articulate, and I am almost certain they probably have their scripts looked over by lawyers and PR consultants before going to the press. This may in part explain why it is so hard to find any media report on their protests calling them racist. 

They wisely portray their concerns as being about safety and nothing else and the media mostly fails to call out the hypocrisy. 

If ever there was a law mandating one homeless shelter or a small subsidized housing project in every wealthy neighborhood, there would be less support for immigration, asylum-seekers and other economic migrants. There would instead be calls to deal with the homeless crisis that afflicts Canadian cities. 

1 comment

Stephen Webster September 7, 2020 at 8:40 am

The current Ford government is not doing enough to provide housing to the homeless and minimum wage essential workers. I know of many people like myself who had their house or apartment that they were living in hit by a wind storm, fire, or flooding and the house was condemned. They have limited access to shelters and often taken off the list for affordable housing. The current Ford government is protecting insurance companies and large companies at the expense of homeless disabled and the poor. 5195239586

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