Housing the Homeless

I remember him as the most popular boy in my Grade 8 class, the one the girls had crushes on and the other boys wanted to be just like: good looking, terrifically funny, the best at every sport. Many years later, after decades of physical and mental health problems, he was broke and out of work. He lost his house in a nice neighbourhood. He and his wife separated. An old friend helped him move into a basement apartment and navigate the application for ODSP support.

Subtract the friend or a family to help and he would have been homeless.

Do a quick scan of your extended family and friends, or the kids in your Grade 8 class. Likely, you recognize someone similar.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot after several meetings this week to discuss plans for the city to build supportive housing at the southeast corner of Willowdale and Cummer for about 60 people currently without homes.

Some attended the online meetings to learn more, and many arrived with good questions. Some speakers, many of them from the local faith community, offered support and compassion. A few – and thankfully only a few – attempted to dehumanize the homeless to justify doing nothing for them.

Mayor John Tory, who was there the whole evening, was having none of that. He dove into the chat line to challenge them and addressed the crowd twice, each time reminding us that the homeless aren’t as different from the rest of us and some would like to think. They are people who need our help.

Having the character to base your views on well thought-out principles, and standing up for those even if some people disagree and may not vote for you again – is something I look for in a politician. I feel proud this week to have a mayor like that.

Ali Ehsassi, our Willowdale MP, also attended and spoke to show his support. In fact, five of the six politicians you voted for directly have reached out to our office on this issue and, after understanding the project and the extent of the community discussion, have expressed their support.

The sixth – our local MPP – has not contacted us with either questions or concerns. Instead, he chose to write a letter pandering to those shouting that no one can hear them. He could learn a lot from John Tory, a past leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, who understands that most supporters of every party, especially in as caring a community as Willowdale, believe in giving a helping hand to those who so obviously need one.

Yes, residents have many legitimate questions, all of which we have tried to answer, both in writing and through several meetings that have already been held. More meetings are coming up, and I will schedule as many as it takes.

Any answers that exist are there for the asking.

– John