Making my way to where I was going yesterday, I just so happened to fall in behind a couple guys. Nothing in particular stood out about them. Both younger than I am, wearing baseball hats and smoking. One of them carried a knapsack on his back.
Two dudes, walking and chatting.
“… you still staying at the Scott Mission?” the knapsack-less man asked the other.
I don’t know why I was surprised. That’s not true. I know exactly why I was surprised. Neither one of these guys looked homeless. Whatever the fuck that means. They had shoes! Their hair wasn’t greasy! They talked in complete sentences!
Turns out the guy was no longer staying at the Scott Mission. When asked why, he seemed sheepish about providing an answer until goaded into a response. “Hey! I’m not fucking judging you,” his friend assured him. (No. Leave that to me, the total stranger walking behind you, trying hard not to look like I’m eavesdropping.)
It seems the guy had left the Scott Mission because he’d found himself a nice private spot in an underground parking lot. At which point of time in the conversation, the two gentlemen stepped aside and let me pass by. Evidently, my breathing down their necks to hear every word made for an uneasy chat between them.
As many of you know I am not a religious man. But today, on the holiest of holy days for many Christians, when Jesus Christ died for our sins, it’s hard not to conclude He may well have died in vain. We collectively are terrible, terrible people.
Nobody voluntarily or contentedly sleeps in an underground parking lot. There’s a series of obstacles, setbacks and just flat out ill-luck that places someone in that kind of precarious situation. Choice does not factor into such an equation.
We blithely shrugged our shoulders during the coldest parts of this winter when it was reported that our homeless shelters only bulged to 96% capacity. Some even patting themselves on the back for a job well done. See? Nobody who wanted a place to sleep was left out in the cold. We did our job.
Even if that number and claim was right, and we know neither one was factually robust, shouldn’t it be a shameful statistic rather than something to crow about? Our shelter and social housing system is bursting at the seams but, hey, our numbers prove — if you look at them in just the right light — that we’re on top of it. Nothing to see here.
I write that paragraph knowing how facile it is. There is no simple solution. The causes are manifold and the levels of approaches needed are many. We have been left to our own devices on the issues of housing and social programs by successive provincial and federal governments for at least a decade and a half now.
But throwing up our hands and wondering what else we can do is a cop out. At least, it’s not something Jesus would do if I recall my Sunday school sermons and lessons correctly. Unless, of course, we chalk up fair and humane public policy to rendering onto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and declare ourselves off the hook. That’s allowed, right? Decontextualizing scripture to use as justification for non-Christian behaviour?
We’ve backed down from fighting the big fights or trying to right the big wrongs. There is no grand enterprise. We simply content ourselves with bitching about small potatoes like how many TTC fare collectors make a six figure salary as if putting a stop to that is going to miraculously feed our hungry and house our homeless. It’s like some demented rationalization that goes to prove governments can’t do anything right so we should stop expecting them to.
If the 1st-century C.E. population was anything like it is today, so petty, resentful, small-minded, I’m thinking Jesus got himself crucified in order to escape them not save them. Expecting Him to return any time soon is probably futile. Some 2000 years on, we’ve hardly done anything to entice Him back to save our sorry asses.
— disappointingly submitted by Cityslikr
Over the years, it’s amazing how often well meaning people suggest that as a transit activist, I should be “nicer” to the folks and the organizations I criticize. The only way to get something done is not to antagonize them, I’m told. From decades of experience, that path leads to (if you’re lucky) a nice pat on the head, and an audible “now fuck off” when you turn your back.
Organizations, politicians, management, and staff who screw up deserve to be roasted as often as possible, in public. Poor darlings won’t like it. They might call security. They might even suggest a touch of lunacy in their critics.
The big problems our city has did not arrive overnight, but were the result of years of people not pushing hard enough, of politicians giving out crumbs as if they were gold dust, of repeated claims that tax cuts and “efficiency” would fix everything. In some ways, we have only ourselves to blame. We (well a lot of us) elected these bozos.
We should demand better.
Well said Steve. I am of the same opinion and share the same experiences as a community leader in Ward 16. In my case Karen Stintz hit the red panic button and called Security to escort me from her office simply to avoid answering an awkward question. As it is still, she refused to answer why she eliminated Affordable Housing in Ward 16. I suspect she’s caught like a rabbit in headlights – the answer when it comes out will be very damaging to her. (Watch this space)
The City has a policy to increase the inventory of Affordable Housing stock. The best time to do that is when re-development is happening. We had secured that. The developer agreed to it. The North York Community Council unanimously approved the Bylaw. Karen Stintz refuses to tell us why she killed it.
This alone is amazing. That a person elected to represent the Ward refuses, with impunity, to explain their actions. What is astounding is that 28 other councillors, without debate or question, voted on Stintz’s motion to eliminate Affordable Housing. Among them were councillors like Shelley Carroll, Adam Vaughan, Gord Perks, Maria Augimeri, Paula Fletcher, Anthony Peruzza and Janet Davis. People I would never have expected to vote to kill Affordable Housing.
Should those who elected the above be blamed for complicity in this travesty? Of course not. Those individuals aren’t bozos. The blame lies entirely at the feet of the corrupt culture on Council. The vote trading, the back scratching, the petty quests for power, are what’s behind the long-festering rot that has overtaken the City of Toronto. Most of all it is the dishonesty. Adam Vaughan believes developers should be encouraged to provide Affordable Housing in his Ward. But not where I live? Shelley Carroll and Gord Perks have hearts big enough to keep wining re-election in their Wards. Yet, my Ward is not so deserving of the same compassion?
Over the last 10 years Karen Stintz has proved to me that one person cannot effect change on Council. She has her foot firmly on the bottom rung and some rich guy seems ready to help her up the political ladder. Harper-esque, she has turned her back on the small folk and no longer “feels their pain”.
That’s why I question the constant heckling of just one person, Rob Ford. He deserves it of course but I now question the motives of the likes of Vaughan, Perks and Carroll et al. Can they be trusted? If we want to accelerate change for the better we must widen the scope of scrutiny. We must roast 44 councillors, constantly. We must reform Council and toss its corrupted culture. Only then will we attract qualified citizens to administer our Municipal Affairs in a professional and honest fashion.