Fear and ignorance on the Don

I’m all for gentrification. It think it’s a natural part of urban evolution, as long as it doesn’t involve front-lawn parking pads. But I also find it entirely objectionable when a handful of people who overpaid for their tiny homes in a transitional neighbourhood suddenly start talking as if they own it. Case in point: neighbours and employees of neighbouring businesses of the new bridge housing for homeless men at the New Edwin hotel on Queen just west of Broadview.

First, a little about the project, which will be managed by local agency Woodgreen:

It is the first project of its kind in Ontario. The tenants — the homeless as well as those who have mental health or substance abuse issues — will be expected to pay a portion of their rent, but will receive support from on-site counselors.

According to Councillor Joe Mihevc, the project will offer “intense support,” with 48 counsellors attached to the hotel and medical experts, security, and other services on site. Residents will live at the shelter for up to three years. Oh, by the way, the hotel has been a low-cost hotel for low-income residents up until now, presumably without security. Not only is the shelter a much-needed project, it’s likely an improvement on what’s on the site now.

That Riverside (or South Riverdale, or Broadview Village, or whatever you want to call the not-exactly-neighbourhood that straddles the Queen-Broadview intersection) is (thankfully) still not the enclave of smug white hipness some residents may wish it was is brought home by this quote from Saradh Arachide of Pastry House, a new local business:

“Before, the strip club down the street was the major issue but I heard this news and I think this will be a major concern,” said Mr. Arachchide.

Trevor McCarthy of Prohibition/Booze Emporium describes encroaching gentrification in less delicate terms: “There is a certain element in this area that is slowly being filtered out.’’

A couple of business owners tell the Post they’re fine with the new project. It’s local resident John W who, in a comment on the Post post, raises the classic concerns about the prospect of homeless people flooding the rarified atmosphere of Queen-Broadview:

…this sort of transition home is perhaps not appropriate in a residential neighbourhood.

We are trying to attract families in south riverdale and I can definitely say as a parent that the prospect of having recovering drug addicts and people with mental illness in the neighbourhood causes me concern. I am all for social housing and would favour more projects as the Rivertowne project which integrates low income families within gentrified /gentrifying communities.

I don’t know how long John W has lived in the neighbourhood, but I’m curious that he is concerned about recovering drug addicts while Queen East, particularly at night, continues to feature a not-insignificant number of current crack addicts. As well, a stroll up Broadview between Queen and Gerrard would put you close to some active dens of iniquity. People high on crack are out of their minds and unpredictable. It’s drug addicts who may turn violent or break into your home and take something — anything — of value that they can turn into more drugs, not those in recovery.

And what is it about those magic words, “as a parent,” that makes people think whatever they say is reasonable? It seems you can preface almost anything with “as a parent” and get away with it — certainly generations have voiced their concerns about miscegenation using that same construct. A challenge to Mock Turtle readers who are parents — why not see just how far you can go in conversation using this phrase without eliciting objections? Report back in the comments section.

And lastly, I’m not familiar with the Rivertowne project (and I’m not a fan of the unnecessary “e”). However, John W seems to have misunderstood what really happens when a neighbourhood is gentrifying. When higher-income people move into lower-income neighbourhoods, the higher-income people are the ones who are being integrated into the neighbourhood — not the other way around.