Danforth MP Dennis Mills certainly seems to have scored a one-two punch by making an intelligible promise and then following through. The property at 558 Gerrard East - which Mills, in the middle of a looming police riot at November's OCAP squat, had sworn upon his parliamentary seat to turn into affordable housing - is apparently open for residency, under the management of Woodgreen Community Centre.
I stress "apparently." That's because an odd detail was overlooked in all the reportage this week: the new tenants won't have much time to get comfy at 558, owing to the fact that the owner actually has plans to develop it. More on that later.
The list of involved parties grew as I made calls for what was to be a simple story, one celebrating the outcome and decrying all the egoistic preening on the backs of the homeless.
While potential new housing is inspiring, I felt a shade less enthusiastic than Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) head Buzz Hargrove, who in a letter to Mills wrote, "You are out in front of the pack with your neck out a mile. That is the kind of leadership our community and country need." Yes, it was a nice surprise that a politician expanded the scope of his self-interest a bit, but must we gush?
"I have no problem giving credit where credit is due," Hargrove tells me.
Fair enough, but lest we forget, it was OCAP that brought the house to the attention of Mills, who was so busy rushing around being a leader in the fight against homelessness that he failed to notice a large unused house in the heart of his riding. And while we're giving credit, let's save a healthy serving for the CAW, which pledged money and volunteered skilled labour to fix the place up.
But will Hargrove's near-endorsement of Mills mean anything for rival Jack Layton in the federal election? Is Mills's new dedication to the poor a way to head off Layton? Or are the rumours that Mills will step down in exchange for a plum appointment true?
The riding's MPP, Marilyn Churley, seems unimpressed by Mills. "It would be nice to see the people who ponied up to save Mills's political ass come forward with the money needed for a housing plan.' Then she tosses in a curve. "It's only going to house people for 18 months at most.'
OK, so there are still a few loose ends. The dangliest turns out to be the fact that Bridgepoint Health, which leases the property to the province for the Don Jail, actually still has plans for 558. "We own it," says the company's Kim MacMurry cheerily. "We're looking at a new hospital (on the site), a long-term care facility. Right now, under the terms of the lease, all (the province) can do with it is corrections. [The Don Jail is the tenant.] If they want to change that, they have to renegotiate the lease."
Could the negotiations result in development plans being abandoned? "I think that's unlikely. But I can't comment, since those negotiations haven't taken place."
Did Mills jump the gun? OCAP organizers don't seem to think so, saying they have a letter from Bridgepoint CEO Marian Walsh reasserting her company's ownership but stating that it's willing to renegotiate the lease. "The onus is on Mills to sort out whatever is going on," says OCAP's Steph.
One hopes that, since Mills was willing to announce a done deal before the December 8 deadline, he's confident in his sorting ability. (Mills could not be reached for comment.)
At first glance, it's a pretty basic equation. People without houses, and a house without people in it.
But as one might expect of something that began with the brandished threat of tear gas, there may be some long division involved.
When it comes to homelessness policy, it's easy to lose count.