The new condo showroom across the road is doubling as a nightclub.[rssbreak]
Yesterday a jogger became enraged when I challenged her ownership of the sidewalk. I have a nosebleed from inhaling the construction grit swirling in the wind here in the west end that every day seems more like Little Dubai.
The shoppers stampeding to stake a claim in this lawful frontier are trampling all the indigenous wildlife like me to death. The only alternative to getting out of their way is getting together.
Friday night's, March 26, meeting at St. Luke's Church on Sherbourne is an attempt to form a coalition in defence of the financially disadvantaged residents of east downtown in particular.
A Memphis Minnie song, There Ain't Nothin' In Ramblin', has been running through my mind. "I'm gonna stay right here and eat these old charity beans." The fact is, I hear a lot of comment on the chili served here, to the effect that it's not exactly the meal advertised on the poster. "I was expecting supper," some say.
During the two months I spent on East Hastings in Vancouver during the Olympics, I couldn't get over the range of services for needy people. There, it's virtually impossible to go hungry. Student chefs and good-cooking Sikhs are among those offering tasty sustenance.
The Carnegie Centre at Main and Hastings has a library, gym, computer room, theatre, newsletter office, games area, archives, patio and cafeteria with a choice of low-cost healthy meals. Volunteers are paid in tickets that can be redeemed for food.
The Carnegie is known as "the living room of the Downtown Eastside" for those without homes or residing in the area's many hotels. The poor are a concentrated population, and that, along with the network of support groups, makes all the difference. At Chinese New Year, Chinese neighbours present street people with bags containing thoughtful gifts.
The G20 crew is boasting that the unprecedented billion-dollar Olympic security operation was nothing compared to what's coming here in June. Quick! Pick a colour. How about Emergency Orange, like the T-?shirts law students wore when acting as observers to defend the poor and protesters during the Games?
Get an orange T and print Raise The Roof or some more blatant comment on the slightly obvious bias in budgeting priorities. Stage parades with marching bands. I'm just writing out loud. All I know is, the tsunami hitting low and no-income Torontonians requires a massive response. Immediately.
The "condo bomb," as a speaker calls the condo craze, has caused east-side laneways to be closed off and rooming houses and shelter beds to disappear. Free or cheap food has become very scarce. The province is eliminating the special diet allowance that OCAP fought to expand, leaving welfare recipients starving in their non-existent $365 rooms. McGuinty did raise social assistance - by 1 per cent. Make that a $368.65 non-existent room.
Bart Poesiat of Parkdale Community Legal Services points to past successes downtown, the first being the defeat of the legalization of exorbitant rents by calling apartments "hotels." In the 1990s, the "Parkdale Rebellion" rose up against homeowners attempting to ban all rooming houses south of Queen.
Farshad Azadian and Solomon Muyoboke of the Esplanade Community Group talk about taking a survey in their neighbourhood and hearing complaints about police brutality. They set up a police watch.
Then Kevin Clarke, the homeless mayoral candidate with a flamboyantly impeccable dress sense, breaks it all up by protesting his absence from the panel. Someone puts him in a headlock, which everyone agrees is wrong. One of the speakers is trying to pull him away. I don't know why. He's not violent. He's decrying the bureaucracies set up to "help organizations, not people." I've heard him talk a lot more sense than many politicians.
After Cathy Crowe speaks about past successful coalitions and the comeback of TB, and Gaetan Heroux tells us how the poor organized during the Depression, the homeless man who would be mayor returns wearing a cloak with houses woven into the pattern and an Obama scarf as a mask.
He tries to present a list of poverty issues he has sent to councillors. The meeting is closed. Apart from the Raise The Rates demo April 15, there's no word on what comes next. I'd call on the Critical Mass cyclists and the quarter-million Toronto Tamils, who know a thing or two about mobilizing.