One wonders if the left hand knows who the right hand is gouging over at City Hall. With the commencement of a new program to aid the victims of the Tent City invasion, city staff are now working to fix a problem created somewhere up the line by other city staff. The city housing department is working with staff at Woodgreen Community Centre on a pilot project to provide rent supplements to all those evicted from their homes when Home Depot reappropriated the waterfront land last month. Someone must have opened the right sock drawer, because suddenly each of the evictees has his or her rent guaranteed up to $865 for a bachelor or one-bedroom anywhere in the GTA.
Would that all T.O.'s street people were fortunate enough to be evicted in the middle of a media circus (the story is being covered as far away as Bangkok) and to have the leverage to win housing through the implied threat of disrupting council with clever chants.
But this is ultimately a victory for many homeless people, and a lesson in how money can suddenly be made to appear when emergencies -- even those manufactured by the city -- are highlighted in the right way.
"As of today," says Toronto Disaster Relief's Kathy Crowe, "approximately eight or nine people have actually got the keys and moved into apartments." The program has allowed them to do this by paying the difference between the rent at a chosen apartment anywhere in the GTA and the amount they can afford.
Crowe, understandably, sees it as a mixed blessing. "It's not a national housing program or a provincial housing program, but this piece of it does make it possible to house people."
It's certainly no housing program. There's actually a stipulation that the apartments must be on the private market, further distancing any level of government from responsibility for building affordable housing.
And it doesn't get housing to these people with as much ease as, say, not demolishing their homes would have. And now the city can potentially spin the whole affair in its favour; it was, after all, the city itself, by its insistence on lengthy rezoning processes, that railroaded plans to move Tent City to another plot of land.
Nonetheless, 130 people are hopefully on their way to warm and stable shelter (although Crowe says the process could take "weeks and weeks" and only a handful have somewhere to stay in the interim). The supplement program comes up for review in six months, at which time everyone will have forgotten about the squatter city that once graced the lakefront.
I ask TDR's Beric German if he thinks the supplement initiative might set a precedent for further government action. "It's hard to know where they're going at any one point. We would hope they'd be getting it, but if not, it's our job -- all of us -- to ensure they do."