Cold Reality of the Truly Homeless

Homelessness in York Region should be no surprise.

As the local newspapers focus headlines throughout the winter through feel-good pieces aimed at propping up our social network assist vehicles - instead of dissecting what we could be doing better - it seems in keeping with York Region politicians.

It's no secret that Y.R. has had not only a shortage of government assisted housing units for those in need for many years, as highlighted in the 21010 York Region Social Audit Behind The Masks which was presented to Council in deposition, and which they supported in principle and then used / sent to the Ontario government towards helping them formulate a plan to coordinate funding and services for this area but it has also had one of the lowest owned units-to rental units ratios in the entire country, as well availability rates - also country-wide close to worst. So it's no secret. See the Social Audit Video.

In the download of $ and services to the municipalities from the Ontario government, the Region took away certain safe-guard initiatives designed (that are / were part of The ACT) to help individuals in need avoid becoming homeless and those just out of prison or institutions. It was called the Start Up Fund used to help residents avoid eviction or 1st and last to obtain a place to live and could be applied for no more than once every three years. It's no longer available through the municipalities take over, and its replacement deemed unattainable by former user types, so those same people now are more likely to go homeless. At the time when the download of services was still in proposal mode, I specifically mentioned this safety net program to Y.R. Councillor John Taylor who assured me all would be kept. It wasn't. Notice a crime spike of late? It's no coincidence.

Not going to say I told you so. But I did.

Instead, the Region seems to think putting everything into shelters has been the answer - spending more than 10 years focusing all available funding - over $10,000,000 - towards building one women's shelter, Belinda's Place, as well as some assisted temporary housing for the same single women only category. Problem is / was, most of Y.R.'s homeless are men, a fact I have long crowed, but now have tangible proof of, from the just released stats collected by United Way Toronto / York Region..

This week's Era Banner headlines scream out Shelter use up 50%...crisis levels..blah,blah,blah but are they not aware the one and only full time men's shelter Leeder Place - is full 100% of the time? That's not a story? Only in winter I guess when its sexy to write about it and INNs from The Cold gets their overflow. Thank goodness for them at least.

Cold Warning in effect

Yesterday, I came across a struggling guy, one who fights addiction issues but one who also works and works hard. I know, because I worked several jobs on which he was hired to assist, and in seeing his willingness to do a great job, I've since assisted him into something more regular, including the last one he's held for 6 months now. But they just don't have the hours for him come January and there he was, last night, out in the bitter cold begging for money.

Knowing I have a video taping upcoming this month for which I've budgeted in a P.A. I gave him $20 advance and told him I'd be in touch about the exact date. "But no more tonight eh? Go home." I said. He thanked me and did just that. He and his girlfriend struggle to keep a roof over their head. They could also benefit from nonexistent rehab programs to assist towards living a "normal" life.

YOURKnews covered MPP's start-up
Ironically I 've been trying to find an operator group for a housing or rehab complex of 18 self- contained, up-to-code units, yet no incentives enough seem to exist to entice operators to run anything. So why can't YR controlled funds go here?

Earlier that day, over the phone from Markham, Sam asks me,

" What are they doing with the $16 million dollars the federal government gave to assist with these issues?"

Good question. He's been a "victim" of the system for a long time, a long time area farmer who's seen tragedy more than enough times, and has been turned down by O.D.S.P. for heating fuel costs he claims, and now since he's turned 65 they've cut him off his disability income completely he says. And with no I.D - lost in a house fire in a house once located on the property he was recently evicted from after setting up a trailer home in place of the house for the past 12 years, before the City of Markham suddenly decided he was breaking bylaws so many years later. And no coincidence the new property owners have offered to build a community centre in lieu of zoning change considerations - he temporarily has no income. No one warned him he'd be cut off he says. Just like he got no adequate warning to move all his belongings and equipment, much lost in the wake.

Markham Community Centre
"It's not right. They knew the date was coming. No one told me I had to apply or that I'd be cut off income. No one told me anything." Farmer Sam

The reality is he was in the way of developers on that property despite having an agreement - and they didn't / don't have the zoning at 14th and Markham Rd still, but he was in the way down the road, and so they pave the people out early through tricks of the development trade. Tricks Sam now knows all too well, having been a victim of a suspicious house fire they never solved, but which he says was started on purpose to get him out. " Escape by Miracle" one headline read. Needless to say, the outspoken farmer is suspicious of those in positions of power. Police give no updates when he asks.

"Too long ago Sam", says the cop.

Wow. Really? On an a possible attempted murder? I guess it depends how important a life is to them.

Farmer Sam force-moved from 14th and Markham Rd
I was successful in soliciting help from churches, Lions Clubs, even members of the public over the past several years to help get some money or fuel to supply his kerosene heater, including in December past when a nice soul held a bake sale to raise funds and purchase some. But it's getting tougher as the groups from past don't seem to call back, while government sources seemingly refuse to help him - HE REQUESTED EMERGENCY START UP FUNDS AND WAS REFUSED - or expect him to travel to see them in Newmarket from Markham, while he has no money for transportation...and so now he's calling again. There needs be a mechanism to assist these guys, and don't mention shelter to him which seems all they do, or community meals...he's not interested. More on Sam's story.

Forest, right here, long time homeless camp
So where IS all this new money going in assisting those in need and those who want to live outside the dangerous and undignified shelter system? I don't know, but it's not getting to those most in need, and this to me seems an abuse of process.
Hey, I gave you resources!
The recent York Region Media articles have headlined cherry-picked themes taken from a report by United Way Toronto/Y.R., like the obvious such as aboriginals having a higher than average ratio - as it is in the rest of the country - and they've headlined children, family and youth poverty, but they've actually left out the most staggering headline stat of all that a full 100% of the homeless they found with no attachments to any shelter of any kind in York Region were male. 100%. They further found that 70% of all shelter dwellers were male.

Now I'm not going to come out and say that our social safety-net system seems sexist but...well actually I am, and it is. We have no shelters for males to escape abuse even though stats show spousal abuse is about 50-50, yet we have a number of shelters for women in this regard, in addition to the family shelter and single women's shelter and transitional temporary housing. There is no temporary housing for any single men. Men are last on lists for Y.R. housing too since abuse victims and families - often single moms - also rate ahead of them, regardless of the fact there are extremely few single assisted housing units to begin with in York Region, so vulnerable men often have little chance to get housed, and these men will statistically die much younger than the average person - often by two decades.

So that is what WE are supporting with our current system. We're sentencing men to an early death.

The social audit was clear back in 2010 that the lack of housing was already critical and that men were not only lacking in programs and housing but in how they were being treated and that has still had no change.

We need more male social workers according to Sam and others, 

"Women don't understand whats a mans goes through", Sam says through broken English, still, after all these years here from Italy, having lived so much of it alone, farming, and now he too is in severe crisis need of heat and has asked me to try and help....again.....

"They hire women right out of battered women's shelters and they don't treat us good."
Leeder Place, Former Shelter Dweller now deceased. See his and other video testimonials here.

We need better and these people deserve better. 

Churches traditionally help - where are their voices?
I've written in the past of several men who have died while living on the streets in YR and after years in the shelter system and yet not a word from the local media. Shame on them, but shame on us for doing nothing while men die. That would soon include our now area Housing Minister Chris Ballard who has not invited myself nor P.A.C.C, Y.R.'s voice for poverty, to participate in any reforms, nor for consulting, since his quick promotion from regular M.P.P.. Since he knows me and I have much more knowledge and experience than most in the area including himself and an asset as such you'd think he'd call. If you don't recognize your assets how can you use or manage them?  But they didn't mind using PACC to have wheelchair bound participant during photo-ops for the Pan Am Games. Not a bite since.

" House of Hope" sits empty begging for use.
I'll give the provincials this much, they have the "cahoonahs" to study a fixed basic minimum income model  and I have committed to participate in that, if only to try and ensure these off-the-grid and precarious work types are not left out of the mix. As I see it, this type of system may help stop those who often fall through the cracks to better survive in cold Canada.

Sam says we need to form branches within the Region that deal with guys like him in crisis. I agree.

Yesterday, someone stepped forward and purchased some heating fuel for this man, humbled by the system, still clinging to his pride.
A job our government should be taking care of by affording him adequate access to income and set-up / moving costs if not adequate housing. Referring him to an already full shelter system is not for this fellow. The man has never been able to get back his losses from the farms of past by being controlled by a system that rewards deep pockets. Now his are empty.





If you want to help Sam out with kerosene fuel (Home Depot, Can Tire or card) to help survive the winter in his trailer please contact povertyacc@gmail.com

Tom Pearson

PACC - Character Matters

Hoorah! Watch what kind of Citizens we're making here!

PACC has been a tireless advocate for the disabled
Character Matters is supposed to celebrate character and I have no doubt past recipients in its short history have been good people, but I'm sure just as many who were deserving have never been even considered to receive one. That's fine, we can't hand them out to everyone, but. inevitably they become political, and why I hate awards of any kind.

Spokes-head Steve Hinder, as I understand, one of the originators of Character Matters, having come on the scene via Belinda Stronach as her assistant when our M.P. in the area, had requested a meeting with me in 2006, after appearing on CBC live to Canada criticizing Stronach for concentrating on the world's impoverished when we had a record 50,000 people using food banks right in York.

"At first I thought you were just a disgruntled hockey dad, but you're not" I recall him saying. 

I had wanted to use the meet opportunity to get him to influence Magna and Neighbourhood Network, which was just starting up, to become a part or sponsors of of our Friendly Neighbourhood Youth Road Hockey Challenge as I'd been involved in a community development project (this is when I was approached to Chair Poverty Action for Change Coalition by various YR agencies) from which I'd learned of many issues that seemed appalling to me including kids having nothing and was why I / we organized York Region's first ever demonstration about poverty on the front lawn of the regional building.

11 years after - Had to tell these kids no tourney in 2015
I'd explained that our event started as a way to engage the local youth and bridge them to the broader community through road hockey as the tourney allowed all kids to form neighbourhood teams and compete against each other on neutral turf and taught newcomers a Canadian tradition and helped them adjust and form friendships. This also gave the kids much needed esteem boosts as it connected them to the broader community and showed they could compete with anyone which enabled us to have a direct influence upon some kids who might coming from a home life in turmoil.

I recall one kid, about 10, he came from a home where the parent was addicted to crack. I think it was the second year of the road hockey event, at that time still held inside Mulock Village a mixed income neighbourhood, and it was particularly cold and snowy that year - a ref quit mid game, players complained and the vibe, at least to me, was all too serious as the emphasis was supposed to be on fun. At the end, as I pondered ever doing it again as no one seemed to be having fun, and as I walked over to the local cafe where I had entertainment and PACC had free hot meals set up for the kids and trophy ceremony, this kid walked up to me and said,

"You know that was the most fun I've ever had".... That blew me away."

PACC has organized a voice for poverty 10 years also
From these experiences, I helped form and chaired for four years Operation Sparrow (now Newmarket Cares) which allocated and transported kids into after-school activity programs free alongside the other kids. I made sure it was designed to eliminate stigma and embarrassment for the parents as well, but left when they seemed to be ok with a board member coming back on board only before the election. Character.

Int Day to Eradicate Poverty gives poverty a voice
Getting back to my meeting with then M.P.'s assistant Steve Hinder. I explained to Steve about the road hockey 'program", why it was started and included that the murder of Mulock resident Mike Thornhill outside a local donut shop, had motivated me to start the Mike Thornhill Award $ for youths showing leadership in the community and not the best hockey player. I explained the whole 9 yards. My ask to him was simple as I explained that the way the tourney best worked was through challenges - as kids we'd challenge another team to play - and that I'd love to get an Aurora team in it. To maybe challenge the town to form a team to play Mulock. I mentioned that with " Neighbourhood Network" being in Aurora it would seem a natural attachment to the Friendly Neighbourhood Road Hockey Challenge and maybe Magna corporation (Stronach's company) could even sponsor?

"A challenge. What a great idea!" I recall him exclaiming.

PACC hosts neighbourhood BBQ bringing in talent
Great, I thought, finally we can take this thing to the level it should be at! But, unfortunately, as I found out later, that eureka moment was not for me as to my surprise Stronach (Hinder)  had become somehow part of promoting the local hockey teams, and announced within a month or so, "The Challenge on Yonge St", then the "Battle of Yonge", between the rivaling Jr A teams. They'd offered us free tickets for some kids. Could they have simply taken my idea!? N.N. promoted our event not one iota, making no response to our requests about it. I think I did manage to wangle a $50 program ad from Magna the one year and that was it. We never made on any short list for the Hoe-down funds either. I believe their challenge match continues to this day

Fast forward 2016, N.N. hosted a "collaboration" for community groups. As you can imagine, I didn't attend...That buzz phrase is long gone passe anyhow, and they should concentrate on what it is they actually do - knowing a disabled person who suffered the entire winter without a 'volunteer" from them assigned to help shovel his driveway, despite being semi-assisted the previous year - after their volunteer quit. They claim 6,000 volunteers yet not once could do his driveway in 2015-16 winter, so, in my opinion, they shouldn't be hosting anything until that's in order. That is their mandate, not hosting "collaborations". That would be my thought if I were its CEO or Chair.

PACC creates opportunities for youth to participate
A few years after N.N., Character Matters was started which Hinder somehow was a part of its originating panel and announced they would be handing out " Character Awards"..Hmmm.

The kicker for me was when they launched their "Character Matters after-school ball hockey program so "new Canadians could learn a Canadian tradition while...." almost identical to our description of our program. You get the picture? Who's going to fund us when a similar program runs? All coincidences of course.

Suddenly he was a local superstar,
suddenly began showing up on various boards, and somehow the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce, even though N.N. was based in Aurora, and on a hospital board which was recently disbanded when its membership all quit for unreported reasons among others.

In between, in my role as Chair of PACC, I unfortunately had had to point out political and operational / agency short comings as the squeaky wheel, none of which was personal, but all of which had seemed to be taken so - quietly kept off boards of directors such as the Blue Door Shelters with a member telling me he thought I was a natural fit but that was told when he suggested me " Not yet" by a former mayor who's son became a local politician and who was also part of Neighbourhood Network's board as well as the shelters'. Maybe sonny will put in a good word!

During that time I'd naively started the "Square Table on Poverty" which included politicians from every level - another YR first - but which was marred by lack of attendance by Belinda Stronach (attending but one monthly meeting in a year) as attendees interest waned. Walking across the floor politically put a fork in it, with then M.P.P. Frank Klees, already a reluctant participant, no longer interested to follow up the initiatives we'd started, such as a recycling pick-up program at restaurants, an initiative brought to the panel through a person in a wheelchair who'd noticed a trend of places tossing bottles with $ value. Character.

We also organized Y.R.'s largest collaboration of its kind in history, York Region's social audit with "Behind the Masks", the resulting report critiquing the local services and shelters in things like how they treated people using them among other sensitive findings. I also assisted developing two feature stories that I provided not only info for, but connected the writer to those who were in poverty for which the paper won prestigious awards - twice - the last one about a homeless father and son eliciting more reaction to any story in recent history, YRMG Writer Chris Traber had told me. I wasn't invited to those awards nor received any credit nor even was offered a thank-you. Oh well...my blogs and video series on the two also went hand in hand with those stories and continue to educate and inform today. And that is supposed to be the goal.

PACC put homeless to work renovating a home for mental health patients
I couldn't understand why I couldn't seem to get the schools on board with promoting our free tourney, but now it makes sense.

Next up we seemed to lose support for the event from the town, with road blocks seemingly being placed to the point we had to move the location 4 or 5 times with participants and sponsors showing up at the wrong location at times over it. Suddenly we could not play in the area were told we would, but instead now to a parking lot, and told we needed rental fencing at a $1500 cost even though Councilor Sponga  had pitched this new Riverwalk Commons to me before built to support it, had said we'd still be able to play there still, when I voiced concern about losing our location if built - which we did...but he did pay for the fencing. Then the Mayor's Charity dropped us, as well a Main St business, who had a politically loyal owner who had once told me she would support it as long as we held it. That was another $1000 gone right there.

The original team members who started it all
We went from playing on Main St, and on page 3 of the Toronto Sun for having such a great town for putting road hockey on Main, to a back parking lot, not even road hockey anymore, which to a theme guy, is devastating. Until then we'd always had an element of it on an actual road. Meantime, traveling the province, I'd passionately pushed the virtues of the road hockey program, expressing a wish to see it go national only to watch as others started their own including in Oakville on its Main St.,and the hospital fundraiser starting up that morphed into an across Canada event with a big sponsor / organizer taking it over...Great idea! But it was ours first and we started first - and no one can take that way.

Main St - only one year road hockey event played on it so far
So I began seeking out other new sponsors ( Neither Tim Horton's nor Canadian Tire ever responded to any previous attempts, but C.T. instead started their own Jumpstart ball hockey program now with Sportcheck who had been OUR sponsor, while the local Tim's never saw fit to help the tourney and award that kept a memory alive of a youth tragically killed on their property), with 2013 only being pulled off because I donated my entire winnings of $2500 for producing the winning one minute ad spot in an across-Canada contest for the Canadian Labour Congress with, One Pay Check Away, to PACC, which helped until we lost our main sponsor only weeks before the event launch in 2014, apparently because the previous year they'd not been able to find what location we'd been moved to at the last minute (we'd been allowed access to RiverWalk Common's stage area for cars and booths and mini-kiddy games previously but they decided no). We still held it, but we were limping, and the lack of coverage was  hurtful, but I was resourceful enough online to make it still happen. Barely. With no money, and admittedly tired, 2015 saw the first year in 11 that it wasn't held. By 2016 and with no media coverage - YRMG never even printed a word about ours from our press release to announcing it, I'm about ready to admit defeat...I guess I have no character.

I was nominated one year for a Character Award and attended only to appease my nominee as I find the whole idea of awards choice processes deplorable, like most any awards. For Our Mike Thornhill "Character Award", we simply drew the winner from the all deserved nominees on our list (each team could nominate a player) and that was our winner. Predictably I didn't win that night, as saving a cat in Georgina or something was deemed more important than saving lives I guess. And yet it seems people getting paid  to do a job get a nomination or win awards... for doing a job they were paid for. Mr Hinder got an award... for his community commitment I suppose. I don't know.

Belindas Place finished but don't expect to find her there
As I stood in line that night, I saw a "Character Matters "nominee I hadn't seen in some time. Ten + years previous I'd been involved with him in a partnership for an comedy show and after I'd spent months writing games for the show, producing, and arranging for it to become a cable TV show over two seasons, including having the station tape it live, at their cost and then designing a program course to be taken into schools, he made a dirty play to try and be rid of me using a frivolous reason. After some thought & anger, I just decided to let it go. As a struggling single dad fresh out of returning to film school at the time, it was devastating to lose that much investment, however some egos are better left to their own devises was my thought. But not before he'd revealed having once been the first person in Canada ever charged with internet stalking of a minor (called it an ex). He'd then held improv classes at area schools for years afterwards, and I assume why he was nominated for a 'Character Award". If you're reading this, I didn't forget you pal!

Character Matters? Yea, sure it does. But it's not defined by any group handing out awards.

Recently I heard of another set of awards for "Volunteers"in the community, and no offense, but I see people who have spent a couple months or years on an issue being awarded, while guys like me and organiations like PACC (my first volunteer stint here was in 1994 for the Newmarket Youth Centre as an original board member, the centre now built) never an article in the paper about, no one telling the world what a wonderful guy I am for volunteering in community development, or for my youth work, or for helping those in need, seniors, the disabled or for spending 6 months all told of full time hours, all working towards gathering info and writing a report, ultimately endorsed by YR council to the Ontario Government. A report I might say was worth 10's of thousands of dollars, donated free for their use, yet sits there as an unused asset. Not one a feature story or any story on PACC either, ever, whilst some groups get coverage several times every year. So it was a tough sled my friends. Capeche?

To set the record straight, I've never been paid a dime for any of my poverty or community development work, and so when someone wrote to the Era Banner inferring I was ' a highly paid..." I never got an opportunity to rebut since they stopped printing my letters to them years ago when I criticized for us building only a single women's shelter (men were openly homeless on the streets) when their Editor in Chief was also on its board - despite the assistance I've given them to get award winning stories and being Chair of the voice of poverty in York Region no matter how they tried to  ignore them. And when I realized and wrote of men dying while living on our streets and they wouldn't cover that even, that's when I dug in and started my own online news station, YOURK News & Events . It would have been the easy route to play nice with everyone and share in the wealth. It's certainly lonely on an island. But that's my character. I believe people have died because of our lack of care. That's on everyone.

Volunteer run PACC gives donated pumpkins at the 2014 IDE of Poverty event @ Riverwalk Commons in Newmarket
I got involved, originally because I saw a need, in a community that seemed to have little pride and saw kids without esteem or discipline in some cases, and not for political reasons. My literal first act was to stop kids from banging a pipe on a road sign in the neighbourhood. "You live here. Have some respect I'd said". Ironically it seemed they welcomed my words and attention and I later found out even the local schools had treated the kids living there differently which I found unacceptable. People were being treated unjustly in my eyes and kids were the victims often, so there seemed much room for improvement and hoped I could make a difference. I know I did now because the kids, now adults, have told me I did. That's the only award I need. Although I did accept the Queens Diamond Jublilee Medal because of my nominee - Canadian Crime Victims Foundation. Of course that was for my contributions to Cnada from the queen, and not local recognition. That stays vacant.

Mike Thornhill Award winner enabled to play ice hockey
YR Commissioner Adelina Urbanski
Youths have approached me all winter about the road hockey event and the nets balls and sticks supply, but no more, as even stalwart York Region Housing, which'd always been willing before to help out, has ignored it's own community assets, no longer providing those funds, I suppose to use an unproven regional fave for all their youth funding...and a lot more I'm sure than the $300 we ever got to operate for their teams entered. I still sit as a now 6 year volunteer on their housing advisory committee though, despite, in my opinion, their failure to use what's right in front of them. But you see, I don't hold it against them, as strategies are assigned by the municipality Region of York and know some things they cannot control - and the kids are more important than my personal beliefs...and because character matters. Lowercase.

And despite contrary assertions from York Region's Commissioner, so long as York Region continues to and Newmarket and Aurora continue to leave grassroots groups and members out of their boards and strategy sessions, they will continue to miss the mark. I learned long ago that the best programs originate from the ground up and not the top down, and, until they have some inclusion, that won't change. That's one of the first changes I'd make.

My private business seems to have a hard time getting any traction locally, despite being an industry award winner, with anyone that deals within certain circles I've noticed, and no one has ever offered me a full time job within the Region or in the agencies either - while my colleagues have - so believe me when I say I've had every reason to back off. Geez yet I'm even trained in dispute resolution and group facilitation through CMHA

But you know, upon reflection, with my experience now, with having dealt with ministers and attended dozens of invite only meetings, being locked-in for budgets and attended for both the provincial and federal governments in addition to the initiatives I started or participated in, including presenting deputations to both town and regional councils and attending in parliament, and through advocacy for farmer Sam on planning issues, I've come to forge relationships that could be beneficial in politics and know much more than most council or mayors on especially on planning /developers issues, continually get fooled on how it all works together. Yup, I've amassed a fair bit of knowledge, which, if they are not careful, I may just run for office. Hey, I could use the money. Ha.
 
Last I heard the Character Matters after school
ball hockey program had morphed to ice hockey,
once again showing me they're missing the mark.
and its about a life in between the games, not the game itself...and engaging them a bit to influence. meantime those kids are sitting on green boxes now instead of goal creases.

It's where they live, for them more than 
beating boredom, forming friendships, a team, a community a belonging, pride. Constructive.

What was it Al Pacino's character Col Slade says in the movie Scent Of A Woman when he addresses the "character" the school was teaching through its action of rewarding a rich, privileged kid who's parents were big donors, at the expense of ruining a poor kids life,

"Hoo - rah! Watch what kind of citizens you're making here!"

Tom out.

Newmarket Library Odour Issue

Posted in the bathrooms. Criminalizing them won't help.
You may have read about the recent smelly affair and controversy in the Era Banner or The Toronto Sun where I'm quoted in regards to a letter that is being distributed by the Newmarket Public Library to " offenders" in an effort to rid them of , well, human smells. Oh, perfumes are apparently covered by it as well but I've never read a policy quite so worded. The signage posted in the washrooms also tells a story. But, in all fairness, Librarians aren't, and shouldn't be expected to be, social workers.

That said, and notwithstanding that fact, the groups they conferred with seem to me to be the ones at fault here. I'm not sure who they asked, but it definitely wasn't PACC which hosted York Region's only ever social audit in 2010 which included political leaders from across the region, front line workers, to shelter dwellers, to ODSP recipients, to the disabled (See the video) complete with follow up report / recommends, co-written by myself along with the former York Region Food Network and NDP federal Mp candidate, Yvonne Kelly. That report took us 6 months.

PACC's first concern was making it as user friendly as possible and to make everyone feel welcome while treating the participants with dignity and respect.

In fact many York Region entities scored poorly from conditions at "domicile" group homes to narrowly targeted services. One of the main themes that stood out was the lack of supports for men and the treatment people were receiving from social services and from distributors of many of the the existing supports. The lone full time men's  Porter Place shelter users were particularly vocal that workers there did not treat them with any respect and that the programs were non existent or inaccessible for most. Even the location is remote, miles from any town, in between Bradford and Newmarket, along a desolate stretch. It's all they have here, outside winter, when they are put in a big room to share the possible unpleasant smells of those dragging themselves in to escape the cold. But no one gives that a second thought.

With few options, York Region men also end up in Toronto
Getting back to the library. Examining why the homeless attend the libraries can lead all the way back to the stem - no home - never mind a shelter. Libraries provide warmth, access to peers, jobs, friends, family, and a place to socialize and sometimes wash up or change in a pinch. But they aren't a social club. And the white elephant of nice families and kids attending and perhaps being dissuaded to do so because of them is also present. So I get it. But we can actually use the library experience to make a positive. Click here to see where this library homeless hub idea is already working!
Newmarket Public Library

What if we somehow used the library as a place to intervene? A place where you can engage them and perhaps steer those in need into a real help like a psychiatrist coming once a month or a housing support group or assist getting them access to medical and community supports. Even hold fun supportive types of events including art therapy, poetry reads - whilst always having refreshments and some type of access to computers etc in that area set for them within the library. This wouldn't mean they would be unable to use the whole library just encouraged to use 'theirs".

It may sound far fetched but libraries have become hubs for them for a number of variables, particularly in small towns, and so I say we embrace it as an opportunity to engage and save some lives. Studies in the US and Australia show men committing suicide 3 to 1 vs women and with men making up the bulk of our street homeless I think its about time we offered them too an option of life - which all starts with a home - for which they'd be last on any lists in York Region to get any.

Patriarchy

New YR women's shelter
One could take it one step further and say that stats also show that domestic abuse is closer to 50 / 50 between the sexes yet with men being reluctant to report such occurrences, they are not even acknowledged by the region - or how else do you explain the discrepancy with there being 6 shelters for abused women, one for just single women with 40 beds, one for single moms and families and every new spot for transitional housing was slotted to only the single women to go with the only other transitional housing YR has for abused women but only 26 full time beds for single men who make up the overwhelming bulk of the street homeless. Fair? Fair enough. Then let's not complain about smells. It should be the least of what we're concerning ourselves with right?

I went to the Trinity Church to find  out about showers they direct the "public' to use if apparently in need as deemed by the smells police but at 3:45 the doors were locked and no one answered the bell even though the operation hours say until 4... But gee that absessed tooth that stinks won't be removed by a shower anyway, nor my dirty clothes. Well no library today I guess.

Sample of scent policy

This is sample of what a notice looks like from a coalition we are involved in looking to bring dental care to low wage earners -  

The next Dental Coalition meeting is being held on Mar 22/16 from 10:00-11:00am at VCHC boardroom. Please find attached the agenda and the last meeting minutes.

Thank you and hope to see everyone,

Hosay


Hosay Saboor, BHS, BScN
Administrative Assistant
Vaughan Community Health Centre
9401 Jane Street, Suite 206, Vaughan, ON  L6A 4H7


The VCHC  promotes a Scent-Free Workplace. In consideration to those who are sensitive to chemicals, VCHC kindly asks you to refrain from wearing perfumes, colognes and other scented products at its office and its events.


PACCman out

Ailing Markham Farmer Evicted via Bylaw

I find it ironic that community's are pushing community gardens when they are actively pushing farmers out the door. Literally. For one Farmer, Sam Orrico, that time is now. Sam is very experienced at being displaced, he was one of those affected in the headlines that screamed out, " Province Gets Farmers off the land", back in 1979 when the still unused airport lands were being cleared for building that never happened.


At his cost Orrico moved tractor to comply with Town "Bylaw"
As a Farmer working the land, they make more than a commitment to labour but to fields and yields and property maintenance and noxious weed control, as well as ensuring quality soil is being maintained and toxic materials are not being dumped on properties. Although property owners were compensated for the acquired airport lands, most farmers weren't so lucky - the ones effectively renting and farming the land. Sam estimates he lost $100,000 dollars worth of business, crops, and equipment as a result. He saw no compensation from the Ontario government.

Such farming properties are also given a certain tax rebate to owners which encourages the land owners to have farming. Owners buy these properties knowing they are not zoned for residential or any other type with no promises that will ever change. Of course that doesn't stop them from doing so if left unchecked and that is why we have official plans and zoning and
See video!
Mr Orrico has come to be somewhat of an expert on local planning over the years since his first removal.

After that, there was a property at highway 7 and Markham Rd. which had sported a large house in which Sam lived and performed basic maintenance for while farming the land and several others. This time he got an agreement but when a dispute arose over rising costs for the more major fixes, such as plumbing, the owner balked. "We'll just bull doze it then."

But this was a heritage home and Mr. Orrico made sure to inform about that to those who mattered, stopping such an action in its tracks. weeks later it burnt down, effectively removing him, and paving the way for the property to be developed. Arson was never ruled out although the electrical was an issue Mr Orrico had wanted fixed at the time... He's sure it was no accident.

Meantime he was working another property as well located at Markham Rd and 14th Side Road where he's still at today, although for how long we're yet to see as he fights for his rights against a corporation. It too sported a house on the property at one time, and here too began a dispute about who was to pay for what when it came to major costs on the house. . Two weeks after council had the developers reconsider their application to develop when Sam raised a heritage home issue it was burnt to the ground with him in it with Sam suffering 2nd degree burns and " Escaped by Miracle". Again no charges ever laid. Yet they had no problem escorting Mtr Orrico off in handcuffs for an apparent bylaw infraction being used to rid the property of him now.
Property next door being prepped without a plan yet in place which is against protocol
 So he learned from this.  He additionally added a clause to his entrance agreements from then on that ensured he could remain on the property until such time it was to be otherwise developed, and had it written in to carry over to any new owners in order to cover his being able to invest in one spot for a long time. It's a protection for the Farmer so they are not investing time and $ in a spot only to be made move without proper notice. Like now.

And that is where we sit today. The past year he's spent fighting them at every turn as the developers reps, as well as the town of Markham, seemingly are trying to cast him aside again without using the proper procedures. And he hasn't been treated nicely either in the process with the first move to try and get him off the property he's been on since 1980 a 7 days notice for a bylaw infraction!

35 years on a property and they just say get out in 7 days?

Wrong, he has his agreement, and besides, the " Making Markham Beautiful" bylaw refers to residential properties and this property is zoned for industrial right now. It is also INCOMPLETE as written referring to sections that are not missing. Next up a visit to Markham committee to get to the bottom of this sudden need for him to "clean up" the property that has no specific list of things. He moved a tractor already at a cost. But that Bylaw is not legal if it's missing section 4.21 despite being publicly posted. I mentioned to the developers reps that the bylaw was not binding and to fight it but they weren't interested, just wanted Sam off. Why? You have no plan approved.


2 properties over, same owner had no plan but developed for town on a promise to consider zoning changes elsewhere.
Sam doesn't feel respected throughout the process and especially now. Sam has had nothing but intimidation from the other side, who are not even the developers really, but a company representing them. He says he's been told " You stink Sam" etc by a nice chap who shows up whenever he feels, supposedly to negotiate Sam's exit peaceably, and despite Sam's agreement stating they need inform him in advance to come by. " We do what we want". He's had stuff and equipment go missing, and recently was accosted by some people on the property he suspects are connected to the group wanting him gone. His rabbit was killed Sam says, and returned to its locked cage, eyes missing. He's reported this all to police, yet he's been treated like the criminal it seems.

As far as Sam's concerned he's willing to go - after they have approval to develop - which is spelled out in his agreement they now have a copy of, from the last court session, after bringing Sam to court for "non payment of rent" - or they work it out. And yet at first they claimed he wasn't a tenant. No respect.They want him to come to terms being treated like that? Good luck, with a man of principle and a contract in his pocket.
Why change the official plan to become residential when industrial is across the road from Sam's farming location?
The past days after the last landlord tenant board appearance he's seen an increase of tire marks on his site as the rep seems suddenly emboldened. He seems to think because the judge ruled the agreement wasn't a rental unit lease agreement that they can "evict' him for trespassing which they've now applied for based on that, but the landlord and tenant law does not apply to this type of agreement, and this old man is not done fighting that fight yet.

As he says, "Why do they want me off now when they don't even have a plan? or zoning for developing? Why? Why should I move again before I have to, and they have been interfering so much I can't hardly even farm."

Why indeed? In his heyday he shipped 20 tons a week of produce. He grew up in Argentina on a farm living off the land. It's what he knows. He's an expert on how to find and acquire water, growing, and now planning, he's even run for Mayor of Markham twice, and they found a way to silence him then too on planning issues, through a total whitewash charge which he hotly disputes and still does on appeal of a bogus threatening charge, purportedly said to a third party with no other witnesses, who was also running to be elected! After he was released a publication ban was placed on anything about him for a year. Does no one else find this suspicious?

Sam has great ideas about a world food terminal where the airport lands now are despite his displacement from there so long ago, as well as ideas for developing the electricity corridors for farming... and what better person for community farming to teach the real Mcoy? They should be using his knowledge not trying to muzzle him and toss him away as if he's an ignorant old man. He's smart and knowledgeable and he's earned a little respect.

The developers reps maintain they are acting now because the town ordered the property cleaned up, despite me pointing out the by-law is incomplete and therefore invalid... and Mr Orrico it would seem is part of that sweep. 

At the end of the day, unfortunately, for them, it is he who has the contract and right to be there, and it is they who are asking he break his agreement to accommodate them - not the other way around - and for that he needs compensation for again uprooting his life to appease them and for the degrading treatment he's received in the process, especially in the last few days, taken in cuffs like a common street thug and paraded at the hospital with police in tow.

I suggest they start treating him with a little more respect if they expect to get anywhere. 

Bully, bully..

TP Out

Fri Sept 11 2015 - I just received a call from the police. They are removing Sam from the property and have asked if I would put him up for the night. They seem to acknowledge and accept on the surface the developers position and not Sam's. He was removed in handcuffs escorted by about 7 or 8 officers and taken to the hospital for an " assessment" Sam says.  Stay tuned.

Monday Sept 21 2015 -

Sam is scared and looking for supporters to come out Sept 28 from 7am on to help him protest the loss of his home as they plan to flatten trees and remove anything still there. He is homeless now as he continues to fight for access to the property and his home. His farming property is located at Markham Rd & 14th SR.

Thanksgiving 

Sam is effectively homeless, being locked out of his belongings on the property and kept within a series of trailers. He had some help cleaning things up but still they push forward to keep him off despite his legal binding agreement. Sam wants to fight but needs funds as he's been turned away by the Legal Clinic of York Region as being to "complex' for them. Hmmm.

If you'd like to donate to his defense of home appeal send cheques to PACC sub-lined Farmers Last Stand.

House of Hope for Mental Health Care delayed license in Y.R....Why?

It's been almost a year since we last helped find a suitable tenant for the "House of Hope" located just north of Green Lane on Leslie St in Newmarket, Ontario, or Sharon, technically. The people we found have experience running homes for those in need and have been running this place since moving in, like a clean, well oiled, machine.

Has been home of a type to help people for generations now
The residents there are dished out their medications of course, and each gets their own room (some domicile housing providers puts 3 and 4 in one room!), but, unlike a previous well known Cross Links group that ran a home their for 9 years (and ran / runs many more), and which applications for licenses seem to get rubber stamped despite long time complaints about the 'care' they take of the residents in their care, they are not allowed to smoke in their units or eat in their rooms, and it's enforced - keeping the possibilities of any mice or ants infestations to a minimum.

Every room has natural light
For 9 years this so called group of "care takers" either allowed smokers to smoke in bed without repercussions, or turned a blind eye to it one supposes, along with any "inspectors", as evidenced by being found in such a state whenever the building's owner would drop in for visits often finding piles of butted cigarettes bedside in some units as well as holes, and walls left with nonsensical writing across them. Residents were also fed microwaved frozen meals as their nourishment to eat in their rooms. He also relayed that people never seemed to be doing anything either when he'd visit.


This new group makes home made meals and has a supper table and common areas that seat everyone, changes clean linens regularly, and keeps the place spic and span. If an employee doesn't do the job expected and up to standards they are let go, period.

In fact, in the 9 years a previous group had the place the owner did not recall an inspector ever coming out to check on how they ran things. He'd even find drug needles in corners of common areas and bring it to their attention, another time a resident had a sword-like knife in their room which is not allowed. Yet never an inspector it seemed.

He also told me the current proprietor of the residence he owns does a 10x better job of keeping the place clean, feeding residence real meals, enforcing no smoking rules and runs a no nonsense ship - unlike the rubber stamp group - yet still they have no license issued all these months later.

House room view
Inspectors have come and have been nit-picking the place for months now, one asking a fire door be added, while the next one asked it be removed etc, all the while denying their application for miniscule reasons compared to the years of squalor previously witnessed. Meantime the other group seems to be getting rewarded with new regional contracts / licenses, including now a youth residence they will be apparently running. Are they blind inspectors?

The home was left a mess too, as I was involved at the time in the initial cleanup,
Typical wall condition left by previous tenants in 2010-11
and wondered how in the world they could run a place in such a state and get away with it let alone continually be rewarded with licenses to run more. I still wonder, and meantime await this new group being approved soon as we desperately need more of this type of housing provider that both cares and knows what they are doing from a grass roots level.

Something is drastically wrong when we continue the status quot without checks, and reward groups that even our own York Region social audit pointed out our current providers are / were not handling people well, nor providing dignified care and activities, often essentially stripping residents of all their welfare funds leaving them with little or nothing to spend, and care residents despondent and depressed, often and afraid to speak up. No atmosphere for anyone to endure let alone in someone's "care".  
Completely redone after long time residents left from need
Despite providing private rooms and home made meals, The House of Hope  still takes less from those in residence there than other domiciles help themselves to, leaving more money in the hands of the residents to control and be active with....and the residents actually like living there. Does that not matter to the Region?

Another such place run on the outskirts of town has / had residents there living in fear. A young man I went to visit said another resident came into his room, which he also had to share, and helped himself in his drawer. It was common for a group of them to be in an apartment with everyone there toking etc while someone surely is dealing there. The host was busted for selling them cigarettes illegally also, yet last I heard is still in business. Wow. I guess as long as the paper work is filled out correctly, that is the main criteria. She'd actually been interested in the House of Hope, which I'd advised the property owner against, knowing what I knew.

"Unfortunately, it's all about big money Tom" the property owner replied to me as to his opinion to why, when I inquired how it didn't make sense his tenant being denied a license so long when it's evidential that so many are run so poorly.

Can always get the CBC to check out why, need be again.
All people deserve a place to live that is dignified, clean, safe and encouraging and that is what the current proprietors at the House Of Hope offer, so stop delaying good care and rewarding poor care. It doesn't look good, nor make sense in this desperate time of need for housing and care, to our residents mired with mental health and addictions. 

Absolutely no reason these people should be facing barriers at this time, in fact the Region should be happy to have someone who actually cares in the 'business". They may not run a slew of them, but it's about quality of care, not quantity of units.
Front room corner after tape & paint in 2011
Here are 3 of the outcomes mentioned as found in York Region through the social audit "Behind the Masks" in 2010

4.) We recommend that all organizations and agencies, governmental and non-governmental, along with various levels of government, utilize a Healthy Communities Model based on the Social Determinants of Health
, in their planning, service / program delivery and policy development, with a vision toward realizing health equity for all members of our communities.
5.) We urge municipal, provincial and federal levels of government to take action on key items such as the availability and affordability of housing, the availability and affordability of transportation, and the income insufficiency of marginalized groups in our communities.
6.) We urge all organizations, agencies and service providers to review their practices / policies and challenge themselves to provide the best service possible, while respecting the dignity and rights of the individuals they are serving.