Replace York Region Chairman - you read it here first

YRNG reports about York Region Council needing an elected Chairperson months after PACC urged action.
    It seems the York Region Media Group is finally getting with the program. Several months after we first began blogging, creating media, and reporting about a need to replace the York Region Chair not only because of the present chairperson Fisch's incompetence but also because an elected chair seems more democratic than having the same guy anointed every year with no challengers. It's just too cozy an arrangement for a guy making over $200,000 a year! The elected Mayor of Toronto doesn't make that much - and meantime Fisch seemingly doesn't think transit drivers should make even $50,000 a year - which is only 1/2 of the average household income in York Region. Pay them a fair wage, give them reasonable working conditions - like breaks - and let's get on with this thing! You can flop around all you want Fisch but your filet is cooked my friend, so I suggest you take the high road and bow out gracefully while you still can.  
Better yet take transit.

  Speaking of cozy arrangements, am I the only one who finds it astoundingly outrageous that an organization purportedly selling products donated free, that most people think are used to build homes for people in need, instead spends over a million dollars in 2011 for "administration costs". Huh? Let me get this straight..they built exactly 0 homes in Newmarket, Aurora or Georgina in 2011 and incurred over $1,000,000 in expenditure costs? On What!? And now "need" to hire professional fundraisers too?

   This U.S. based model corporate connected "charity's" usefulness has gone the way of the dinosaur I'm afraid as it doesn't fit our Canadian ideals or system and it stigmatizes those chosen - as they are expected to be the face in the media mouthing wonderful things about these wonderful people before and as they move in as part of the deal instead of with privacy and dignity - while at school the kids become the "habitat kids" and other labels which can lead to low self esteem and mental health issues.. Because they are vulnerable, the chosen families of course will go along with it all and who could blame them?

  They also build so few homes and include numerous qualifying conditions that should not allow them to market themselves in their numerous commercials as providers of "affordable housing". It's a wonderful sounding buzz phrase, but a misleading one, as it is one usually reserved for real builders of "affordable housing" - in the dozens or hundreds at once - not one or two units per year as they typically might build - and then uses the very people they claim to want to help for publicity campaigns.
Well you can't have it both ways I'm afraid. Sure it helps a few people a year locally, but at what cost?

  Habitat for Humanity York Region's future plans apparently include developing isolated ghetto-like properties by the sounds of it - a number of units per property - "because it makes fiscal sense" according to Habitat's E.D. Nancy Van Kessel - which goes against all the studies about building isolated low income housing projects.  This is exactly what is wrong with charitable solutions often. Since when does fiscal sense trump accepted social housing policy? And since when does York Region in general care about actual fiscal sense anyway? I mean where was "fiscal sense" when York Region Council ordered destroyed a perfectly good shelter a few years back whilst almost simultaneously announcing plans to build a "much needed" single women's shelter?

So Why is H.F.H. seemingly exempt from procedure or scrutiny? Because they are a wonderful charity with great commercials that say they are great so they must be? Or perhaps because they are, as their head office corporate website says, a great brand partner worth 3.1 billion dollars, as much as Starbucks as they write? Corporate charity is not the solution for affordable housing woes in York Region - building units in the dozens or hundreds of units with government funds are what is needed or an alternative like PACC presented which was a private venture offering mixed income owned condos along with some affordable units that the company would qualify tenants to own who normally wouldn't - not some band-aid U.S. modeled feelgoodgroup confusing reality by sounding like they are "providing affordable housing" in York Region, when in actuality most who need affordable housing would not even qualify for a habitat house based on their eligibility requirements. They do a lot of advertising but little actual building anyway from my perspective, and even then it's with conditions for those lucky enough to have enough of the right disabilities, or fit the correct "culture" or 'mold" that they are looking for each time, as often seems to be the case. Smile for the camera!
Tom Taylor, former Newmarket Mayor, and Father of Regional Councilor John, Chairs or sits on the Boards of a number of Y.R. service providing charities including YR Habitat for Humanity, Neighbourhood Network and Inn From the Cold.

  It all reminds me of these "Champions" some groups trot out each year from various sources who praise the organizations and charities they've accessed up and down meantime behind the scenes they're often getting extras like jobs, food, fees, and free goodies that bribe them enough to be the media 'face". In one case the face of the family shelter one year got up and said how she'd been homeless with her kids in Toronto and ended up in our Y.R. shelters, then Y.R.'s assisted housing, and that she loved her new life and job and now volunteered in the community she loved. Awww it was a wonderful speech. Teared me up. She left out the part about having a husband when this all went down who had lived with her right up until that very day ( now years on from her dilemma) as best I knew, as she'd introduced me to him when she moved in and I'd seem him often around - but who wasn't anywhere to be seen or mentioned on this day - coming across like a distraught single mom who'd gone through terrible ordeal all alone. Oh and volunteering? She'd looked me in the eyes previously at her own community hall and said "Fuck em" when dropping out the week we were to put on a puppet show for the kids in her neighbourhood - because there weren't enough other volunteers she'd said. I appealed to her that some just couldn't make it that night, but she wasn't interested. To say I was stunned would have been an understatement. We never saw her back to help again as I suppose she was busy with her new "career". The 'career" she referred to her in her speech was given to her by housing not long after she was moved in - while many others should have been considered before her - as it was a (part-time) tenants position and many qualified residents had lived there a number of years before her arrival. Not bad for someone who went homeless in Toronto! I sat quietly throughout her speech, although I may have shaken my head a few times in disbelief but I wasn't going to spoil their party and besides the food was great ...and the tour wonderful and programs sounded just wonderful too! Ha!

   Still, it's a sad state of affairs that vulnerable people are used to legitimize groups that upon further examination - including the recent social audit done on York Region - that many of these groups are failing and in some cases rewarded time and again for programs or services that are poorly run or useless or not user friendly. And it is them who seem always left out - the majority - the ones not the chosen "champions" - that we need to look out for because our society and especially York Region seems to prefer  pretty stories instead of reality, and consequently keeps rewarding the same offenders with funds. I wonder if somewhere in here a conspiracy exists ....and the various boards with seemingly many of the same people involved is a good place to start.
Kristine Carbis on the scooter along with a number of people involved with Y.R.'s 1st ever social audit Behind The Masks  hiding her face with the report in this photo as she seeks no recognition for her immeasurable efforts

  You want a "Champion"- look no further than P.A.C.C.'s own Kristine Carbis who not only represents her community by sitting on a unique tenant reference group providing input to the Region to best manage housing tenant issues but has also tirelessly (and quietly) volunteered in her community (association) for years and is the one distributing food and goods to those in need, organizing her community events and Christmas Parties, connecting people to resources and schools, assisting with numerous projects to help end the affects of poverty in her community such as sitting for several years on the board for a P.A.C.C. assisted group we helped start - Operation Sparrow - which provides low income kids access to recreation and transportation at no cost, as well as assist the Put the Food in The Budget Campaign, Do the Math campaign, the P.A.C.C. hosted I.S.A.R.C.(York Region) Social Audit, Oct 17 Int Day for the Eradication of Poverty, and the annual Friendly Neighbourhood Youth Roadhockey Challenge she also helps organize both with P.A.C.C. and within her community to make sure a team is formed and everyone can get there. Currently she is quietly presenting to the Y.R. District School Board people to help them better understand dignified approaches to dealing with those who come from lower income homes' and why seemingly simple assignments might be an issue for others - such as access to libraries, computers, printers, embarrassment and such. And she's done so the last few years with use of a cane, then scooter, due to her deteriorating physical condition. Her biggest regret? Not getting chosen to be on the York Region Disabilities Committee - another controlled YR entity. She wasn't given a reason why not. Probably because she'd speak her mind for the rights of everyone and not quietly vote yes to everything without question.
  Now there's a real champion.

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Tom Pearson Out!!

Transit Strike - A York Regional Embarrassment

  Good morning Vietnaaaaam! This famous line was uttered of course from Robin Williams' character in the movie of the same name which was based on a real person's story, took place in war times, and was recognised by the soldiers and personnel as the signal that they were about to be put at ease through the power of laughter - via a radio show. This comedy formatted show acted to keep spirits raised during a time that was extremely distressing and stressful. I think that is what is needed right now, especially for those who have been handcuffed by the York Region Transit Strike - which is now Canada's 2nd longest in history. To that end, TP produced a short spoof called Depressing Country Hits a mock commercial for a record album that uses the recurring theme of the transit strike in it. It's design is to make you laugh.

P.A.C.C. and the C.B.C. reported on poverty and transit issues

  To date it seems nothing P.A.C.C. or anyone has done or said has had any influence on ending this strike. We've done our usual mix of addressing (and embarrassing) politicians, councils, approaching other groups and bus drivers / union reps as well as our own online media campaign to create awareness and attempted to solicit more attention from the mainstream news media - which we think is covering it far too little - therefore keeping minimal pressure on to resolve it.

  In addition my letters to the Editor of the local (York Region Media Group) papers including the Era Banner go unpublished - even though they quote or use me/us when it suits which works both ways but we are the established voice for those on low or no incomes in York Region and recent host group for the most in-depth look at the state of York Region's social services, programs and safety net systems in the area's history via a social audit. The resulting report was adopted for recommendations by the Regional Council as well, and this 6 months to produce audit was a significant achievement admired and widely respected across Ontario, but has gone relatively unnoticed and unused here.

  As no one seems to be stepping forward to help end this strike which has now expanded to become a crisis maker for many, we feel P.A.C.C.'s experience and ability to connect people from diverse backgrounds and positions gives us a unique ability to get parties communicating, and feel we could negotiate a fair end to this for all parties involved.Uniquely as well, PACC supports the drivers' rights to a living wage and reasonable working conditions but also the rights for those riders who've had no choice and whose extreme users are most affected.
  P.A.C.C.'s Letters to the Editor never get published!
I thought I'd print one of my recent letters to the Editor that they never publish, and if they do they change, as it's purpose was / is to bring more attention to the seriousness of this transit strike to more people.
Don't forget to vote once a day for our video contest 1 min adspot finalist One Paycheck Away here!

  Dear Editor,

  I am absolutely outraged by the lack of concern or action on the part of our York Region Council and Chair, Bill Fisch, in regards to the transit strike.

  Regional council is made up of all the elected mayors and regional councilors who are all seemingly directed in council by a chairperson who is not elected. This chair has previously stamped an emphatic no to arbitration which would have ended this madness long ago and allowed those who had no choice in this matter - who have missed out on jobs, work, school, doctor visits, hospitals visits, medications, groceries, been evicted or in process of, and some youth now with their future post secondary school plans on hold having been unable to work over xmas or in some cases likely lost forever - and a number that simply won’t ever get back on track.What about those in isolated communities like Mulock Village W of Bathurst St. which also contains some special needs and mental health and other residents who already have little access to much including high schools without a town bus, as the school board refuses to bus them?

  People in wheelchairs are affected too. Do you think they only need to go out once a week as per their "book a week ahead" policy? Get real! Many have numerous worker, therapist, and doctor, etc appointments on differing days, times and locations - and those without someone to shovel their driveways from a charity source, may be isolated even more. that's a service that could be considered for regional coverage or maybe our exclusive service (in Y.R.) the “Talk-2-One” the 24 hour / 7days week messaging system, through which we have literally placed a number of Y.R. homeless people into jobs and homes thereby lowering the burden on the public - and we've only had 10 contact numbers to give out - which we had to negotiate free from the company to show the region it's effectiveness. Placing just two people pays for it for a year for thousands of the free contact # placements, something that can be monitored, and valuable rare Y.R. data also collected, yet no one calls us. Those are the types of social service programs our dear council should have been spending your G.T.A. pooling dollars on instead of balancing its last two budgets on the backs of them. Those dollars were fought for by 110 groups because Y.Regioners claimed we needed them for our own services, but thus far this smug group has done little but pay lip service.

  The strike is no different, as they save $500,000 per week on the backs of those people who have to rely on transit. Do you really think offering free service for a month when it resumes, as I saw on the agenda at the last council meeting when I made a deposition to council to plead with them to end it, will suffice for what they’ve done? And where is the media outrage in this and coverage!

  Make no mistake this is affecting many - from the 60 year old lady who cannot get to work and who will never get her job back now, to the employer who will think twice about hiring someone relying on transit, to the youth, to the 44 year old male who is the statistical average newest homeless person.

  I’d be happy to sit in and negotiate a deal if this council and its unelected leader don’t have stomach for it. I have training and a certificate in group facilitation, and as well hosted,  co-Convened and co-Authored York Region’s only ever social audit in it’s history not long ago, called "Behind The Masks", which the region itself through council adopted recommendations from. Such an audit had to cover input from a diverse group of people experiencing poverty from across York Region – which we could replace with riders – and included politicians, social workers, and social activists, even the Y.R. United Way's Danieli Zanotti was a moderator, all working together with the final product being heavily referenced in The Ontario- wide version put out by interfaith group I.S.A.R.C.. To date I’ve seen no recommendations implemented and received no invites to offer consultation or on how to collect affective data whilst peoples dignity is kept intact, or offers to assist via our real solutions ideas. Besides I can't do any worse than what is being done right now.

  I also got a standing ovation from the union members in council chambers when proposing that council leave their cars at home for the duration to speed up the process - so they like us - although the motion was declined. Unlike some of your Writers and Columnists, I’ve actually spoken to the union guys, and they are not asking for parity which is so commonly reported - having been poisoned initially by a quote from Chair Fisch - but at least we'd go in baring facts, and neutral, as our mandate dictates us to be.

Tom Pearson
Chairman, Poverty Action for Change Coalition

Era-Banner's "Newsmaker" " A New Shelter ..." An array of misinformation

A sign on the door of one of the "non-existent" single women's shelter spots in York Region
  I just read with glee once again about how badly we need another women's shelter in York Region and thank goodness Belinda Stronach has come to the rescue of all those 500 downtrodden homeless single women we have! The Writer, Chris Traber, left out some pertinent facts like 90% of all homeless are men and that the 500 homeless women stat he quotes are in fact not 500 women at all but instead 500 contacts made by any woman single or not to find shelter, that didn't end with them staying there. So, in other words the same people calling numerous times per year to find out if room is available are counted each time, as well as calls referred to another shelter - as long as it doesn't end in them sheltering the caller. So if someone calls the Yellow Brick House and is then directed to call the youth shelter and then the family shelter, that's 3 people to their "stats". Belinda has a good heart I think, but she is often misinformed by people around her, either that or she really believes this bullcrap spin. And no offense meant, but she has no grass-roots experience and no real understanding of what low / no income people go through, man or woman. For goodness sake, her father in the same paper / issue was mentioned as Canada's 21st richest citizen...and anyway aren't there enough buildings, streets, and trails named after people still alive and still involved in community workings around here already!?

  The now defunct Homelessness Alliance's former Director, Jane Wedlock, from where the Era article quotes its "stats", knew that homeless / low income men have by far the least supports here - from shelters to programs ( no men's center here!) and I confronted the former Director  in her office at the time for caving in and supporting the manufactured bandwagon of obviously the least need, when this single women's shelter was being worked up for proposal behind the scenes to the Region some years back now.       
  Affordable housing was what was / is needed and she knew it. It played well though - this brand new of course - shelter for vulnerable single women, with the players and media, as they too were either bamboozled or sell-outs, or in some cases part of the conspiracy of half-truths spun as facts that translated into this manufactured idea of an overwhelming need for more shelters, which was then more or less rubber stamped by council. We don't. Wedlock seemed to take the position that since we weren't likely to get any affordable housing soon, then both a men's and women's shelters were "needed". "One at a time" she'd said. To which I'd replied, "Then we should be taking care of the most in need first shouldn't we!" She now has a cozy Y.R. United Way job.
With a homeless father and son in 2011 we finally got some attention to the lack of supports for men in Y.R.- still nothing.

  Another missing stat is the one that says individual women's shelter use in York Region was down in 2011..why? because of the opening of the new family shelter which takes a lot of the women in, as well the INN From The Cold and Out From the Cold which now shelters all women and still have room for plenty more  as they aren't near full on the women's side- or even used at times. That's right the room sits empty...often! The youth shelters also cater to single young WOMEN up to age 27 which the writer claims so passionately that York Region has absolutely none of. So where is this great demand! It's manufactured my friends to make some people look good.

  Now what should have been done, if they worried about costs at all, was realized in advance the family shelter would / is take the load off the other women's shelters - and then turned one of them into a single women's shelter - thereby saving taxpayers millions of dollars. Those dollars could then have been used to build what is ACTUALLY needed - more affordable housing. Instead, the Region approved the release of $3 (or was it 4?) million dollars to build one, providing this caring "group", and now board, raised the rest. Oh yea, and it has to be run as well, with paid staff lest we forget.And what of the area's Y.R. Councilor? What is his position on this issue? The one who's dad and former mayor sits on or Chair's many of the area's related charity and shelter boards? Hmmmm.

  What we really need immediately is affordable housing for singles so that those homeless women that they'll be shipping here - likely from outside York Region - to fill it up like what we do with affordable housing here for families - can have a place to live after their 6 weeks are up at Belinda's Place - or will they get special status to stay longer than the men do? And I assume by all the wonderful "life changing" programs the writer says they are going to do there it will all happen after supper time - as I 'm thinking that, like the men, they'll be kicked out during the day to their own devises. And guess what? There's a building already available on Leslie St. that could house what they want but no - it has to be a 5 million dollar project that taxpayers are paying the bulk of and whenever Belinda bores of it you'll be stuck maintaining it without her influence. I wonder if the Quakers knew before donating land for this?

  I first spoke about the idea with Belinda, I believe, at one of her functions several years ago. In fact memory serves it was the Good Brothers concert who she'd rented for the Aurora Town Park which I assume she booked for the B.B.Q. as a thank-you gesture for (her) Neighbourhood Network volunteersP.A.C.C had joined the N.Network in order to open up dialogue by supporting their start-up charity and I attended with P.A.C.C. member Dan who hails out of a wheelchair. I don't think she remembered it was I who had beckoned her to join the "Squaretable on Poverty" that we organized while she was M.P., to which she agreed only after I went live on the C.B.C. to solicit a response from a group who had until then, all but ignored us (P.A.C.C.). At any rate, at that time, she said to me, " Did you know they have no women's shelters in York Region?"..I was aghast knowing of 3 right off the top in Markham, Aurora, and Georgina which have the distinction of houses for those "abused" but where no real verifiable proof is needed, so regularly women have gotten around the "abuse" condition by simply claiming it. It's common knowledge of women booking into Georgina for years for summer time in advance, and this was relayed to me by someone who worked there in front of many others. There are also Inns from the Cold which shelter all women, and youth shelters which shelter women up to 27, and the family shelter which I assumed includes women too. I informed her she was misled somewhat at the time and I would have discussed it further had she attended any of our Square Table on Poverty meetings, other than the forced initial one, after which it was an assistant always instead.

  Here's a letter a sent to Regional Chair Bill Fisch in 2009 before they tore down another existing  building that also could have been fixed up and used as the shelter or transitional housing of which only a few for adult women exist currently in York Region and none for men.The Region claimed it couldn't be fixed, yet the foundation looked solid to our visual inspection.
This property on Leslie St. in Queensville is ideal for a shelter and has sat empty since last January. The Region knows it.

  Attention:  Regional Chairman – Bill Fisch                                             Fri May 8 2009                   

  Dear Chairman Fisch,

  It has come to our attention that the shelter known as “Leeder Place” has been slated to be torn down next week. The reason given according to your reports is that the building was not worth fixing up due to costs, yet another shelter (family) is currently being erected at significantly more of a cost. It would seem to us that spending $100, 000 - $150,000 to fix it up, as opposed to $3,000,000 on a new building would make more fiscal sense - or at least lower the need for a full new 40 bed structure as you plan, and save costs. Subsequent inquiries as to seeing the building inspectors report that lead to this decision have not been available to us to view as we were referred by a board member to seek it through the freedom of information act - leading us to wonder if there is something more to this decision?

   The same report indicates that shelter beds are in demand in the region, which is well known, thus we feel the tearing down of any shelters need be scrutinized with public input and as far as we can see no public consultation has been done to date.

  I wonder if we could have the destruction of this shelter postponed until such time as we and others have had a chance to have some input.

  In our opinion this shelter could be used as true ‘transitional” housing as there seems to be no exit strategies for shelter dwellers other than 6 weeks and then out to the streets in many cases, whereas in other regions they offer some longer term temporary housing, especially for men who tend to be homeless longer term which could include an “exit strategy” - instead of recycling them back into shelters via the streets.

  The slated building is only 40 years old whereas the existing buildings being kept are 100 therefore we don’t see how one and not the other can be kept.

  Please let us know if you are willing to delay implementation of the raze order this so that we can have some public consultation on this important matter.


  Rick H, Housing Specialist, Poverty Action for Change Coalition
They did not reply.
Adult Men in York Region have only 26 full time beds to choose from in a population of over 1 million people. No abuse shelters for them even though many are robbed, beaten, and terrorized while living homeless. Even though statistically men are assaulted and killed in far greater percentages than women or children and lest we forget - men are humans too. They bleed. They cry. They fear.They die.

A winter shelter for single women in York Region which the Y.R.M.G. claims none exist in YR. It sat empty that week
  Next up..the local Y.R. boards of these hostels, shelters and organizations seem to be a closed door to a select few with no real grassroots membership. P.A.C.C. will look into this further for the P.A.C.C. report on You Tube! Watch for it!