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.


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 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