Category Archives: Toronto poverty

Waive recreation fees at Antibes

Councillor Pasternak wants community space to offer free rec
Kris Scheuer
(Written April 4 for Town Crier.)

Councillor James Pasternak wants the city to make Antibes a Priority Centre where all recreation fees would be waived. Photo courtesy City of Toronto.

Residents in the under-served Antibes community shouldn’t have to pay out of pocket for rec programs offered at the local community centre, councillor James Pasternak says.
The Ward 10 rep is asking city council to consider making the Antibes Community Centre, located off Bathurst Street, north of Finch Avenue, a designated priority centre.
City program fees continue to increase, and programs formerly offered for free now have costs, Pasternak said. This is affecting participation rates in a neighbourhood where the average annual family income is about $30,000 lower than Toronto’s average.
“Making (Antibes) a priority centre is crucial for Ward 10,” Pasternak said. “It would allow unfettered access to recreation. It would help newcomers and low-income residents.” Continue reading


Sellors, Matlow, Molls campaign

Ward 22 candidates campaign spending priorities
Kris Scheuer
(Written Aug. 23 for Town Crier)

Ward 22 candidate Chris Sellors.

In the competitive St. Paul’s Ward 22 race, candidates seek any advantage they can gain over their opponents.
As of Aug. 23, candidate Chris Sellors was the only hopeful planning to open a campaign office. His storefront office opened Sept. 1 in a prime spot on Yonge Street at Belsize Drive.
Sellors said he started scanning empty stores in late March, but the first call he made was for a space at 1973 Yonge Street. The spot needed fixing up and was empty because it’s part of an eight-storey redevelopment project.
It’s here where Sellors plans to hold team meetings, and provide campaign literature, he said. It’s also a place where voters can access him.
“I was swift enough to look for a campaign office when everyone else was sleeping,” Sellors said Aug. 20. Continue reading

Toronto food bank need

The Stop provides food, advocates for better welfare rates
Second Harvest distributes fresh produce for those in need
By Kris Scheuer
(Written April 21 for Town Crier.)

Mary Milne is a recipient and volunteer at The Stop. Photo courtesy of Second Harvest.

After paying her mortgage, Mary Milne doesn’t have enough money to feed herself for the month.
So she turns to The Stop Food Centre in the Davenport-Perth neighbourhood near her home.
“If I can pay my telephone bill each month I am lucky,” the senior says suddenly tearing up.
Each month, 67-year-old Milne gets a food basket for three days worth of meals and receives breakfasts and lunches a few days a week when she volunteers at The Stop. To get money for laundry and other monthly costs she sells her poster art, sketches and homemade jewelry.
Milne spoke to the Town Crier on April 15 while attending the silver anniversary of Second Harvest, which provides fresh produce to The Stop and 250 other GTA social agencies.
“I’ll be 68 this year and I’m barely surviving on old age security,” she told those gathered at the anniversary. “Second Harvest provides healthy food that I can’t afford to shop for.” Continue reading

Flemingdon Food Bank’s new home

Basement space cheaper than plaza location but less visible
By Kris Scheuer
(Written Oct. 23 for Town Crier.)

Flemingdon Food Bank volunteer Betsy Wu helps ease the burden on families in need. Photo by Francis Crescia/Town Crier.

After being kicked out of the Flemingdon Plaza, the Flemingdon Food Bank is getting back on its feet in a new home.
As a result of revitalization at the plaza, the food bank moved to the basement of the Flemingdon Health Centre at 10 Gateway Blvd.
“They terminated our lease,” said Helena-Rose Houldcroft, interim director of the food bank. “They were moving everyone out.
“We got notice at the end of March, and had April and May to get out.” Continue reading

Flemingdon social housing needs repair

My sleepover in the community housing highlights the good and bad
Flemo holds place in my heart ever since
By Kris Scheuer
(Originally written for Town Crier Jan/5/06)

On Dec. 5, MPP Kathleen Wynne and I stayed over in the Toronto Community Housing (TCH) rent-gear-to-income apartment located in the heart of one of the city’s poorest neighbourhoods.
When I got the tour of the TCH complex, where we were staying I quickly learned why the housing organization was seeking $224 million from the government to repair its 2,200 buildings across the city. Here in Flemingdon, which is southeast of Don Mills and Eglinton, one of the most dramatic needs is to fix the locks on the doors to the buildings and underground garages.
The building where we stayed had a busted front door lock, so anyone can enter the main entrance and congregate in the halls or worse. And this was not an anomaly. Other front and side entrance door locks were broken and so was the lock to the underground garage.
The housing manager John Martin said some gangs hang in this neighbourhood, so imagine having to walk by a drug deal as you make your way to your car or apartment unit? Continue reading

Poor in Toronto getting poorer still

United Way report tracks where poorest live and what’s needed to help
By Kris Scheuer
(Originally published May 13/04 for Town Crier.)

Regent Park is home to two of the very poorest of Toronto’s 522 neighbourhoods. 
This may not be a surprise, but what is disheartening is a higher percentage of the community is poor compared to 10 and 20 years ago and of those, who are poor, their level of poverty is more severe. 
Poverty levels are defined, in this case, using Statistics Canada’s low-income cut-offs (LICO). A two-parent family with two kids living on a combined income of $36,247 or less is considered poor. 
In the United Way’s ‘Poverty by Postal Code’ report released on April 5, it defines four levels of poverty from lower, moderate, high (2x national 1981 average) and very high (more than 3x the national average). It compared 1981, 1991 and 2001 levels of poverty. 
In one of Regent Park’s communities, 72.8 per cent of families are living in very high poverty.
But unfortunately, this is not an anomaly. Continue reading

City approves affordable housing plan

New units, fixing old ones, rent subsidies to help those in need
Plan calls for additional $484 million annually for housing
By Kris Scheuer
(Originally written May 27/09 for Town Crier. This plan passed at council Aug. 7)

Heather Cunningham has lived in mental health facilities, shelters, detox centres and under bridges.
The formerly homeless 25-year-old is currently on the city’s affordable housing waiting list, along with 66,000 others.
Meanwhile, she’s paying full market value for an apartment in a 12-storey building in the east end. She’s been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and lives on $1,099 a month from the Ontario Disability Support Program. Her rent gobbles up $850 of that and would eat her out of house and home if not for the help of her mother, who foots half the bill.
“My mom wanted to take a year off work but can’t because she’s helping me out,” said Cunningham, who’s been on the subsidized-housing waiting list for three years. “I’d have to go to the food bank if my mom didn’t help me. I’d be in poverty.”
Cunningham’s not looking for social housing but rather a rent subsidy to lower the cost of staying in her current apartment.
She’s one of almost 250,000 people the city plans to help with its 10-year Affordable Housing Action Plan, which still needs a nod from city council. (It was approved Aug. 7)
“We are proposing to help (the) one-fifth of Toronto residents … in need of housing help,” said Sean Gadon, director of the city’s Affordable Housing Office. “Over the 10-year plan, we hope to help 50 percent of those households.” Continue reading

Mould in city housing forces tenants out

Repairs in Toronto Community Housing could take two years to fix
Residents at Balmy Beach apartments relocated, wait to return home

42 Hubbard will get interior renovations. Photo by Kris Scheuer/Town Crier.

By Kris Scheuer
(Written July 14/09 for Town Crier. Jan 13/10 UPDATE.)
Beaven wants to know when she can move back into the beachfront social housing building she has called home for almost two decades.
All tenants at 42 Hubbard Blvd. were relocated in March because of mould, although she said some left as late as May. 
The city-owned Toronto Community Housing low-rise building, just steps from Kew-Balmy Beach, has been vacant since.
“I am getting calls and e-mails and (queries) on my Facebook account asking me the status of 42 Hubbard,” said Beaven, the building’s tenant rep. 
“It would be nice if they cared enough to give us an update every three months so we don’t feel we’ve been forgotten,” she said.
The tenants were moved so a solution could be found, say city officials. 
“They couldn’t do the repairs, it was too costly, while people were (living) there while they do the work,” Beaches-East York councillor Sandra Bussin said.
Continue reading

Homeless living along Toronto’s Don Valley

By Kris Scheuer
(Published in NOW magazine March 23-30/06)

Through a break in a chain-link fence, over train tracks and felled trees and down slick mud banks – there’s no quick or easy route to this chaotic homeless encampment tucked not so neatly into a secluded corner of the Don Valley.
It’s a sanctuary from the bustle of the city, an ideal place to avoid society for my guide, Kurt, and seven or eight other homeless people who call this scattering of tents, sleeping bags and garbage home.
An estimated 111 homeless encampments are scattered throughout the city’s ravines, parks and woodlands, including many right here in the valley.
The city used to tolerate the people who call the valley home — but now a slowly building movement for their removal is theatening their riverbed shelters. It started when council passed a bylaw banning sleeping in Nathan Phillips Square and other public spaces.
Staff from the city’s Streets to Homes programs and other departments have been paying more regular visits to the Don.
Some 20 encampments have been cleared city-wide, and interviews with city staff suggest that more evictions are planned come spring. Streets to Homes says its forays are aimed at helping valley-dwellers find rental accommodation. Continue reading

No free TTC ride

Toronto councillors among those who get Metropass perk
Not so for women in shelters in need of affordable transit

By Kris Scheuer
Unlike local politicians who get free yearly Metropasses to get around town, Natoya, who lives in a women’s shelter in the Rosedale area, often has to walk to job interviews and the St. Lawrence Centre where she volunteers.
The shelter she stays at provides meals and snacks and a place to sleep and one TTC token per weekday, which the shelter fundraises to be able to afford to give to all 50 residents.
The 23-year-old is not on welfare but does get $3.75 a day from social services as a personal allowance, which she often has to use to buy a token ($2.50) to return to the shelter.
On a “slow day” Natoya uses the TTC five times per day to go to job interviews, job centres and get to the place she volunteers. “Every day I go out and do some job hunting,” she said. “So my allowance goes to bus fare. On weekends I volunteer but have no tokens (to get there).”
She has been accepted to a broadcast journalism program offered jointly by Seneca College and York University for this September, but at this point is not sure how she’ll get up to the Seneca campus at Keele St. and Steeles Ave.
She’s paid for half her tuition and has permission to pay off the rest throughout the year. She is looking for a job in her career, but will take any administrative job to help pay for school and books.
The TTC gives out almost 19,000 free Metropasses a year.
All sitting city councillors and the mayor are offered a free transit pass. The TTC also dishes out eleven lifetime passes to all TTC commissioners when they retire.
Not everyone uses the pass, but because the pass has a picture of the recipient on it it’s non-transferable.

Continue reading