I’ve lived in some pretty bad areas of the city. And some of the nicer ones too. Living in the west end and having my house broken into and hearing someone being stabbed outside and listening to prostitutes fight and having weird dudes in cars follow me when I walked home at night probably constitutes a not-so-good neighbourhood. Then I lived in the east end and it was just odd: inbetween two established areas (b/w India Town and a quaint, posh area), the few blocks around my flat were a sort of neutral zone with no real personality apart from being slightly trashy. ( I worked at a lunch counter there – the last of its kind in our city – and heard little old ladies say crazy-ass racist things. To say I was shocked would be gross understatement.)
Now, I’ve sort of come full circle. The first place I lived in the city when my mother left her marriage with me and whatever she could fit into her tiny car was a basement apartment a block away from where I live now. Then, (a million years ago) it was an Italian neighbourhood with many amazing restaurants and cafes and gelato places. It hasn’t aged terribly well. It’s a bit down at the heel with more doctor’s offices and pharmacies and (for whatever reason) shoe stores and bridal shops. You can tell from the names of the restaurants that remain that the Italians largely moved out only to be taken up by the Portuguese people who moved in and the Spanish-speaking people (mostly from Central America) who moved in after that. It’s a pleasant mix of this and that. My electoral riding is the most culturally diverse in a very culturally diverse city and my neighbourhood sits near the handle of our dagger-shaped riding.
I’m not a big fan of our city councillor. If you watch any council meetings, (they are occasionally broadcast on the public access station) you are unlikely the see him. On a sliding scale of prominence I’d put him somewhere between “lying low” and “invisible”. He is against public transit and in favour of privatisation of garbage collection. He is also against prostitution, by which I mean he is against sex workers rather than johns. His main priority (as evidenced by his website) is getting rid of the methadone clinic because of the “problems it causes”. From that website:
The Province … continues to fund the Methadone Clinic … despite the fact that it is operating in a manner that is both disruptive and harmful to the revitalization of our community. Unfortunately, the clinic is treating many more patients than it is equipped to handle. This has led to an overflow of patients that has resulted in disturbing and unacceptable behaviour.
The situation has gotten completely out of control and has reached the point where the local McDonald’s has installed a safe needle disposal station in its washroom. This has shocked the many children, seniors, and families who regularly visit this establishment.
A sharps box: o! the horror! Imagine the nightmares all those senoirs are having for having seen a plastic box in a washroom. Councillor Jerkface seems to be making a distinction between the ‘decent’ people in the neighbourhood and everyone else. Seniors, children and families are decent, as are business owners and johns. Single people, sex workers, street people are everyone else. Tidy.
A few days ago someone was stabbed in broad daylight in the clothing store (nestled between the aforementioned McDonalds and a ubiquitous Canadian coffee shop) across the street from the methadone clinic and two blocks from where I live. Our municipal representative was quick to link the stabbing with the methadone clinic without any evidence that the suspect (“described as a man in his 30s with cornrows and a goatee who fled the area on foot”) had ever visited the clinic. But if we’re gonna get all speculate-ey and just make shit up, my theory is that it has a lot more to do with the defunding of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
About 10 years back, a number of mental health and addiction facilities were amalgamated to form CAMH (as it is known). When that happened, there were winners and losers as some facilites gained funding, others lost ground and still others broke new ground. The southernmost location was one of the winners. This facility is interesting. Known as 999 (for its address) when I was small, it was infamous in the city. Dark stories were told about the residents and darker stories about how they were treated by the staff. When I was still young, the address was changed to 1001 “in an effort to symbolically disconnect the new centre from its stigmatized past“. (Because that kind of thing totally works – sheesh.) So when facilities from all over the city became one happy family, the plan was to totally redesign 999 and in order to do that, they just kicked a whole bunch of the residents out onto the streets. Which could maybe be justified if there were dozens of smaller drop-in centres and shelters to make sure people got their medication and were taking it and weren’t just sleeping rough without access to anti-psychotics.
But no. “Good luck and make sure to take your meds! See you in a few years at our grand re-opening!”
But there’s also this from a local paper from last year:
The Mental Health Commission of Canada released a series of recommendations Wednesday aimed at improving how police forces interact with people with mental health issues in order to avoid some of the tragic outcomes that have occurred in recent years.
The commission’s review came out of several controversial cases in which individuals with mental health problems died in confrontations with police officers.
Well, that’s sort of like closing the barn door after the horse has bolted.