PARC-Beat_DecemberCover - Parkdale Activity

Voices Connecting our Community
Art activists bring pillows
to affordable housing fight
ational Housing Day
(November 21) was
launched in 2000 by The
Toronto Disaster Relief
Committee. It was one of many
platforms used by housing activists
to increase public understanding
of why homelessness existed and
how it should be ended. Now,
14 years later, people across
Canada continue to gather every
November: to emphasize why
housing is a human right and
continue pressing for the national
housing strategy we need to build
homes that will end homelessness.
Over all this time various
governments have refused to
address this problem in any
substantive way.
The PARC community bears
witness to the personal
suffering and health impacts of
homelessness. Many members
have personally experienced
homelessness. Many have relied on
PARC to support their passage from
a homeless episode to find housing
- and if good fortune truly presents
– to the safety of a ‘real’ home.
But most members continue to live
precariously, just one misstep away
from homelessness.
So this year, supported by Making
Room Community Arts, PARC set
out to capture what our members
felt and thought about the journey
from homelessness to home.
Over ten days members were
asked to share their experiences
and then express them through an
activist art project where people
made and decorated pillows. Why
pillows? Because the pillow, it was
decided, represents home while the
images and statements on them
represent what it means to lose a
home and what it means to find
On November 21, a colourful
contingent of 25 members and
staff marched to Dundas Square
to join the 300 people gathered
there. While our PARC Drummers
beat out the call for change, we
art activists carried our demand
for real housing, echoed by the
voices of many members. (Thank
you to the PARC Art Group for
equipping us with such a creative
and inspiring banner).
Later that day we joined a
packed Church of the Holy Trinity.
We heard about the conditions
in Canada that create unstable
PARCbeat 1
housing and lead to homelessness:
how almost one in 10 tenants use
more than 80% of their income
to pay their rent; how Canada
once had 585,000 subsidized
housing units but has lost 450,000
subsidies since 2006.
What can be done about the
housing crisis causing our homeless
crisis? Well, we should support
the effort in the courts to establish
that all citizens have a Legal Right
to Housing. We can realize our
government is breaking the law
and can be held accountable for
their destructive inaction.
We can remember what John
Donne once said, “no man or
woman is an island” because we
are related to each other and a
larger truth. Life, freedom, and
personal safety can only be secure
if we live and act in ways that
maintain this sacred bond.
By Bob Rose
Editorial Committee :
Geoff Gans
Ann Lapena
Darlene Lucas
Leslie Miller
Helen Parkinson
Bob Rose
Omid Zareian
Got a story, cartoon,
or idea to pitch? Got
a bone to pick or
something nice to say?
PARC Beat wants to
hear from you. Email:
[email protected] or
come talk to Geoff on
the 2nd floor.
the right to
live in quality
Homelessness is more than just
an issue for people living in poverty
or at risk of being homeless, it is
a societal issue. That is why the
discourse around homelessness
must take place at a societal level,
articulating the right to not only
have a roof over one’s head, but the
right to live in quality housing.
At least 200,000 Canadians sleep
outside or access emergency
shelters in a given year in Canada;
this does not include the 50,000
people precariously housed or
staying with friends or relatives.
Contrast this with Canada’s Gross
Domestic Product, an indicator of
the economic wellbeing of a nation,
which is $43,247 USD per capita,
almost quadrupling since 1980.
2 PARCbeat
Supportive housing programs such
as PARC’s role in the community
provide some respite for this
societal issue but we must elevate
this in the consciousness of our
community and our society.
grown throughout the years. Beyond
the 10 units on the 3rd floor of
PARC, Edmond Place is a testament
to the importance of providing safe
and decent housing for vulnerable
The wealth of this country
combined with proven models
that exist outside of the market
such as supportive housing and
co-operative housing make up a
realistic equation for creating a
Canada where everyone thrives in
decent homes.
The ability to maintain and secure
decent housing is the first step
for individuals to address other
challenges they may face, such
as: poverty, mental health issues,
trauma, social isolation, disabilities
and other life barriers. Once an
individual has a place they can
call home, they can recover by
connecting to the community here
at PARC and in the neighbourhood
and do more than survive – they can
begin to thrive.
By Omid Zareian
I have been doing housing support
work for 12 years at PARC; this job
began when I was a student and
led to a full-time position that has
How do you feel about
I consider myself a kind person. I
also consider myself a just person
who wants to see things done right.
Seeing people on the streets really
angers me. It reminds me of when
my parents would make me shovel
snow with no shirt on. It was
twenty years.
No matter the question I would
ask her, I kept getting the same
answer. She would tell me about
her picture that was up in the halls
of St. Mike’s and how she used
to be a back-up singer for Bruce
When I set out to interview people
living on the streets, I wasn’t
scared or nervous. I just wanted
to hear people’s stories and find
out why they were living on the
On the day I interviewed her
Joanne was staying at a shelter.
She said she didn’t like shelters
though because of all the rules. “If
you don’t follow them, you can get
kicked out. That’s how it goes”.
The first person I interviewed was
Joanne. Joanne has been living
on the streets for ten years and
has not had a place of her own for
I also interviewed a man named
Chico. Chico lived on the streets
for about three years before being
housed at PARC. The year was
2002. The day was November 21,
National Housing Day. Today Chico
is still living at PARC, which is
where our interview took place.
About living on the streets,
Chico said he felt depressed and
bored. He too had bad things to
say about shelters. He didn’t like
them because you can get bedbugs
there. During this time, Chico
mostly ate at churches. “When
you’re homeless food is food”.
Chico would panhandle and
some days get enough money
for cigarettes and coffee. “People
always looked at you funny”, he
said, “like you were making a
hundred dollars a day.” Those
were hard times for Chico. He saw
someone stabbed right in front
of him and said there were times
when he feared for his life. He used
cardboard for a bed, would freeze
in the winter, and burn in the
summer heat.
I feel bad because there is not
enough being done about people
living on the streets even though
there is Streets to Homes and there
are shelters. People don’t want to
go to shelters. What people need
is more affordable rent-geared to
income housing and supportive
At PARC we have a drop-in but no
active group that addresses people
being homeless. People walk in
off the street but sometimes don’t
want to say anything about their
situation. Winter time is coming
up and folks are going to need
resources. More interaction and
engagement is key.
Rob Rowe, a former PARC
outreach worker, and two nurses
helped Chico get off the streets
and for this Chico expresses his
gratitude. Not only has Chico been
housed but he also has stopped
drinking since moving into third
floor at 1499 Queen Street West.
He is happy where he is living and
welcomes friends that come see
By Ann Lapena
PARCbeat 3
According to the Vision Report
published by the GTA Legal Clinics’
Transformation Project, legal clinics
“can be reorganized to provide
more and better services to our
client community”.
However, I’ve lived in Toronto
my whole life and as a community
activist I have seen how Toronto’s
existing community legal clinics
provide essential services to
low income and marginalized
individuals and families every day.
I believe that the city’s community
legal clinics must remain rooted
in local communities in order to
have relevance for the people who
access its services.
The Transformation Project
proposes to replace the existing 14
community legal clinics in the GTA
with three mega clinics.
I worry what would happen if
Parkdale Community Legal Services
(PCLS) were to close its doors?
Seniors, people with disabilities,
people working long hours and who
cannot afford bus fare, people who
cannot afford child care, or people
fleeing violent relationships, will
all be alienated from lawyers and
crucial legal services.
The report suggests phone and
internet intakes will improve access
to the justice system.
Currently clinics have long wait
lists of people seeking the advice of
a lawyer. People access legal aid for
reasons such as facilitating a claim
to Ontario Disabilities Support
Program (ODSP), to dispute an
eviction notice by their landlord, or
to challenge an immigration system
that places them at risk of being
I know these clinics understand
peoples’ needs and act on them.
People trust these deeply rooted
clinics, which have decades of
history standing up for the rights of
PCLS is Canada’s oldest
and largest legal clinic. So
whatever happens to it will have
consequences that resonate
throughout our city and our country
as a whole. The issues of poverty
4 PARCbeat
that people face in Parkdale can be
found everywhere.
An important local
resistance group organizing against
the proposed clinic merger is
Keep Neighbourhood Legal Clinics
(Keepers). The Keepers have two
key goals: to stop the current
plan to close down the community
legal clinics; and support a new,
community-based process that
looks at how we can better serve
the needs and interests of poor
By Darlene Lucas
To join the Keepers and help prevent the
closing of these legal clinics and promote
stronger community control, local access,
and better service for poor people, email:
[email protected]
To read the actual Vision Report, visit
In a packed house this past
October, PARC Ambassador, Leslie
Miller asked a pointed question to
our then would-be mayors: “What
specific policies and strategies
will you implement in order to
substantially increase the stock of
real affordable housing in Toronto?”
Chow and Tory both proposed
creating new incentives for private
developers to include affordable
units in their luxury condo projects.
Pragmatic, maybe? But their
strategy seems lacklustre in a city
as dynamic as Toronto. The truth
is developer incentives offer no
The three candidates – Olivia
real mechanism for preserving
Chow, John Tory and Ari Goldkind – existing forms of affordable and
all suggested they had little power social housing. It also ignores the
to deal with the affordable housing displacement factor: a well-known
negative outcome of gentrification.
crisis without big bucks from the
federal and provincial governments.
Luckily, Parkdale is not the
type of community that waits for
government or big business to
solve its problems. Waiting did
not create Parkdale Community
Legal Services, Parkdale ActivityRecreation Centre, West End Food
Coop, or Edmond Place – some
amazing local institutions started
by residents working together.
Parkdale Neighbourhood
Land Trust (PNLT) is a new
democratically-run community
organization with a mandate
to take ownership of land in
Parkdale and make sure it’s used
for community needs such as
affordable and supportive housing.
As Parkdale continues to gentrify
the PNLT will preserve land and
housing to ensure it serves people,
not profit.
Leslie Miller knows firsthand the
benefits of community-controlled
supportive housing. After becoming
homeless five years back, Miller
struggled to find a dignified living
situation. “They were supposed
to have a certain level of support
and to be quite honest they were
awful”, said Miller about a series of
privately owned rooming homes in
which he was placed.
Today however, Miller has a
stable home. Two years ago,
Miller became a tenant of Edmond
Place, a 29-unit affordable and
supportive housing building owned
and operated by PARC, a non-profit
landlord. With the development
of Edmond Place, PARC has
demonstrated local capacity for
community-controlled supportive
So in 2012, PARC brought
together over 100 local residents
and organization with the hope
of catalyzing similar communitydriven land-use projects in the
coming years.
Helping PNLT achieve this goal is a
three-year grant recently awarded
by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
The grant will allow PNLT to
develop organizational capacity
as the first community-based land
trust in Toronto, positioning it
to push forward land acquisition
projects and replicate its model in
other GTA neighbourhoods.
As Miller can attest, the stakes
are huge. “I am personally blessed.
Having this housing (and services
attached) beyond any shadow of
doubt has literally saved my life.
The thing is – for every one person
like myself and my fellow peers at
Edmond Place – there are 1000
others who are still stuck out there
– sleeping in doorways, and on
park benches.” By - Joshua Barndt
PARCbeat 5
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And on Christmas Eve we would
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create a holiday
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people who had none.
There were three members with
me that day, Wilfred, Peter and
John, each of them as unique as a
snow flake. Not unlike our tree lot
keeper. A rough-hewn Nova
ecember 25
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@ 1499
the Drop-in
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the whole nine
Soft flakes drifting down like feathers
falling from the sky. Christmas was
just two weeks away and I was
visiting our local Christmas tree lot to
buy three trees for PARC: one for the
drop-in, another for our second floor
and something tiny for the smoking
room at the front. The three trees
would soon be loaded with lights and
In the days leading up to Christmas
I would also hide cigarettes in the
smallest tree for members to find.
It made people laugh with their
morning coffee. And on Christmas Eve
we would serve turkey with all the
trimmings and invite a changing cast
of members to dress up in our Santa
Claus suit and hand out presents.
Then on Christmas Day we opened
unofficially for a few hours just to
create a holiday living room for people
who had none.
There were three members with me
that day, Wilfred, Peter and John,
each of them as unique as a snow
flake. Not unlike our tree lot keeper.
A rough-hewn Nova Scotian with
oversized hands and an oversized
laugh, we visited him every year with
a slew of other loyal customers. Good
trees at a good price. As always
he asked how PARC was. But this
day was quiet because we were his
only customers. So our chatting was
merrier than usual as he pulled out
trees and we signed off on the ones
we wanted.
As we stood back to admire our
choices, the lot keeper took a deep
breath and out of the blue asked, “Hey
would you boys like a cigar?” Eyes
opened wide and heads tilted back in
surprised joy. Seeing this, the owner
waved towards his assistant and
shouted out, “Go get doz cigars for all
of us.”
In a flash we were puffing away,
blowing smoke rings across the lot
and talking about the upcoming
celebrations. The snow still fell but
now it mixed with the sweetness
of our cigars and the smell of pine
and spruce. Our little world was as
peaceful and gentle as a cat’s purr.
Suddenly the lot man leaned forward
as if about to share a secret. “Say
now, would you boys like a drink?”
Everyone’s eyes were now saucer
wide. You could feel the excitement as
we marched toward the shack. Inside
we gathered around a milk crate
table. The warmth of the small room
and sweet rum shots washed over
us. It was then I noticed the joists of
this plywood haven lined with empty
With slow steps we filed out of
our haven, each of us thanking our
gracious host for his hospitality.
I paused to ask,“So how many
Christmas trees you sold over your
career?” The lot man leaned forward
and looked at each of us and then in
his Scotian drawl said:
“Well…I been in tha’ business for
tirdy years. Hell…must ‘a sold at least
ten tousand trees, a small forest of
dem. And ya know every Christmas is
tha same. The people comin’ all wanna
buy a beautaful tree. And damned if I
don’t sell em one. But ya gotta know
this: I see lots of other people visiting
me…Poor people. Sometimes so poor
all they can do is look at doz trees.
When I ask em which one they want
they get all quiet don’t ya know…can’t
buy…no money. So what do you think
I do? I damned well give em one….50
or 60 trees every year. So go on, drink
up! What the hell…its Christmas!”
By: Bob Rose
6 PARCbeat
PARCbeat 7
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has released a concept album, Angel in
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on the many residents he has met over
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Joining Mahabir are some
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David Madden (Bob Marley),
John Borra (Rattlesnake Choir,
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professional wrestler and
now country singer, Sweet
Daddy Siki. The album also
includes an original painting
by Parkdale's own David
The CD is available at PARC
for 10$ with 4$ from each sale
going to PARC’s Music Program.
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for over 16 years 1436 Queen St West | (416) 533-4554
As a friend of PARC, your support matters.
This holiday season, help support our community
by giving the gift of food.
Please donate now @
Or mail a cheque to: 1499 Queen St. W., Toronto, ON M6R 1A3
Card #: ________________________Exp.__________
Help us save the cost of a stamp.
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8 PARCbeat