Reader’s Write: Mayor For A Day

I’d never really given the topic of this post any consideration, until, of course, I received this email.

Beth G. makes a point that none of us can really argue with: there’s a problem in Toronto that nobody wants to admit is there…

If I were mayor for the day, oh, the things I would change!

But there is one thing that stands out in my mind, more than anything else.  It’s something that nobody talks about, in a city that cannot stop talking about SOMETHING.

The homeless.

Toronto, face it: we have a problem with the homeless.  And the problem is not that they exist, but rather that we ignore them, and we simply wish they weren’t here.

And in the past two years, how many times have you heard our mayor talk about the homeless?  Not once, from what I can tell.

As mayor of Toronto for one day, the first thing that I would do is create more homeless shelters and assistance programming for the homeless community. What would this assistance programming consist of you might ask? Well, I would create programming that is accessible to all of those in need, not programming that puts you on a wait list and make you sign document after document with important and personal  information.

I would want to help people of all ages, races and walks of life to be able to head into these institutions and receive the most viable support and assistance. What I mean by this, is to receive help in finding housing, further education and help with employment; this means we must combine programming from all different areas of the social programming sector.

In one day, I would want to make more than just important changes in our community : I would want to create awareness. Making changes is great  for that one day of being Mayor but by creating awareness, I would hope to sustain these changes from day to day and from year to year.

I would want the city of Toronto and its residents to  be fully aware of why I decided to make these changes and to what degree. I want them to be part of these changes.  Well, maybe not everyone,  but I know I want  the homeless community to be a huge, if not an extremely important part, of this process.

Since I would want to make changes to the homeless community, I would speak with numerous individuals in these communities and ask them what changes they want to see done in their community to assist them. Why not ask the people I hope to assist for their opinion?  That’s something nobody else is doing.  Show me one politician that’s out there pounding the pavement and talking to people in the trenches about why they got there in the first place.

I would hope that I, or somebody else, could work with Rob Ford in a way that allowed me to assist, support and give advice on all aspects of the homeless community such as supportive assistance and housing.  Mr. Ford knows not, nor cares in the slightest, about this part of our community, so why not put someone who genuinely cares about these individuals well-being in charge?

You know what – I would be doing Mr. Ford  a favor: by allowing him to focus on other parts of our society such as creating a more viable waterfront and a building a huge ferris wheel like the one in London, England.  He’s all show, and no follow-through.  He’s all talk, and no action.  And he only knows how to focus on the glaring issues that are right in front of us (or non-issues, like the ‘need’ for a ferris wheel), and doesn’t know how, or doesn’t care to deal with issues that might be “hidden” or perhaps easy to overlook.

Let people who actually care about the homeless community care for this community. Mr. Ford, keep doing what you’re doing… caring for yourself.


I guess I fail to distinguish between “homeless” and “lazy and unmotivated.”

Hey – I’m just being completely honest here.  Those guys begging for coins at the Gardiner off-ramp don’t seem very motivated to me.  Offer them a full-time job at minimum wage, and I don’t think they’d take it.

But they represent a very small percentage of “homeless,” and they’re the ones we happen to notice the most.

Much of the homeless population in Toronto is comprised of mentally ill individuals who don’t have a hope in hell of making it on their own without any help.

I know that every cause in Toronto needs/deserves/requires our tax dollars, but when was the last time we heard anybody talk about spending more money on helping the homeless?


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  1. Charley Farley says:

    Every city in the world has a homeless problem (unless the local governments ship them out of the city limits to become someone else’s problem). Homelessness is a multi-layered problem that many politicians don’t tackle because it is so overwelming and unpopular. Homeless people don’t generally vote and many voters would rather we focus resources on a problem with pithier sound bites and more measurable results. But to the guy who suggested these people would not take a minimum wage job if offered, I have one question: Can a person who makes min. wage afford rent anywhere in the GTA?

    Its okay to be uncomfortable with an overwhelming problem. But please, don’t be flip or judgemental unless you have lived without a home or hope. You have to have hope to affect change and I don’t know anyone who can have much hope without a home.

  2. Bertie Wooster says:

    This is a terrible idea. If Toronto unilaterally spends all this money to “fix” homelessness it will wreck the city’s finances and turn Toronto into a magnet for homeless people from all over. This should be the responsibility of the province or the federal govt and not something that is funded out of city property taxes.

    1. Joe Q. says:

      It was the responsibility of the province until 1999.

  3. Gerrit4 says:

    Homelessness is definitely a huge problem. David, the majority of homeless people in Toronto are not the people you see begging on the street, they’re often people with jobs, or with families. Homeless means “without a home,” so that refers to families living on friends couches, staying in shelters, and unable to pay the rent.

    It’s a huge issue, and Canada is not the leader you would think they are in this regard.

    Programs like Habitat for Humanity are a huge help to the housing problem, but they’re just a start.

    Homelessness is a huge part of your job, because your job involves putting people in homes! Toronto is one of the most expensive places in Canada to live, and the average salary does not reflect the cost of housing at all. I met a guy recently (who moved here from the phillipines) who was working 8 hour days at Dollarama, and 8 hour midnight shifts at Coffee Time nearly every day – just to pay the rent of his little basement apartment.

    Many people are too proud to beg on the street, or be seen sleeping in public places. But there are a ton of homeless people that we don’t see, and don’t “look” like homeless people.

    1. Bertie Wooster says:

      Maybe some people can’t afford to live in Toronto and should move somewhere where rents are cheaper.

      1. Joe Q. says:

        … presumably within commuting distance to Toronto, so they can continue to work at their two full-time jobs?

        Who do you propose should work these low-paying retail jobs — the independently wealthy?

        1. Bertie Wooster says:

          Arts and humanities graduates.

          1. Tyson says:

            Bertie for the win. That was pretty ace. I howled.

  4. Tammy says:

    While I don’t disagree that this is a hugely ignored segment of our population with very few dedicated people working in the trenches to do the best they can with what they have to work with, this is an extremely complex issue that goes well beyond the building of more shelter beds and the provision of more social programs.

    I worked in those trenches for a few years and spent a considerable amount of time doing outreach within our shelter system. The vast majority of our “truly” homeless (I won’t get into the organized rings that work the off-ramps) have mental health issues, addiction issues or both. They are highly transient and often mistrustful of the “system”. Many are fearful of the shelters, and with good reason. I have been witness to a number of physical attacks and theft of what few personal belongings they have is common. Shelter and outreach workers do their best but even when they are able to make those links to services, their ability to follow up and provide the intense ongoing support that is needed to sustain any gains is difficult with the resources they have.

    My work with the homeless centered around assisting them to navigate the complex system of income security programs (Ontario Works, ODSP and CPP disability) in order to then help them pursue subsidized housing. Most of these income security programs require that you either be looking for work or, provide medical evidence that you can’t. The biggest problem there is that many of the homeless are not able to work but often lack basic medical care for the issues preventing them from doing so. Even amongst those that do occasionally visit various clinics, there is a significant lack of follow up because they don’t always go to the same clinics and there are often large gaps in time between visits. Obtaining a medical history sufficient to establish eligibility for one of these income security programs is akin to searching for hen’s teeth.

    To address the homelessness issue, the city needs to start with a strategy that includes a framework to ensure access to proper medical attention/follow up¸ safe/secure shelters and a case management system that supports the shelter/outreach workers in providing sustained access to programs and services.

  5. Floom says:

    I respect this post and enjoyed reading it – Beth didn’t do the obvious “If I were Mayor, I’d do the following to make my life better…” I would offer, however, that her suggestions seem to be to just throw more money at the problem: more shelters, more job counselers. Lets be honest -many of the homeless have mental illness and aren’t capable of working. Also, many sleep outdoors because they find shelters dangerous and want to be left alone -would you force them to go into a shelter? Also, in terms of jobs -this economy is not great, hiring a bunch of employment counselers alone won’t get them jobs. Beth comments that the programs we have available make you sign document after document, disclosing important and personal information -and that’s wrong because?…They can’t be bothered to sign documents to get themselves access to services or a home? Or organizations shouldn’t ask for personal information before doling out assistance? So Anonymous housing? I’m sure I’m simplifying it and we need people like Beth or people like myself won’t do anything but my read is that Beth’s solutions seem to be to just throw more money at the issue.