Blog /How To Fix The World Starting With A Neighbourhood

September 05, 2005 17:59 +0000  |  Why I'm Here 3

A woman says her recovering alcoholic husband isn't recovering too well; a teenager talks about how the hookers are moving up from Kingston Rd. and into the stairwells; residents describe social programs cut to the bone and no hope for their kids; a child tells of seeing a man shoot up with a needle (what's he doing, Mommy?); children have nightmares from watching a man gunned down in cold blood and; now, mothers keep their kids inside on steaming summer nights.

City Councillor Brian Ashton (Ward 36, Scarborough Southwest) says the place should be razed and rebuilt. He says the worsening condition of the decaying buildings is a direct result of funding cutbacks by the Harris provincial government in the late 1990s. The cost of public housing was dumped on to a cash-strapped city in 1998 and, since then, there has been an annual shortfall of $225 million in the social development budget that covers public housing.

Linda Diebel & Isabel Teotonio, the toronto star

The above is an excerpt from a disturbing article I found in yesterday's star. It had my brain tingling for hours, trying to think of ways I could fix all this, maybe make a dent in the mess that we've collectively allowed to happen.

And i think i have an idea

The focus of the article is not that "life sucks when you're poor and black", but rather that the conditions these people are living under are atrocious and that they're inextricably linked to the terrible life expectency and violent crime. Take away a man's ability to feed his family, and with that, you take away dignity and hope. People with no hope will do anything.

Public housing in Ontario and across the country is in terrible condition. The Liberals cut funding to the provinces, who then offloaded everything to the cities and so projects like affordable housing are getting short changed. I suggest, that the people themselves pick up the slack and show government that we don't need them to do it for us.

A non-profit, co-operative housing agency that combines volunteer skilled tradesmen, corporate donation, government funding and most importantly the manpower of the thousands who would benefit into a single force that builds newburg-style sustainable living complexes. That's a mouthful, so I'll explain:

You take some of the money the government usually uses to pay private contractors for affordable housing, and you give it to this agency which then finds the tradesmen we need. When the committee (staff) is established, they start training the would-be inhabitants (volunteers) of the new complex in their own skills.

The staffers train a small team for each sector of development, but do very little work themselves. The staff role is in management and education, not labour. That's left to the corps of volunteers those who stand to benefit from the housing themselves. Where more technical training (ie. years of school) is required and no one is available, students from local universities can apply to help out as interns. The important difference is that the volunteers aren't being "given" a new home, but are instead taking an active part in its construction. After the project is finished, the complex would be run and maintained much like other co-ops in the city, by the residents.

Of course I have no idea as to how to go about doing this, but it makes more sense to me than anything else that's being done. I would think that it would have to work much like Habitat for Humanity, but on a grander scale, with the skilled people training the un-skilled rather than doing all the work themselves. But important things like how to organise, where to start -- not a clue. It's an unfortunate side effect of being the dreamer-type I guess. I need other people who know this sort of thing to help me get started.

Any volunteers?


8 Sep 2005, 3:12 a.m.  | 

A very good idea Dan. I remember reading about a similar project in Vancouver. If I remember correctly, it was done during the NDP Government's time. I don't remember the name of the Project but I do remember seeing pictures of some of the residents taking great pride in their surroundings.
Sorry I can't be of more help. Perhaps some of your readers will have a better memory.

12 Sep 2005, 5:39 p.m.  | 

Your idea is great. So great that it's already being done in the US and Canada. It's called Habitat for Humanity and it's been very successful wherever it's been done. When Reba Macentire was in town she spread the word through booths and brochures encouraging people to get involved. So far they've done this type of "build your own" type of housing outside of the main cities, ie. houses rather than apartment blocks.
You're right thought. This is best done by regular people rather than politicians, and it of course is needed right here in B.C.

12 Sep 2005, 6:03 p.m.  | 

always trying to get me to come home eh?
i was aware of habitat for humanity before writing this, but as you mentioned, they don't focus on apartment complexes and they don't seem interested in sustainable development either. lastly, the buildings are built by volunteers, but not necessarily by the would-be occupants (mostly because there's only a few people who'd live there)

i think i'd like to talk with the HfH people, it just that lately my brain seems to be all fogged up somehow... i can't focus on anything.

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