Dear Mayor Tory, Councillor Cressy, Councillor Wong Tam
Your recent decisions to allow the vast majority of the city’s homeless to reside in Ward 10 and 13 have created an untenable situation for the majority of the residents within the downtown community.
The concerns of the community have been sent to all of you in writing by numerous residents over the past six months, and expressed at the various CLC’s that have been set up to communicate these concerns. Regardless, Ms. Wong Tam still had the audacity to ask City Council to approve the purchase of expensive downtown properties to make this situation permanent. We applaud the prudence of the councillors who did not approve this, and we demand that Ms. Wong Tam consider resigning immediately as she clearly has shown no interest in representing the interests of the majority of the residents in her Ward.
The downtown community does not object to those in need of a home because of unforeseen circumstances. Torontonians are very charitable people and more than happy to help those in need. The objection is to forcing the community to be the ones to deal with:
- people with severe mental health problems, who may be violent, and something which the community is not equipped to deal with;
- criminals that have been taken from prisons and placed in the community; and
- drug addicts who will commit crimes to feed their habit and repeatedly go unpunished.
This ill-advised decision, even if deemed temporary brought about by a pandemic, should have resulted in an increased police presence at the very least. Instead, the police force budget was not increased. despite the extra need. In fact, over the years, the actual number of police officers appears to have been reduced to the point where we have over 800 less people in uniform than we did a decade ago. It appears we have money to put homeless criminals in hotels, but not to protect the residents that are affected.
We have many residents in downtown buildings who are elderly and immune compromised. Their interest in living downtown is primarily proximity to medical care. They are now too afraid to go for walks, their only form of exercise during a pandemic, or even venture out for basic necessities.
We also have many single women who work in the area, many for the government itself, who now fear to walk alone in plain daylight as they have been accosted, harassed and even mugged. They no longer see living downtown, because that is where they work, a benefit, and are considering leaving jobs and their current home for safer locations. The same is true for those starting families in this area.
The stories of downtown residents include frustration that they can no longer go to their local Tim Horton’s safely, because they get accosted by people with clear mental health problems that are allowed to be inside or in front of the premises without masks. Similarly, residents have complained that they cannot safely enter drug stores and food stores because of panhandlers hovering asking for money without social distancing or wearing masks. Millions of dollars have been spent to accommodate those in the homeless population that want to stay in hotels, yet we still see dangerous encampments that have caused fires, and many others continue to sprawl over grates on City streets. It is no longer deemed safe to go under any bridges in the area and the few green areas that exist are no longer considered safe.
Your decision has endangered the downtown community of residents, and it has made living here a nightmare, particularly during a pandemic where our mobility is already, rightfully, restricted in order to avoid getting sick. Every single condominium building in the downtown core provides well over a million dollars worth of tax revenue to the City. Something that cannot be provided by even the most expensive house in the best neighbourhoods such as Rosedale, Forest Hill or the Bridle Path, yet our residents are being treated as if their tax dollars do not matter. Please explain why anybody in these two wards should be paying property taxes when protection is not being provided and criminals appear to have been given more rights than law abiding residents.
It is time to stand up and protect ALL the residents of downtown Toronto. It is time you all do the jobs that you were elected to do: bring back vagrancy laws and make people accountable for bad behaviour. No one has the right to do something that endangers others, yet somehow the laws have been designed to allow criminals and those that do not have the mental capacity to decide what is best for them to run roughshod over the rest of the population during a dangerous pandemic. This is not acceptable.
Anyone committing a crime should be in jail. Those that are committing crimes or have disorderly conduct because they are drug addicts should be forced into rehab both for their own good, and that of the community. People that require mental health care must be provided with special locations that can provide these services. You would not leave somebody with brain cancer or Alzheimer’s to roam the streets unattended. Why are you allowing other mental health afflictions to go unattended and placing this burden on the community? In a country that is supposed to provide healthcare for all, this is a disgrace.
You are protecting the rights of a very small minority of people with criminal behaviour, drug addicts and their dealers, and those with mental health afflictions that require special care you are not providing them with, over those of the majority that will be silent no longer.
It is time for you to start spending our money wisely and provide the services that we are paying for: protection and health care for all those in need. The homeless must be helped, but not at the expense of all other’s health and safety. Clearly high density solutions have not worked for either them or the community, particularly during a pandemic when everybody’s health is at stake, and new plans must be considered. If you are not able to do this, with full accountability to those of us that have put you into office, then kindly resign, and allow others willing to focus on the needs of the majority of their constituents to come in to do so.
DOWNTOWN CONCERNED CITIZENS ORGANIZATION