Downtown Concerned Citizens Organization

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Of all of the four modular housing projects announced to date — with efforts made to ram all of them through using COVID-19 as the excuse — the one proposed for Willowdale’s Cummer Ave. seems to have given rise to the most community ire.

Nearly 170 concerned citizens attended a virtual consultation session Tuesday night — at the beginning of which facilitator Bruce Davis asked them to put up their hands to agree to behave during the session. Other attendees included local councillor John Filion, Mayor John Tory and about 20 city staff from planning and affordable housing.

The concerned residents had organized after council quickly approved the site on March 10 — forming a group called the Voices of Willowdale and a highly professional website (www.voicesofwillowdale.ca)

Their insightful questions Tuesday night were not only treated with denial and contradictory responses but were downplayed by city staffers — including Davis, who cut off one woman who’d clearly done her homework. He also reprimanded another man for calling the Willowdale project a “homeless shelter.”

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Tory insisted that those who will be moving in are “not bad people.

“Please, please don’t dehumanize these people … they are your fellow Toronto residents,” he said, noting that city staff will make sure they are good neighbours.

The Cummer project with 60 units of 350 square feet each — for single clients suffering chronic homelessness– is set to be built by the end of the year on essentially the front lawn of a seniors facility called Willowdale Manor.

It will also be in close proximity to another nursing home, Cummer Lodge.

Those who spoke said there is no nearby grocery store, mental health supports, libraries, and the nearest TTC station is nearly 2 kilometres away.

Affordable housing executive director Abi Bond said they looked at 50 city-owed or city-controlled sites which could be used quickly because of the “urgency of the crisis.”

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She insisted there are services in the area (she didn’t name them) and nearness to services wasn’t the only consideration — that they are “bringing a lot of services” to the site, including a communal kitchen.

One woman said the seniors at Willowdale Manor are “really afraid for their safety” given that the site is essentially on the “front lawn” of their seniors home.

Another man said, quite rightly, that many of the homeless have an issue with drugs and that won’t change if they move into the Willowdale community.

Bond insisted that the key driver of homelessness is not drug addiction but “poverty.

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“They are not criminals,” she said.

She added that based on “previous experience” they’re not expecting a “spike in crime” to come to Willowdale as a result of the modular housing.

She also contended the modular housing project will be very different and not have problems like those at the Roehampton hotel — as portrayed in a front-page story Sunday’s Toronto Sun — because this is “housing” for real tenants with a front door.

Yet the city staffers quickly contradicted themselves by confirming the chronic homeless (who’ve been homeless for six months or more) will be moving into the Cummer site from homeless hotel shelters like the Roehampton Hotel or the Bond Hotel,  encampments and from the streets where crime and drug-dealing is rampant.

Vincent Mak, administrator of Willowdale Manor, wrote every councillor on April 4 reminding them that their residents are “vulnerable” too, begging for the project to be stopped and attaching a copy of the Sun’s Roehampton article.

Filion  accused some residents in his March 12 newsletter of attempting to “dehumanize the homeless to justify doing nothing.”

The long-time councillor, who didn’t respond to requests for comment Tuesday, also took a shot at MPP Stan Cho in his newsletter for being concerned about the impact of the modular housing project on the surrounding neighbourhood, indicating that Cho has written a letter to the Ford government “pandering to those shouting (their opposition).”

SLevy@postmedia.com

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Click Here to Visit Orignal Source of Article https://torontosun.com/news/local-news/controversial-homeless-project-set-for-front-lawn-of-a-seniors-home

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