The recent kerfuffle in the Toronto Beach neighbourhood, about the placement of a homeless shelter in their midst, has gotten at least one Star reader upset.
In his recent letter, resident Mike Whelan bemoans the behaviour of Toronto's street people and asks, "Is it too much to ask that hard-working tax-paying citizens have an area around their home that can be considered a refuge from it all?"
Yes Mr Whelan, it is. In my letter to the Editor response, I thought to remind Mr Whelan of a little thing we call community, and cited once again the excellent impact that mixed neighbourhoods have on lifting the more affluently-challenged citizens up by their bootstraps, and enabling the higher income earners to get some meaningful perspective in their lives.
Here's a copy of my response:
RE: 'Many Rights For Homeless', Star Letters, Dec 29, 2006
I feel sorry for this letter writer. I don't think I have read or heard such an unsympathetic appraisal of the plight of the homeless - and at Christmas time, too!
While I understand his frustration at "paying for it all" through his high taxes I have to wonder why he feels the need to have a "refuge" from the homeless in his neighbourhood.
Don't the streets belong to us all? It reminds me of the gated communities you see in the States with "Sunny Acres" or some such nonsense plastered across the entrance.
I think the fundamental problem with this "Beaches attitude" (and I'm sure it is not prevalent among all Beaches residents) is that the Beaches - like so many other Toronto neighbourhoods - is not a mixed income enclave.
My own neighbourhood behind St Lawrence Market encompasses all manner of income brackets through its assortment of affordable housing, co-ops and high-end condos.
I can assure the letter writer that while I too feel the pain of high taxes and regularly run the gauntlet of street peddlers on my way to work, I do not feel the same disdain for my less affluent neighbours.
Nor do I feel the need to shut them out at night. In fact, I am certain that by sharing the same streets and amenities, my neighbours and I are able to develop a common bond, a sense of community that enables us to break down the kind of ignorant attitudes expressed, and see the possibility of something better in our lives.
Snobbish attitudes are borne out of ignorance and segregation and they do nothing to address the challenges in our midst. Our neighbourhoods should reflect the world we live in - the real world. Torontonians should strive to be good neighbours to all.
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