[Hpn] ALERT: Toronto Homeless face EVICTION from shantytown fw

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Sun, 26 Nov 2000 19:15:32 -0800 (PST)

FWD with UPDATE at end by Bob Olsen <bobolsen@interlog.com>

GLOBE AND MAIL, Toronto, November 25, 2000


Being left in cold is more dangerous than any
pollutants, shantytown residents say


Sadness and incredulity swept through Toronto's most
elaborate shantytown last night as the two dozen
residents contemplated imminent eviction from their
makeshift homes.

The shantytown, a collection of tents, shacks and
small cottages on a waterfront site owned by Home
Depot, is to be removed. Two weeks ago, municipal
workers found noxious benzene nearby. The Ontario
Ministry of Environment is worried that the land
is contaminated by pollutants. The land is also in
the area that Toronto hopes to showcase as part of
its 2008 Olympic bid.

But for many of the residents of the abandoned
industrial land along the southwest corner of Cherry
Street and Lakeshore Boulevard, the squatter colony
is one of the best and safest homes they've had in

They can't understand why they're going to be
evicted from their tents and cabins for health
reasons when its so obvious that living on
Toronto's streets or in its homeless shelters is
far more dangerous.

"They're worried about our health because this is
contaminated. So they want us to be on the streets
to freeze to death," said Ralnet `Dri' Driemeyer,
who has lived here for a year and half.
"It's pretty hilarious."

Home Depot had planned to build a superstore on
the site. But its bid for the store, the size of
two football fields, was turned down by the Ontario
Municipal Board a year ago.

The environment ministry held meetings with the
company and Toronto's public health department
this week to develop a plan for removing the
residents and preventing contaminated dust from
blowing off the site.

The ministry sent the company a letter yesterday
demanding details of how it will secure the site.

"By the end of today, Nov. 24, 2000, please ensure
that the detailed plan of action on how Home Depot
is addressing the present concerns on this site is
to be faxed to me," said Kim Lendvay, a ministry
officiaL in the letter, a copy of which was
obtained by The Globe and Mall.

Neither Ms. Lendvay nor Home Depot could be
reached for comment late yesterday.

Those living on the site fear they will be told
to move as early as next week.

Toronto city councillor Jack Layton said the
eviction on health grounds is absurb.

"It really takes the issue of homelessness to the
level of tragic absurdity," Mr. Layton said.
"It's an irony that people are being moved because
the site is dangerous.  Homelessness in general
is dangerous to your health."

A government official, who did not want to be
named, said Home Depot has been trying to act
with compassion, given the problems that removal
will cause for residents in the season's first
bout of winter weather.

There have been discussions about putting the
collection of dogs and cats owned by the residents,
about half a dozen animals, in kennels until those
evicted get back on their feet, as well as about
buying the owners new sleeping bags.

"Home Depot has been very decent about It," the
official said.

For his part, Mr. Driemeyer said he was hoping to
live on the site, which has a spectacular view of
Toronto harbour and the city's skyline, until 2003
or 2004, when the land would be developed.

The tents and shacks have been discreetly placed
along the waterfront, hidden from the view of
thousands of motorists who speed past the site
every day.

There is potable water nearby, and to keep warm,
residents burn waste wood dumped by contractors
on the site.

The homeless colony has attacted political
attention.  Mayor Mel Lastman visited the site
during his municipal election campaign to
dramatize the issue of homelessness, according
to residents.

"As soon as he gets elected, we're no longer
important," complained Nancy Baker.


Bob Olsen adds......

The City intended to bulldoze the place on
Tuesday, Nov 28, the day after the federal

The Toronto Disaster Relief Committee and the
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty visited the
site on Friday, Nov 24, and then contacted the
media, who then published the story.  Now the
City has agreed to give us more time before
moving people from this site.

TDRC and OCAP are encouraging the City to find
these homeless people acceptable alternate
accommodation and also to open the old Princess
Margaret Hospital, which the Government of
Ontario has given to the City, as a shelter for
the homeless.

TDRC would really appreciate it if you could
could call or write your federal MP and
encourage them to fund affordable housing,
as Canada used to do some 15-20 years ago.
The current Liberal proposal of $170 million
a year is about 8% of what we need the Federal
Government to spend on housing.

And, if you live in Toronto, call or write
your City Councillor and demand that the
City provide adequate shelters for the
homeless.  Remind them that the Province
of Ontario covers 80% of shelter costs.

You can find phone/fax numbers of your MPs
and City Councillors in the Blue Pages of
your telephone book.

    Liberate democracy from corporate control

   Bob Olsen, Toronto     bobolsen@interlog.com


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