Russ Ford's Blog

A Poor Way to Tackle Poverty



Jason moves quickly past two men who appear to be involved in a drug deal.  They don’t even acknowledge our presence.  Walking past drug users and dealers is a normal occurrence at this apartment building.  The quantity of dealers has increased and it now seems to be part of the life of the building. It angers Jason when he sees some of the younger kids involved with the trade.  Their future is now largely prescribed and it is not one that will likely end well.
 
Jason questions the will of those in authority to address his community’s issues.  The dealers, he says, are not the issue.  They flourish because “the system” does not work for so many residents. “They tell us to go to school but there are so few supports for those that do.  The ones that are successful can’t get work when they graduate especially if they are Black.” 
 
Jason believes as long as the trade is confined to the hallways of a building that no one would chose to go, it can thrive.  The management of the building seems incapable of dealing with it and Jason scoffs at the idea that perhaps the police could help. 
 
As a twenty year old Black man he believes he is more likely to get hassled by the police than the dealers.  The dealers leave him alone. The cops will interrogate him for no apparent reason and it only gets worse if he even suggests he has civil rights.  He has been “carded” more times than he can remember because that is what happens to men who are young and Black.
 
Arresting dealers just creates a business opportunity for another dealer.  We need to stop treating it only as a crime but as a symptom of our society’s failure.
 
The hallway leading to his unit is dirty.  Some of the doors show signs of past attempts at forced entry. Many of the lights don't work and ceiling tiles are either missing or damaged with water marks.  Floods are apparently not uncommon.
 
No one is home when we enter his apartment.  In contrast to the hallway, the apartment is impeccably clean.   But it includes more water damaged ceilings, a shower that occasionally spits out hot water, and an oven that just does not work.
 
Jason cannot believe this building would pass any inspection.  It should be condemned but if it were, Jason and his family would have nowhere to live.  There was a time when Jason tried to push for change but he now understands when you are dealing with a slum landlord that is not possible.
 
Jason's landlord is the City of Toronto.
 
Jason's landlord is the largest supplier of rent geared to income housing in the country and by any reasonable standard is doing an incredibly bad job.
 
He knows the staff at his building and he understands they do the best with what they have but they simply do not have enough.  That is all about politics.  In fact the City recently commissioned a study by a former mayor which concluded that $7.6 billion is required over the next 30 years to address the maintenance issues at Toronto Community Housing.  Unless action is taken soon 7,500 units will not be habitable by 2023. 7,500 families will be homeless.
 
Significant money needs to be invested now just to maintain what we have.  If we do not we will create a housing crisis the size of which has never before been witnessed.
 
A crisis that will send more people into the margins of society and create significant pressure on the health and social service systems.
 
Jason wonders if a crisis has to happen before anything is done. He did get a bit excited when the City passed its poverty reduction strategy.  At least it was now on someone’s agenda. The price tag associated with the strategy was $75 million.
  
Last week when the City approved its budget, $6 million or 8 per cent of what was needed got funded for poverty reduction work.
 
At the same time a $27 million dollar increase was given to the police in a period when the crime rate is in steady decline.  92 cents of every city dollar now goes to police, fire and TTC.
 
This is not the first political resolution that lacks resolve.  After the so called “Summer of the Gun” in Toronto, the provincial government created a task force chaired by former cabinet ministers Roy McMurtry and Alvin Curling entitled the “Roots of Youth Violence”.
 
The report laid out a very clear picture of the interrelationship between poverty, race and crime in our society.  It called for a number of initiatives to address the significant systemic issues primarily facing Black youth in Toronto.
 
The provincial government used the report to fund TAVIS, a special police unit that would arrive on mass in a community that was experiencing problems.  What TAVIS has to do with the “roots” of youth violence is anyone’s guess.
 
Rather than address the systemic issues of racism, the provincial government turned it into a police issue.  Rather than address poverty, the City increased its police budget.  Rather than deal with either, the police decide to card Black youth which is nothing but racial profiling.
 
Jason’s plan is to finish university, get a job and move his family out.  He has no doubt about finishing university that is entirely within his control. What concerns him is his ability to then get a job and make a living.  Those same concerns were once shared by those who are now dealing drugs.   They found their solution. Let’s hope Jason finds his own.

 

Comments

A very gloomy picture!!! Let

A very gloomy picture!!!
Let us hope something concrete and positive happens to resolve the root causes of all these practices. Everybody wants to live a decent and respectable by doing right things in life but the hurdles to achieve it takes the person on the ' Road to destruction. Poverty is a curse! Eradication of poverty and respectable living standards are the primary parameters and indicators of a developed society; as poverty being a curse adds unproductive citizens to its human capital.

A very gloomy picture!!! Let

A very gloomy picture!!!
Let us hope something concrete and positive happens to resolve the root causes of all these practices. Everybody wants to live a decent and respectable by doing right things in life but the hurdles to achieve it takes the person on the ' Road to destruction. Poverty is a curse! Eradication of poverty and respectable living standards are the primary parameters and indicators of a developed society; as poverty being a curse adds unproductive citizens to its human capital.

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