Neighbourhoods and Poverty

By Ben Bull
Published November 23, 2006

The front page story from Tuesday's Toronto Star tells a familiar story about poverty and health. While I applaud the study's authors and their intentions in creating this report, I have to ask myself: What have I learned from this?

How many times must we be told that poverty leads to poor health and increased crime and a climate of hopelessness? We know the effects that poverty has on a society.

One of the solutions I support is the development of mixed neighbourhoods. I have to smile when people advocate for 'affordable housing' with little apparent thought for where those houses might be located.

Sure, a poor person with a home will fare better than a person without a home, but they will reap many more benefits if they can live in a community of mixed incomes, rather than just another ghetto.

An old friend of mine grew up in Toronto's down-and-out (and now almost gone) Regent Park neighbourhood. He told me one example of the hard-to-break cycle of poverty. "If my Dad got a pay rise," he explained to me one day at work, "our rent went up. We were stuck. In the end my Dad had to lie about his income so that he could save up the money to get us out."

My mate credits his later success in life to getting out of the "hood".

There are precious few examples of true mixed income neighbourhoods in Hamilton or Toronto. Crombie Park - where I now live in TO - is one. The streets bounding the Esplanade just in front of my house are choc-a-block full of co-op housing and affordable condos. Interspersed with these are a couple of high-end condos and streets lined with middle income row houses (including mine).

The result? My streets are teeming with a true cross-section of society: rich, poor, middle income, down and out, we all share the same space and we all share the same objectives - to live as a community and help each other out as much as we can.

I'll be writing more about the effects of mixed income neighbourhoods in the future.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.


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