Comment 33399

By rusty (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2009 at 11:13:09

Grassroots - this discussion is about the impact of more affordable housing downtown. It's not a forum on poverty. If you want to generate a discussion on social assistance and the challenges of poverty - write an article! I'm sure Ryan would be happy to publish it.

Meredith mentioned her own experiences growing up 'poor'. She talked about the importance of being exposed to positive influences. This works both ways. My family is double income. We have 4 kids and live in downtown Toronto. We are not rich - I would say we are firmly middle class. But we have chosen not to live in the Beaches or High Park, but in a TRUE mixed neighbourhood - St Lawrence Market (http://www.mapquest.com/maps?city=Toronto&state=ON&address=20+GEORGE+STREET&zipcode=M5A). Our 4 bedroom townhouse shares the street with co-op apts and smaller family homes. 10 storey co-op apt blocks line the esplanade, next to a high end condo. Yuppie lofts are sprouting up in the surrounding areas.

When we moved in a neighbour's front window was smashed by a group of local youths (I chased them down and caught one!). My wife found a homeless guy unconcious in our laneway. The neighbourhood has it's challenges but it reflects real life.

Single parent families predominate. None of my kids friends parents are together, many have brothers and sisters who live in different houses with different Mums or Dads. My daughters boyfriend has moved house several times this year, as his Mum changed boyfriends. Her best friend's Dad is a drug dealer, her Mum an alcoholic. Yet they are not necessarily surrounded by these situations. These kids grow up with folks from other walks of life. When they talk to my kids for instance, they talk about going to University or getting their homework in on time. When they talk to my wife she berates them for having underage sex. Sometimes they come to our house because they've been locked out, or kicked out of their own homes.

My son's friend's Dad works at the local supermarket. He talks about becoming a chef - I encourage him.

When the young kids hang out on the esplanade they share the street with office types coming home from work, nuclear families pushing 3 wheel strollers, construction workers, people of all types.

But this influence works both ways. I am proud for my kids to mingle with their peers. Many of their friends are facing their challenges with maturity and courage. Some are not, but their struggles become our struggles are we learn from it together.

St Lawrence Market is regarded as a successful mixed neighbourhood by urban planners everywhere. I often see groups of urban planning students taking tours. It is a planned neighbourhood - literally drawn up on a blank peice of paper and cobbled together (the area used to be heavy industry - some of these buildings have been refurbished into condo/retail units). It was heavily influenced by the forward thinking ex-Toronto mayor David Crombie. It is sprinkled with historic treasures like the Market, the Distillery (located 2 mins to the east, near Pariament) and a couple of theatres. The Esplanade is a wide single lane thoroughfare with several parks.

Healthy mixed neighbourhoods don't happen by accident. I have often wondered how my hood would work if they had built just one more co-op, or if they lowered the rates 10%. It's a fine balance.

Unfortunately it's a balance and a concept that Hamilton's councilors do not seem to appreciate. If they want to come here and see it for themselves I will happily give them a tour. Same goes for anyone else at RTH!

I'm proud of my neighbourhood, as should we all be.

Cheers

Ben

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