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Mount Pleasant public meetings on transitional housing at Biltmore Jan. 8 and 11 — who will be there?

January 8th, 2014 · 14 Comments

I went to a meeting organized by the Residents Association of Mount Pleasant just before Christmas to talk about issues related to the transitional housing complex that’s about to be opened at the old Biltmore hotel, Kingsway and 12th in Mount Pleasant.

Unlike a city-roganized meeting a couple of weeks earlier, concerning the transitional housing that will be going into the old Ramada on East Hastings, this one didn’t turn into a near riot — perhaps because it wasn’t organized by the city but also perhaps because a group of people who support this kind of housing in the neighbourhood made an effort to turn out.

Which makes me wonder how the city meetings (tonight and Jan. 11) will go — will that same group turn up? And what position will the people who are active in RAMP take on this?

One thing I noticed in the meeting is that the RAMP people who were there — Lewis Villegas, Randy Chatterjee and Ray Tomlin — clearly wanted to organize something that would alert people to the lack of consultation the city has done so far. But all of these guys are socially progressive or liberal or whatever you want to call it. So when a few people at the meeting started worrying aloud that their property values would go down or their security would be compromised or how poor people have it easy because they get everything for free — well, that didn’t go over so well.

A significant contingent of people at the meeting (Am Johal being one of them) talked about the need for this kind of housing and the fact that Mount Pleasant has traditionally been a community that’s welcomed people of all kinds. As one woman said “I’m a resident, a homeowner, and I’m thrilled the city is building more stable social housing.” And the organizers also got uncomfortable with the anti-poor people line. One British man complained about how this was just the creation of a “poverty industry” and asserted “maybe I’ll just sell my house and become homeless so I can get a free room.” Randy Chatterjee responded that transitional housing, like what’s going to be at the Biltmore is “one step above jail” and not the kind of thing that Mr. British Guy would likely enjoy all that much.

It was telling, though, that the RAMP meeting attracted so many (I’d say about 50 people during the course of the evening) and that it was the community that ended up organizing a public gathering before the city could get its act together. Since the Biltmore is due to open in the next couple of months, having a meeting so close to the opening is bound to make many people feel like they aren’t really getting a say in anything at all.

RAMP brought in Chris Taulu, who has been running the community policing centre in Collingwood forever, to talk about potential issues related to transitional housing opening up. A bit weird that she ended up being the one who had to explain city processes and be, in essence, the city rep on all this.

In Chris’s typical un-PC, tell it straight way, she did talk to people about the realities. Will the housing bring problems? Maybe, and police officers she works with were recommending changes to be made to ensure that, i.e. drug dealers can’t get into the building through the nearby parking lot. She also observed that local residents still leave their windows open on lower floors — a mistake. And she warned that there’d be an increase in visible homelessness in the area, as the word on the street spreads about new housing opening in Mount Pleasant. People would be wanting to show they are from the area to get first dibs on any new units opening up.

But she also pointed out that there are private buildings in her neighbourhood that can be just as much of a problem as what people imagine a government-run building is like.

So now we’ll see what the city has to say and who turns out for meetings this week.



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