Not In My Progressive Beach

This is simultaneously one of the saddest and funniest news stories I have read this year.  A do-gooding Anglican church in the city’s east end has decided to feed and shelter homeless folks for one night a week, but is being impeded by local busybodies represented by one N. Peter Silverberg, of the firm Beard Winter LLP.

A Toronto church’s plan to feed and house 12 homeless people one night a week during the worst of the winter has been put on hold after residents of a tony Beach enclave threatened it with a legal injunction.

As part of the Out of the Cold program, which is run in churches and synagogues across Toronto, the temporary shelter was to have opened Jan. 8 at St. Aidan’s Anglican Church on Silver Birch Ave., at Queen St. E.

But the three-month program has been delayed until at least Jan. 16, when a community meeting will be held to discuss details and other potential sites.

— Joseph Hall, “Affluent freeze out homeless.”  Toronto Star, 28 December 2006.

Twelve homeless guys.  One night a week.  For three months.  This is, incredibly, more than some members of the community can bear without lengthy discussion.

Toronto lawyer Peter Silverberg, who has acted for the objecting Beach residents, denies they were motivated by NIMBYism in threatening the church with legal action.

He said they were concerned about having been given scant opportunity for consultation and whether the program provided the best use of limited shelter resources.

“The program itself is very praiseworthy, although it might be questioned on the level of whether or not this is the best way to use … very limited resources to look after this type of thing.”

Silverberg, who would not say how many residents objected, said there might be better sites in the Beach for the shelter but he believes they were never examined.

— Joseph Hall, “Affluent freeze out homeless.”  Toronto Star, 28 December 2006.

It has nothing to do with importing homeless people into one’s cosy neighbourhood, of course.  They want the money spent in the best possible way, of course.  Because the folks who run Out of the Cold, bless their hearts, are apparently not fit to judge whether this church — St. Aidan’s Anglican — can be an efficient and effective site within the program.  Obviously the very best way to ensure that this site is effective and the money is being well-spent is to go out and hire an expensive lawyer to prevent the church from taking any action until these anonymous concerned residents somehow work up enough courage to unmask themselves and voice their concerns.  Presumably they will do so in a meeting between the parties on January 16th.  And never mind that the church has already held two public meetings to discuss the details and ramifications of the one-night-a-week shelter.

Twenty-three percent of the households in Ward 32, by the way, have incomes of CDN $100,000 or over.  The citywide average for that income range is just eighteen percent.  Check the data for yourself, here.  And remember, all of this fuss is over twelve homeless guys, one night a week, for a mere three months.  Assuming that those twelve homeless guys like the neighbourhood so much that they actually take up permanent, non-fixed-addresses there, their inclusion in the census data would not alter the figure for their income bracket ($0-10,000) by more than four-hundredths of one percent.

I will say one thing for Mr. N. Peter Silverberg — he’s a brave man.  I wouldn’t want my name appearing in Toronto’s highest-circulation daily as the guy representing the nay-sayers.  Kudos to Rev. Stephen Kirkegaard and his congregation for opening their hearts and place of worship to the less fortunate.  And also to Ward 32 Councillor Sandra Bussin for attempting to mediate this mess.

Read more about the Out of the Cold program here.  And if you feel like donating or volunteering (details here), I’m sure they’d be happy to hear from you.

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