Youths lose access to public housing gym they helped renovate

A teen-aged resident at a Toronto public housing apartment building says he wants more access to its recreational facilities.

The Weston Towers apartment building, at 3101 Weston Rd. in Toronto, recently had some of its recreational facilities revitalized. The gym was reconstructed so that the youth living in the building would have a better gym. The renovation took place from December 2010 through January 2011; however, it’s been locked ever since. Some of Weston’s tenants are concerned about young people not having access to the gym.

Jeuel Sarpong, 17, is a resident living at Weston Towers. He helped reconstruct the gym and got paid for his work. Sarpong can’t understand why he and other young people don’t have much opportunity to use the gym.

“I just think that they should open the gym more than once or twice a month,” he said. “When the kids are bored, they should be able to have something to do besides hanging around in the lobby.”

Sarpong said the apartment building’s gym is important because there are no malls, libraries or recreation centres nearby.

“I don’t understand why they would give the gym a makeover if no one is even allowed to see it,” he said.

Ahmed Ali, health co-ordinator at Toronto Community Housing, said that it would be a matter of time until the kids have full access to the gym.

“We have been trying to set up a program to give the kids the opportunity to get into the gym,” Ali said. “They deserve a gym to play basketball in and we’ve been looking into getting something started.”

Ali also explained that the gym had been vandalized in the past and that security was also an issue preventing more frequent access.

“We need to ensure that the gym will not be vandalized like it was before we began the revitalization process,” he said. “If we can get someone who would be willing to look after the gym and lock it up, then we’ll have one foot in the door.”

Ali also said that the kids’ hard work will not be forgotten and promises full gym access sometime this year.

“We’re looking into opening the gym for full weekdays and weekends,” he said. “As soon as we get people who are willing to supervise the gym full time the kids will get what they deserve.”

The security issue remains a problem for Sarpong. He doesn’t understand why security has become an issue.

“Whenever they open the gym for us,” he said, “there was never security patrolling or m0nitoring us. It seemed weird that all of a sudden management is wondering about security…It was never a problem in the past.”