Confusion over housing program

Residents and even police are confused about a community-based supportive-housing project in the Broadview-Danforth area.
Since a rash of area break-ins over the summer, affecting 24 residences on Jackman Avenue and restaurants on the Danforth, police have apprehended a resident of a local apartment building.
According to one robbery victim, who wished to be identified only as Andrew, police informed him that the apartment houses ex-convicts.
“Three years ago, the province signed a deal with the landlord… so that building is now a de facto halfway house,” Andrew said.
Det. Const. Blackmore at 54 Division led the investigation, and supported that assessment when contacted.
“I don’t know too much about (the building),” she said. “From what I understand, it’s a government-run building, a halfway house-type facility for people who’ve been released from custody.”
But according to Brian Davis, the executive director of a non-profit housing charity called Houselink, police have their facts wrong.
His charity helps people with chronic mental illness find and keep their housing, he said, and has clients at the building in question.
Davis calls the notion of the facility being a halfway house for ex-convicts “completely inaccurate.”
“We’re a rent-supplement program… but we provide very holistic support,” he said.
Rather than criminal records, Davis said his tenants are more likely to have two things in common: “the stigma of living with a mental illness and poverty.”
“Those together can be a huge barrier to just being treated like a regular citizen,” he said.
Blackmore said she didn’t talk to Jackman Avenue residents about the building and added that officers are being made aware of the building’s true nature.
Davis said that Houselink must work to engage more effectively with their community police liaison. According to 54 Division, no one is assigned to that position.
Theft victim Andrew, meanwhile, said that Jackman Avenue residents feel they should be informed about social-housing projects in their neighbourhood, and worries about the impact of “warehousing” people without support.
But Davis insists that maintaining a low profile is one of the program’s main objectives, and the service they provide is discreet for a reason.
“The whole point of a rent-supplement program is so people cannot be targeted, and live in a community that doesn’t have a big label on the front door,” he said.
As individuals renting from private landlords, Davis also noted that his clients have the same rights to privacy and responsibilities as anyone else.
“No one has a right to pick who their neighbours are,” he said. “And if someone… is involved in break-and-enters, we have a justice system to deal with that.”
He said that residents should resist the urge to link individual deviant behaviour with an entire community.
“That is discriminatory thinking,” he said. “If there’s one individual and he’s involved in criminal activity, the whole neighbourhood shouldn’t be implicated. It’s not fair.”
He also said that peer support is a program benefit, and empowers tenants. Without the support of charity groups, Davis said, many people with chronic mental health problems would be out on the street.

About this article

By: Samantha Butler
Posted: Dec 8 2010 5:35 pm
Filed under: News