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Newsletter #2

Does anyone care about our seniors?

The cardboard sign made by the senior citizen resident reads "We are not dead yet....as you can see".
It's tough to read..but after an incredibly challenging year of the pandemic, it's exactly how the nearly 300 elderly residents of the Willowdale Manor are feeling as they heard only weeks ago that the city plans to remove their front-lawn and treed green space to put in modular housing for the homeless. The majority in our community recognize how important it is to house the homeless, but ask 'Why has the city chosen this particular site at the expense and well-being of another vulnerable group of individuals - hundreds of frail seniors - that are already living on the same lot?' On Sunday March 21, the seniors requested our help in sharing their voices. We expected maybe 10-12 residents but almost 80 came outside many aided by their walkers and canes and with shopping carts full of handmade cardboard signs! Several hundred residents had also taken great effort to sign a paper-based petition but unfortunately that fell on deaf-city ears. Coming outside on to their front lawn and doing a silent protest, was the only way that they could share their voice. Many more Willowdale Manor residents were stuck inside due to physical disabilities and of course due to worry about the pandemic...but they still contributed by putting up signs up in their small windows. Many of them in their 70s, 80s and even 90s...suffering from their own health conditions, couldn't believe that no one from the city cared to hear their concerns. They had tried, only to be shooed away like flies. Members of the community were willing to listen and the seniors asked that we share their stories widely. Please watch and share their videos here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjKlhrIAI9xpe0rLLKJU6Ug
Please see and share the videos from the seniors

Seniors have suffered tremendously due to the global pandemic...and now this:

For more than 60 years, Willowdale Manor sits quietly at the corner of Willowdale and Cummer. This City of Toronto building provides supportive housing for nearly 300 senior citizens, the overwhelming majority who happen to be ethnic minorities and for whom English is not their first language. The majority do not have access to computers or internet and/or have no ability to participate in the last minute virtual meeting that the City provided only 1 day before voting on this proposal. The neighbouring building 20 metres next door, Cummer Lodge, is a city-owned long-term care home for  another 400 vulnerable elderly with high needs. This nursing home was not notified at all, let alone consulted. It seems like a big fail by the city...How did they pick this particular site at 175 Cummer? Did they even step foot on the land to realize that they were placing this proposal next to almost 700 frail and vulnerable elderly residents? Immediately adjacent to that are the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine and St. John's Rehabilitation Hospital. We really couldn't have a higher density of seniors in this immediate area. In fact, the Newtonbrook East neighborhood of Toronto has a whopping 72% of whose 16,000 residents are immigrants, and a third of whom are seniors!  Perhaps that was the city's plan...to steamroll this secret proposal in through a community that they knew wouldn't have the system literacy, advocacy, high-political connections, financial wealth and/or technological capacity to voice their concerns...and during a pandemic.  When you speak to the seniors here they feel completely dejected. They have grave reservations about this proposal. Councilor Filion, please take a look - you aren't paving over a parking lot here, you are taking away the seniors' front lawn, and treed green space that supports their own social and recreational purposes and overall mental well being.  For many in this building, who are physically disabled, the beautiful green space with over 60 trees is their one solace. For those that can't leave their small apartment, they enjoy looking out their small window onto the decades old trees and fauna and viewing the community. That will all be taken away if this proposal goes through. The modular housing will go up directly in front of them. Many are concerned, but not for the reasons one would think. It has nothing to do with property value or NIMBY'ism or 'dehumanizing the homeless' as Filion is false accusing citizens who dare to speak up. It has to do with the seniors' safety and well-being in the latter stages of their life. These seniors have worked hard their whole life and just want to live in peace. They've had experience before with those suffering from mental health and drug or alcohol addiction challenges. They know that the challenges the homeless face are real and complex and not solved by four walls alone. Many are very sympathetic but also spoke of their own lived experience with a few tenants in their building who unfortunately suffered from an alcohol addiction and how much distress and fear it created for the other tenants. Many residents are frail and all are elderly, and didn't know how to manage individuals who would get extremely agitated, sometimes with threatening or aggressive behaviour to others. It made the seniors fearful and afraid to leave their apartment units. And the city unfortunately had a poor track record and inadequate resources for managing such scenarios. Now with 64 units coming onto their front-lawn, with a large majority who the research says will suffer from severe mental health and substance use challenges, they wonder what that means for them. Why isn't anyone thinking about their well-being as well? The mental health of the seniors!  After a year of the pandemic in which seniors have suffered tremendously, the city tries to add further injury by steamrolling this proposal through this community in literally a matter of days. Shameful that the city is treating our seniors this way! Hon. Raymond Cho, MPP, and Minister for Seniors - are you reading this?

Voices from our Community

"We are those who volunteer visiting the senior house every week, we understand their need, they need a peaceful environment for their daily life, as they need to walk outside and enjoy the great nature to refresh they mind everyday, this kind of construction will ruin their lives." - Samuel Li

"I’ve lived nearby to this facility in North York all my life until quite recently. It is quite a walking hike from this location to any nearby stores for basic purchases or a coffee. Let alone in the winter. Seriously? This idea is irresponsible. These residents are elderly, at the later stages of their life. So now you plan to purposely add more stress and fear to their lives? What happened to respect for the elderly?" - Armstrong

"I am concerned about this location and how it was decided. It is nowhere near any conveniences and smack dab in the middle of vulnerable people. There seems to be a lack of common sense when it came to deciding the location of this structure. Let’s hurt our seniors even more by taking away their green space–after all they’ve been through this year, let’s add more injury. This structure should be in an area within metres of conveniences not in the middle of a seniors home and taking away their greenspace. Why and HOW was this decision made. A decision that directly impacts the seniors. Why is there no consultation when these things happen. It would make sense to have EVERYONE work together to make decisions that would benefit all and I know this was not done in this case. Very sad" - Catherine Maugeri-Schuck 

"Not a good place for them....would impose many inconveniences for the homeless for starters -no grocery store, transportation, libraries anything that is essential for them that they would be able to have easy access.. Also, not a good idea for our Seniors they need their green space for walks and Mental Health especially with the global Pandemic they have suffered the most.they have a right to safe and a peaceful surroundings they earn this and were here long before" - Nadia Recine

 "After a year in which seniors have suffered the most with the pandemic, we kick them when they’re down and build a homeless shelter at the foot of their doorstep. Who cares about seniors in nursing homes. They can’t vote, so the politicians figure they can take advantage of them. Welcome to the new Canada… work hard your whole life, pay your taxes, contribute to society, and at the end of it all you get kicked to the curb like a piece of trash. Whatever happened to dignity. These politicians should be ashamed! Embarrassing!" - Derek Callop

"We have 3 senior homes, one rehab complex within the range of 1km in this neighbourhood. Many families have volunteered for these public services and to attack us saying that we dehumanize the homeless and isn't willing to carry social responsibility is incredibly ignorant. The space is tiny, and right on the front lawn of the senior home makes it a non-nonsensical decision to insert 64 permanent units for the homeless in a low-density residential neighbourhood without sufficient amenities. There is only 1 non-major busline that grants access to a single grocery store. Let alone this whole process was done without consulting the community".- Yan Lan

Building more homeless shelters around the city is definitely a way to curb the issue of homelessness running rampant in the city. However, building one so far from the central city is NOT constructive. This location is very inaccessible to locations that provide necessities of life (i.e. groceries, pharmacies). Residents of the proposed development would require to move around by walking very long distances, rely on riding the TTC (which is not a productive use of their funds), or more commonly by vehicle - which they likely do not have access to. On top of this, this development will be situated beside a Senior Lodging Centre AND a Rehabilitation Centre. To put it frankly, we do not have adequate space nor a proper environment for another busy complex to fill this neighbourhood. These residing occupants are vulnerable and need peace, we need to ensure that these residents are also taken care of properly and fairly. We need TRANSPARENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY and EQUITY. Where were all these values when the city decided to put forward and pass development without consulting productive members of the society they look after? - Helen Zhang

Read more comments from concerned citizens here: https://www.change.org/p/help-our-seniors-save-their-parklands-at-willowdale-manor-toronto-stop-the-chainsaws-and-stop-the-bulldozers-www-voicesofwillowdale-ca/c

Upcoming Events

On Tuesday April 6th at 7pm, don't forget to join the City-hosted second community engagement meeting to share your concerns. 
Per the city, the link will be posted on the city website on the day of the event. Please note this in your calendars! Click on the link, then 175 Cummer, then scroll down to Engagement Sessions. 
https://www.toronto.ca/community-people/community-partners/affordable-housing-partners/modular-housing-initiative/ 

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Voices of Willowdale · willowdale · Toronto, ON L5B 4M1 · Canada

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