Monday, February 19, 2007



A number of readers asked me to expand on why I supported the NPA and their decision Not to enact an SRO anti-conversion bylaw. Posted below are my answers.

You asked me why I think Council made a smart decision to oppose the anti-conversion by-law.
My reasons are varied, including the belief that there is a multitude of reasons why people become homeless and just enacting an anti-conversion by-law, in my opinion, fails to adequately address why people end up homeless.

We need to also reframe what homelessness is and I happen to be of the belief that its more than just a matter of sleeping outside, without a roof over your head at night.
Again, like most other people I prefer not to see fellow human beings coping or suffering in this way. It pains me to see this.

I often ask myself why is it that people end up this way. As one who has walked in their shoes, I think this provides me an inside vantage point to better understand issues around poverty. In turn, this allows me to speak out forcefully on behalf of lower income citizens. . Moreover, as I lobby on behalf of my neighbors without financial benefit to myself, this ensures my brand of advocacy is kept clean in terms of advocating for my neighbors in the DTES. Many times I have witnessed groups exploitating the poor and this is concerning.

I do not want to see people entrenched in substandard conditions which make it very difficult to climb out from.

I see billions of dollars going into the DTES and has it truly helped those living in dire poverty?
My philosophy goes directly to this question of whether enacting an anti-conversion bylaw on crumbling SRO's really helps poor people?

Some believe maintaining people in squalid conditions is better than having people sleeping outside. I disagree with them on this point. You see to me, neither one of these options goes to the heart of Justice.

And just to be clear, I'd rather fight for Justice. That means I'm advocating for appropriate, clean, healthy, safe affordable quality housing for all. I'm not willing to settle for less, nor am I willing to tell people they must live in substandard housing until they find that elusive pot of gold.

In summary, I want us to re-think and re-frame what homelessness is.
And while others are advocating to maintain a substandard form of housing, I'd rather be fighting for real solutions.

And let me be very clear here. Justice isn't about throwing around tables or yelling and screaming out obscenities while viguorously pushing to maintain people in deplorable social conditions. For activists promoting this brand of advocacy, all it really accomplishes is-- the inflicting of further harm on those who already have been placed time and time again, in harm's way.

How is that a solution?

Jamie Lee Hamilton


At 12:14 PM, Anonymous dirk said...

Jamie said,"We need to also reframe what homelessness is and I happen to be of the belief that its more than just a matter of sleeping outside, without a roof over your head at night.
Again, like most other people I prefer not to see fellow human beings coping or suffering in this way. It pains me to see this.'...

....I agree with you one hundred percent.The reasons why many find themselves in such dire circumstances are wide and varied.
But as one who has lived in SOR's as one who has been homeless,a room was better than the street.
The point I am making is,if there was a commitment on part of the government to assist every one who might be affected by conversion,to relocate and find housing that they can afford.I would have no problem with conversion.
The rooms many of the poor and working poor find themselves "living" in are deplorable in many cases.
But should they get kicked out,they are on their own.
Shelter rates are not going up,rents are not going down,minimum wage is not going up,availability of affordable housing is not going up,there are no programs to help.
But to be fair there is the rental allowance for the _working_ poor.
A program I find strange,its all about giving landlords tax payer money so tenants can afford to live in a city where rent is out of control.
But thats another story.
For many of those living in the DTES there is no other choice now,nor will there be any more choices for them if they are affected by conversion.
Thats the crux of the matter.
In the long term you are quit correct.The factors around homelessness poverty etc are wide and varied and a series and variety of measures etc are needed.
But the first step to improvement in peoples lives is a stable secure place to live.
Affordable housing i.e social housing is in very short supply.Due to past government actions/inactions,and their inability or lack of will to deal with the many issues faced by the people of the DTES.
People live in these rooms because they have little choice in the matter,there are no alternatives
This does not make it rights,nor am I implying that this has to remain so.
But until the government and the community decide to deal with this,the situation will drag on.
I also do not see any alternatives being made part and parcel of,or attached to the decision to lift the conversion moratorium.
1/5(approx 1000) of the rooms in the area have just changed hands(ownership of the various hotels etc)this is due to speculation,who is doing all this buying??? for what???.
Imagine if 1000 more people were forced out by conversion.Where are they to go?There is no housing waiting...
This is what fuels the doubt and opposition to conversion
another factor is as I said earlier the inability and lack of will of the city and government to address this situation with real solutions i.e social housing,affordable rent,etc etc.
The people of the DTES will have one more issue beyond their control or influence.They will be the ones affected yet again...

At 2:50 PM, Blogger Jamie Lee Hamilton said...


I hear your argument and while I share your sentiments, I think you are buying into the line propagated by misguided DTES activists.

You also say a room is better than the street. Perhaps for you it was, however, for many it wasn't or isn't. A room is not necessarily a home. Hence you are homeless. Especially if that room in unihabitable which many SRO rooms are.

We need to look at the bigger picture rather than just creating band-aids to the woes which ail us in the DTES. These band-aids have not restored Justice. These band-aids often allow us to think that we are doing something beneficial but often that is not the case.

Never will I ever accept that crumbling SRO's are suitable for low cost housing or that they need to be preserved as an interim measure. Why should we perserve ghetto housing? By doing so, all it does is further entrench my neighborhood with Ghetto status and I'll fight that tooth and nail.

You and I obviously disagree on this.

Good luck in your endeavors though.

At 11:55 AM, Anonymous dirk said...

Jamie Thanks for your response.
Agreed we will have to disagree on this _one_ thing
You also said;"I think you are buying into the line propagated by misguided DTES activists"...
Wrong I do not buy into any argument(s).
I base my arguments/views on my own experiences,research etc,into the issue(s) at hand.Or I do not make my point at all.
I am just not that arrogant to talk about an issue if I have no clue as to the actual reality.
Speaking of some of the organized groups in the area,I would also add that,they need to do something about their image.
Many of their supporters come off as arrogant and seem to be more motivated by idealogical positions, than getting the job done.
The fight is about making real changes in the lives of the people of the DTES.
Thats the issue all,the infighting,personality clashes is bullshit,that only aggravates things.
Its the surest way to failure
But on many other issues related to the complexity of problems faced by those in the DTES,I believe we are in agreement
I hope your site does not turn into a slugfest between your self APC,DERA,PIVOT.
The last thing needed is a(more) division in the ranks.
This will only hurt the people of the DTES that much more.
Divide and rule tactics are a favorite of the powers that be.
The death knell of community activism
Perhaps it's time for me to get more active,get my butt downtown and see whats up.
The urge is strong,and getting stronger.
When I see the total lack of solutions my blood boils.
I have friends,family and people(in the area & the First Nation community)that I care for dearly.
Who are affected every day,day after day,by the lack of decent affordable housing,employment,and educational opportunities.
In the meantime I am putting another blog together devoted to all things 604.The more information and publicity the better
Anyway keep up the fight...


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