ParkTales - Dignity at last


Dignity at last

By Frances Sedgwick
True North Perspective
Frances Sedgwick's keen eye and ear for the human condition reveals the heart and soul of Parkdale in southwest Toronto, one of the country's most turbulent urban areas where the best traditions of human kindness prevail against powerful forces that would grind them down. True North Perspective proudly presents a column by writer Frances Sedgwick. Her critical observation combined with a tender sense of humour will provide you with something to think about ... and something to talk about.

At the end of my street is a housing complex called Edmund Yu Place.


It is home to "street survivors" and is owned by the City of Toronto.

It was once a run down rooming house that burned down with one of the roomers dying in the fire.

It stayed idle for years until the City of Toronto finally took it over.

The other day as I was waiting for the street car in front of the building a woman, obviously excited, pointed to the windows on the ground floor of the building.

She said  there is a very nice common room on the first floor where residents can come and socialize. Startled, I said, Do you live there?  She replied, Yes, yes.

I said it was nice to hear that and then I mentioned that I had heard how great it is in the building and what an achievement it was to get this residence.

She replied yes, I remember when it was empty after the fire and boarded up and we use to go up the fire escape at night, sneak in with our sleeping bags, and sleep on the floor.

Myself, I thought back to what it looked like back then.  Boarded up for about six years.  An eye sore. Junk always piled high around it as some people threw their garbage in the front yard.

The empty building was home to racoons, rats and whatever.

I couldn't picture that it was also the home to these homeless people.

I looked at her in disbelief as she told me this story of sleeping there on the floor at night. I could only picture all those racoons and other neighborhood creatures sharing with them.

When the City of Toronto took the building over from the slum land lord for his failure to do anything about the state of the building, some say he was speculating, there was a community division of over what should happen to the building. The "not in my back yard" residents were apposing any more supportive housing in the area.

With the help of  City Councillor Sylvia Watson and the community the "NIMBYS"didn't get their way and the City developed the building as part of Parkdale Activity and Recreation Centre. (PARC works with members on individual issues of poverty, mental health, addictions, homelessness and food security. Members access services and develop.

Now this building is the home of survivors. A place to call home. Where they can feel good.

I thought of Annie, who I always say hello to when I come by her in the neighborhood. She always says, "misses what time is it?" A way of communicating. Always a smile. She reminds me of a character from Mary Poppins, with her long dresses and cape and  hat.

I saw Annie in front of the Edmond Yu one day and asked "Do you live there now?" Yes, she replied, with a big smile on her face.  I was so happy for her and expressed this to her.

She said so proudly, "You have to come and see my apartment one day."  I said I would truly love to.

I am looking forward to taking advantage of this invitation.  So overjoyed to see these neighbours living now in dignity at last. 

An example of what can be achieved if the will is there.

My Parkdale.