Comstock: Heal the suffering on our streets

For many years I have loved this city, but seeing the squalour on the streets of our financial district sidewalks, I am beginning to see why a lot of the country thinks Toronto sucks.

The greatest crime in Downtown Toronto isn’t Conrad Black’s income manipulations but the inhumane crime of people left sleeping in the streets.

This is a disfigurement of our community, our ideals, on our culture, our city’s pride, on the national concept that we provide social programs. This is a crime of neglect and the degradation of the poor individuals left to suffer in front of thousands with no more city response than a cheap blanket and bowl of fast food gruel.

In one of the wealthiest countries and cities in the world there is no excuse for this display of neglect. The normally compassionate citizens of Toronto would not let a dog suffer on the Downtown streets like these lost souls.  However, the detached business towers, filled with out-of-town commuters, have allowed the political rhetoric of a few fringe socialists to give the upper hand to anarchy and this blight of the Downtown core.

There is a program for ending this crime against Toronto and it starts with the construction of a Central Intake Centre. It requires Toronto to create one or two emergency centres where people found at their wit’s end, sleeping or passed out on the pavement of our city, or wandering down dark alleys in aimless troughs of a psychotic episode,  are taken by ambulance (with police assistance if required) for a health and social assessments.

This is a costly program for about 200 beds which would require a significant portion $190 Million spent each year on housing shelters and drop-in centres. It is a place of rest and rehabilitation for only for a few hours, or over night if need be.

The program offers a recording of what the individuals problem are, offers treatment programs that might be available, housing options the city might have, a health assessment to see if the situation is a danger to that person or others. When the individual has been assessed and been offered assistance it would be their option to “take it or leave it”. This is not a jail for the homeless; it is an opportunity for them and the city to stop the cycle of suffering.

If the individual is found back on the streets at another time the process would be repeated. Our social work staff would begin to know of and assist the real problem cases and better understand the kind of supports needed to prevent this most terrible of all conditions.

The result of establishing the Downtown Central Intake Centres would be that we would no longer see “the bodies on Bay Street.” Those most in need would have the most help and our Downtown community, which is the victim in this crime, would begin to heal.

Mike Comstock is taking the summer off from his columnist duties to focus more on advancing the interests of St. Lawrence Market merchants in further developing The Kitchen on the second-floor west mezzanine.