Comstock: Sleeping on streets should be intolerable

Every person sleeping on our sidewalks is found on an Enwave waste heat vent, it’s the Enwave Hotel

By Michael Comstock –

Criticism of last month’s column assumed I didn’t care about the people sleeping on Enwave’s waste heat grates.

Let me be clear, leaving people to sleep on the sidewalk is an abomination. The practice harms the community and the individual and accepts a status quo in which no alternatives are even looked for. I asked readers to email Enwave and ask them to show some civic responsibility and clean up their streetscape menace.

Every person sleeping on our sidewalks is found on an Enwave waste heat vent, it’s the Enwave Hotel. Yes, I likened it to feeding a bear or flock of pigeons, which often produces a messy consequence.

Enwave is just another blind, bumbling bureaucracy, but not alone in blame. To a large degree it is created by a fringe group of social activists bent on reforming the welfare system and building social housing. I’m good with these aims. However, they use the practice of camping out on the sidewalks as street theatre and sometimes do it themselves as a demonstration of poverty. They are making sure we don’t hide the poor, that we see poverty as a public issue.

This tactic uses these most vulnerable people as pawns and impairs dealing with them as individuals. It is often more than just poverty or housing that leads them to the grates. Cathy Crowe of Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) was quoted in the Jan. 31 Star as opposing the Streets to Homes program in that “rapid housing programs often come at the cost of shelter repairs and street outreach and can foster intolerance for people on the streets.” Intolerance shouldn’t be felt for having people sleeping on the streets? Where do you start being intolerant about the lack of services, civic pride and housing, if not with this? (Read Cathy Crowe’s reply here.)

If they care about the individual, they must demand changing the status quo.

We couldn’t provide a solution to people left sleeping on the Enwave grates during the Miller era, how can we expect success under Mayor Ford? We are in a world of change demonstrated by the Wall Street bankrupt economy, the election of Pres. Barack Obama, the fall of Arab dictators, and even the loss of Toronto’s left-wing council.

We need to get on board this world of change and stop using unionist slogans from 60 years ago and asking the government to provide everything.

It just might be that private enterprise could build and operate social housing better and cheaper than TCHC. How could we lose by letting them give it a try? It might be productive to join with tourism interests and create an alternative to the terrible display of the Enwave Hotel. We need new services for homeless street people, lets ask the Downtown towers and tourism businesses to contribute.

While we are surfing this wave of change why not consider limiting the pay of hospital presidents, public agency directors and top bureaucrats, to that of our top politician. Why should these workers make more than the premier? We seem to have several niches where the paycheque is self-decreed.  The fractured shareholder ownership of large corporations lacks checks and balances to reel in the annual 7- and 8-digit payouts. The massive bloated bureaucracy of government creates skilled justifications of their income inequity.

So, while we are on this consideration of change, maybe it is time to actually write Enwave or your councillor or Tourism Toronto, and suggest that sleeping on the sidewalks in Downtown Toronto must end.