Tuesday, October 27, 2020

WARMINGTON: More than liberty stolen from incarcerated women


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Call it a homeless hotel complex like Canada has never seen before.

Call it the Demerson/Walker Welcome Centre! Call it what you like, but build it.

“It’s certainly needed and would be a nice tribute,” said Robert Burke.

The tribute would be to one-time Andrew Mercer Reformatory for Women inmates Velma Demerson and Muriel Joan Walker, two of thousands jailed there for crimes like being pregnant out of wedlock or dating an immigrant.

That darkness has been buried under a municipal parking lot at Lamport Stadium since being torn down in 1969.

But thanks to COVID-19 the realities of homeless men and women camping on the very site of such horrors, the stark blemish has been unearthed again.

With so many encampments here, and with so many homeless being assigned to hotels or vacant apartments, or the respite centre on this site, there has been a push to create a central homeless facility.

The site in Liberty Village is perfect — 3.7 hectares of city land with room to build 10 buildings and a community to deal with homelessness, harm reduction, mental health and medical concerns.

Rather than have it swallowed up for more condos, an innovative approach would be a private and public partnership to construct something permanent to try to end Toronto’s streets and parks vagrancy.

This would be a good downtown location to do it.

To also honour legendary mayor Allan Lamport, a modern stadium could be built nearby to free up this space to combat the homelessness and housing crisis.

“Velma, before she died, and I talked of a welcome centre to help people,” said Burke.

“We have to try something.”

Toronto doesn’t need more condo buildings but does need a solution to the street crisis.

Call it an idea in need of urgent action.

City of Toronto spokesperson Susan Pape said while “the city does own the land around Lamport Stadium, including the parking lot and respite centre, as well as the house on the corner of Fraser Ave. and King St.” she is “not aware of any current plans to develop the site.”

If Burke has it his way, it would be developed to help people.


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