US expert advocates no-nonsense homeless plan

When advocate Philip Mangano talks about his mission to end chronic homelessness in the US within the next 10 years, he pushes the four “killer Bs,” reported The Toronto Sun May 19 in a story about the keynote speaker at the first Canadian Conference on Homelessness at York University.

The executive director of the Washington-based Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH) feels any strategy aimed at ending homelessness for those “most likely to perish on the streets” won’t work unless it includes a business plan, baselines (a count of the homeless), benchmarks (the housing units or services needed to remedy the problem) and a clear understanding of budget implications. Since he was appointed to his post three years ago by US President George Bush, Mangano has convinced 190 cities across the country to create 10-year plans to end homelessness in their own communities. “For 20 years in our country, we managed homelessness…we’d grown anesthesized to the problem,” he said this week before the conference at York, where he was a keynote speaker Thursday.

In other conference coverage:

  • Local and regional CBC Radio programs broadcast a news item May 18 reporting that York would host the national conference and featuring comments by conference Chair Stephen Gaetz, a professor in York’s Faculty of Education. CBC’s “Metro Morning” also aired an item May 18 featuring comments by Gaetz, a York political science and urban studies student and homeless person Matthew Lynas.
  • Metroland newspapers in Markham and Newmarket reported in advance that York would host more than 1,000 participants and the conference would feature researchers, policy makers, service providers and people affected by homelessness from around the world. “We can learn from other countries, especially the US and United Kingdom, where they’re taking a different approach to the problem,” Gaetz said. The stories also noted Canadian journalist and author Linda McQuaig would give a keynote address on resurrecting the notion of the common good. “There’s been a tendency over the last 10 or 15 years to consider homelessness as an individual problem, therefore solutions are individual,” Gaetz said. “We have to get to thinking we’re all in this together. We’re all just one pay cheque away from experiencing the problem.”

Raising a roof for the homeless

Homelessness, as Mark Persaud knows from bitter experience, is an equal-opportunity soul destroyer. So when a group of Muslims asked Persaud, a Christian, to co-chair a fundraising walkathon (scheduled for Sunday) for a homeless shelter, he gladly jumped in, reported the Toronto Star May 19. Persaud hasn’t forgotten, and remains grateful for the help he received from staff and volunteers at the Scott Mission during the most trying time of his life. A political activist from Guyana, he came to Canada as a refugee in 1983. For months that winter, the 19-year-old wandered the cold streets of Toronto, homeless. He went on to earn an LLB in 1991 and an LLM in 2001 from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, becoming a criminal lawyer and prosecutor and now director of the Canadian International Peace Project. A United Church parishioner, he has continued to volunteer at downtown shelters.

Transit advocates can still have their say online

Time is running out for public transit enthusiasts to select their preferred route for a Spadina subway extension, reported the Toronto Star May 19. The last public workshop to discuss the pros and cons of four possible routes for the proposed extension was held Wednesday at an education centre in the city’s west end. But transit advocates who missed the meeting can still have their say with a click of a button, thanks to a new online service launched on the TTC Web site Tuesday. The deadline for submissions is June 1.

The workshop is part of Phase II of a $3 million environmental assessment study of the project, which is designed to link Downsview Station with York University and beyond in York region, one of the fastest growing regions of the Greater Toronto Area, noted the Star. The four currently proposed stops are Downsview Park, Keele and Finch station, York University station, and Steeles station between Jane St. and Keele St. The last and third phase of the study is expected to conclude this fall. The results will be sent to the TTC board for approval. The Ministry of the Environment will then have seven months to review, and approve or reject the study’s findings, said TTC chief engineer Tom Middlebrook.

Middlebrook said the University administration supports the choice of York Commons as the campus stop on the line. “When we did our study we looked at student movement, concentration and convenience,” Middlebrook explained. “The centre of the University was at the commons and so that was pretty much a slam dunk.”

GO strike threat a wake-up call

The potential loss of GO train service and the threatened TTC strike last month should be a wake-up call, according to Canadian Automobile Association spokesperson Faye Lyons, reported The Toronto Sun May 19. More roads and more public transit is the only answer to ease stresses on the system, she said. For transit users, the CAA wants the extension of the Spadina subway line to York University, then joining it across the top of the city to Finch station on the Yonge line, creating a loop for the Yonge-University-Spadina line. The extension of the subway into Mississauga would have aided many commuters if there had been a GO strike. “We know that the need exists already and that the growth of the City of Toronto in the next 20-30 years will make it worse,” Lyons said. “Now is the time for all levels of government to act.”

Rexall Centre to host Davis Cup tie

The Rexall Centre, the tennis facility at York University, will host this fall’s Davis Cup tie between Canada and Belarus, reported The Globe and Mail May 19. The winner of the Sept 23-25 qualifier will earn a berth in the prestigious World Group next year. Canada is ranked 17th in Davis Cup while Belarus is No. 8.

Vaughan mayor wants soccer stadium

York University‘s loss could be Vaughan’s gain. At least that’s what Mayor Michael Di Biase hopes after hearing plans for a stadium at the University fell through Thursday, reported the Richmond Hill Liberal May 15. He will lobby the federal and provincial governments to follow through with $35 million in funding to allow a smaller stadium to be built in Vaughan.

Travel recovers to pre-9/11 levels

Three and a half years after the terrorist attacks eroded the travel industry, the number of Canadians travelling has finally returned to pre-9/11 levels, reported the Toronto Star May 19. Canadians took advantage of the high dollar and relieved their pent-up desire to travel overseas and to the United States in record numbers in March, a Statistics Canada study reported Thursday. “September 11th happened when the stock market was going off,” explained Theo Peridis, professor of strategic management at York University’s Schulich School of Business. “Things were not looking up at that time for (the travel industry). September 11th was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Son carries on Miss India-Canada Pageant

After graduating with a business administration degree from York’s Schulich School of Business in 2001, Sanjay Agnihotri shirked corporate Canada for something more entrepreneurial, like his dad, who founded the Miss India-Canada Pageant, reported the National Post May 19 in a story on Indo-Canadian entrepreneurs. At first , Sanjay was “in the front row watching [the pageant] and that was about it.” But he and his sister, a high school teacher, got more involved as the years went by. He partnered with a friend involved with a South Asian wedding show. His buddy started Suhaag, a fledgling magazine to complement the show. “We transformed it into a wedding, fashion and lifestyle magazine,” Sanjay said. Now sold at Chapters/Indigo and select stores in the United States, the magazine also has travel and business articles along with a food section. New issues are first distributed at the show.  He and his sister have also become more involved in organizing their father’s Miss India-Canada Pageant

Private sector eyed for transportation projects

The Ontario government will be going to the private sector to fund the building of major infrastructure – roads, hospitals, schools and transit projects, which could potentially include a subway to York University, reported the Metroland newspapers in North York and Scarborough May 11 and 13. Infrastructure Renewal Minister David Caplan (Don Valley East) announced the plan at a Toronto Board of Trade meeting May 9. Dubbed Alternative Finance and Procurement, the plan would see the government use private sector dollars to rejuvenate the province’s aging infrastructure.