Heat registry program helps the at-risk stay cool

Robert Fitzgerald throws his "Heat Registry Peer Outreach Worker" name tag around his neck and waves to a man walking the other way on Jameson Ave, begins a Toronto Star story July 18. "Hi Dan," he calls in passing. "You keepin’ cool?" There’s a spring in his step as he turns toward a three-storey Parkdale apartment building, thermometer in hand – temperature: 32C. Tanya Gulliver (BA ’91), the Heat Registry’s coordinator, rolls her eyes. The outreach workers know everyone around here, she says.  

That’s an important part of the West End Heat Registry, because knowledge of the mental, physical and emotional health of the program’s clients – regulars at the Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre – is an important factor in protecting them from stinking hot summer heat. More than 80 people have signed on for the Heat Registry, a pilot program funded by a city grant and a scholarship from York University, where Gulliver is working on a master’s degree in environmental studies.  

Cold kills 105 Torontonians a year, Gulliver says. Heat kills 120. Those in low-income apartments without air conditioning – and the homeless – are at particularly high risk. They may suffer from mental health problems, diabetes, asthma or other illnesses. "These are people who live tough lives," Gulliver says, "including most of our team." 

Prof questions reduction in Toronto crime

It’s just after midnight on the kind of sultry summer evening that draws bands of thugs onto the Grassways stoops to settle scores, deal drugs, swap guns and intimidate. But tonight the neighbourhood is abandoned, begins a Toronto Star feature July 18.  

The whole city, all 17 police divisions, has been relatively quiet since the start of the year. From murder to shootings, robberies to sexual assault, violent crime is down 18 per cent, compared to the same six months in 2007, police say. Last year at this time there were 40 homicides; this year, there are 30. City-wide calls for police service have plummeted in some high-crime areas, especially in recent weeks, police say. Community workers, such as staff at the Jane/Finch Community and Family Centre, are sensing positive change in their area.  

Could it be that Police Chief Bill Blair is winning the war on violent crime? "The numbers are positive," he says. "But there’s still a lot of work to do." He credits the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy with the decline. Better known as TAVIS, the anti-crime program was introduced three years ago and has received $15 million in provincial funding.  

Is crime slowing down? A York University criminologist says the police numbers may not be telling the whole story. Research shows that when officers conduct projects, they find crime, says James Sheptycki, a social science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts. So the stats go up. He’s shocked to hear that this time, the opposite is occurring. "This runs contrary to everything we know," he says. "I would take those claims with a big grain of salt." Independent scrutiny, he says, is imperative, to know what’s really going on. 

Fun toon takes on weighty domestic-abuse issue

Tamara is married to a jerk who abuses her. Maeve, an old high school acquaintance, comforts her with a gentle hand as she breaks down unexpectedly during a lunch date. Maeve worries – wonders what she can do to help. It may sound like a scene from a domestic violence awareness campaign, but it’s actually part of a new storyline being tackled in the popular comic strip "Between Friends", published in more than 130 newspapers worldwide, including The Hamilton Spectator, reported that newspaper July 18. 

This isn’t the first time cartoonist Sandra Bell-Lundy has tackled weighty issues in the funny pages. The 50-year-old mother of two has addressed infertility, based on personal experience, adoption and therapist-patient dating since readers were first introduced to the three 40-something protagonists, Maeve, Susan and Kim in 1990.  

Desmond Ellis, professor emeritus of sociology in York’s Faculty of Arts who specializes in domestic violence, said some humour in comics is based on trivializing important matters but he doesn’t think that’s the case with "Between Friends". "It’s a useful way of communicating. It may hit at an audience that most needs to hear the message." 

Trying to move beyond ‘necessary evil’ of insurance

The National Post’s Ad Missions panel weighed in on a campaign by Publicis Vancouver that pokes fun at insurance-industry stereotypes in TV spots for Canadian Direct Insurance, a property and casualty insurance company.  

Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, said: People don’t like to think about their insurance: It’s a necessary evil to most. As such, trying to get viewers to pay attention to an insurance company’s advertising is difficult enough, but trying to get them to actually take some action is a monumental task. Fortunately, there is some science about how best to do this. The role of advertising for organizations challenging established and entrenched competitors is not to tout their own virtues alone but to try to activate consumers’ dissatisfaction with their current suppliers and to do it in a way that generates interest or enquiries. These two spots do this perfectly, with a great sense of humour, allowable hyperbole and solid strategy.  

York-trained singer launches new CD

The doors to a world of musical opportunities continues to be opened for an up-and-coming singer, reported the Cornwall Standard-Freeholder July 18. It’s four years this September that Stefanie True (BFA ’03) left her St. Andrew’s West home to pursue studies in early music at the prestigious Royal Conservatory in The Hague, Netherlands. It was a huge decision for the Cornwall Collegiate and Vocational School graduate who also later graduated with top honours from York University’s music program in 2003.  

It was her teacher Catherine Robbin, a music professor in York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, who suggested studying at The Hague to her. Robbin’s own teacher, Diane Forlano, teaches there, as does Barbara Pearson, who taught True at Gregynog.  

Last year, one of True’s big accomplishments was the recording of a CD, Handel:Aci, Galatea E Polifemo, under the musical direction of Marco Vitale. True will be recording two more CDs this October.  

York grad hosts ‘Comedy Now’

Down in the dumps over the slump in the economy? Blood pressure rising as the gas prices soar? Two comedy specials on the docket should raise your spirits, reported The Canadian Press July 18. One is CTV’s "Comedy Now" with rising Canadian comic Ron Sparks (BFA ’02), who got his start as a member of York University’s Vanier Improv Company troupe in Toronto. 

Artist presents catwalk collages

Midland artist Virginia Woodley (BEd ’90) has tapped into her collage skill yet again to present Catwalk Variations, new work in collage at the Penetanguishene Centennial Museum, reported the Midland Free Press July 18. Her art is comprised of models from magazines collaged on a bristol board-type canvas with an abstract background.  

On air

  • Rob Bowman, a music professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, discussed the arrest of Barenaked Ladies singer Stephen Page for cocaine possession in the United States, in interviews aired on CBC Radio programs across Canada July 17.
  • Host Matt Galloway discussed Feeding Our Future, a special lunch program for needy children program run by Sodexho, a food services caterer serving York University, on CBC Radio’s “Here & Now” in Toronto July 17.