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FOCUS: On the road to a roof over his head (Mar. 2021)

March 26th, 2021 · No Comments

Long term Bloor Street sidewalk dweller is hopeful

Jeff Reid loves the Annex, but after living homeless on Bloor Street all year, he sees his future self “as a working man with a dog and a life that’s not necessarily in the public eye.” Reid is seeking a bachelor for him and his dog, General. He is experienced in many types of general labour, and would love to get back into trucking. Good reference. Ideas? Contact him at 647-569-3666. NICOLE STOFFMAN/GLEANER NEWS

By Nicole Stoffman 

In the past year, you may have seen increased traffic in the doorways of Hot Docs Cinema, Inti Crafts, or the Annex Billiards Club during Bloor Street’s pandemic year.  Street-involved people have been sleeping in these doorways at night for years, but due to commercial lockdown measures, they’ve become places to camp out all day long. All across Toronto, the pandemic has raised the profile of our city’s homelessness crisis.

If you live in the neighbourhood, you may well recognize Jeff Reid’s face as one of the many people who call these doorways home. You may have also noticed the ad he placed in the back of the Gleaner: 

“I am Jeff. I live on Bloor Street, literally. I AM HOMELESS AND WANT TO RENT A ROOM IN THE ANNEX. I can pay up to $650/month. Jeff Reid (647) 569-3666.”

Brian Burchell, the Chair of the Bloor Annex BIA (and publisher of this paper), wrote the ad and gifted it after getting to know Mr. Reid, who he met five years ago when Reid was living on the sidewalk of Mirvish Village. Since the construction for the Westbank development forced Reid east of Bathurst street and onto Bloor St., Burchell has gained a greater understanding of his situation and learned that the 38-year-old wants to find a home. 

“My sense was that Jeff just needed a bridge,” said Burchell,  “and that he appreciated that his circumstances were not sustainable. At the time he still had his dog, and that was certainly not healthy for the dog to be sleeping on the sidewalk every night. “

Burchell even offered to be a character reference.

“I can speak to some elements of his character that I think bode well for his potential status as a tenant,” said Burchell, who added that when people were breaking windows on Bloor St at 3am, it was Reid who called the police.

For his part, Reid knows that living rough is not how things are supposed to be. 

“I’d like to see myself in a nice bachelor with a washroom and a shower,” Reid said. “After which I’d like to see myself as a working man with a dog and a life that’s not necessarily in the public eye.” 

His dog, General, a Queensland Heeler, has temporarily escaped the cold and is living with friends, until Reid finds a home.

Reid was born at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, and adopted at the age of two by a family with roots on the East Coast. 

Growing up in Ajax, he was, he says, “a very bad kid.” After his adoptive family gave up on him and moved back East, he became street-involved, travelling across the country, and gaining lots of work experience in the process.

“I’ve done roofing, brick and mortar, landscaping, cleaning/janitorial, auto/building maintenance,  snow removal, yard work, painting, demolition (loved demo), moving, and line work, “ said Reid. “Ideally I’d like to get back into trucking. I loved trucking.” 

Reid is also a humorous and gifted writer, and enjoys reading, gaming and music. 

The shelter system is promoted as a way those who are living rough can transition into housing. 

In Reid’s experience, however, shelters left him vulnerable to what he calls shelter crime: drug addicts who robbed him at night so they could get a little money for their next hit. In April, he had to leave an apartment provided by “Streets to Homes,” when he was broken into twice.

“A number of measures are in place to ensure the safety of clients,” the City’s Shelter Support and Housing Administration said, in response to inquiries made by the Gleaner, “including providing secure storage for belongings, on-site security at many sites, and requirements for regularly scheduled and frequent rounds by staff during all hours of operation to conduct wellness checks. The new shelter design guidelines recently released by the city also identify a number of best practices that are built into new shelter sites that incorporate a range of measures to provide spaces that enhance safety, including employing Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles.”

The Gleaner ad generated a lead on an Air B&B, which fell through when Reid’s roommate ran into financial difficulty. 

Fortunately,  Woodgreen Community Services has since stepped in to connect him with a subsidy that will allow him to apply for market rent bachelor apartments.

“I would urge people to recognize the complexity of the problem of homelessness and to deal with the individual’s behaviour, as opposed to their status as homeless,” adds Burchell. This is  a perspective shared by the The Toronto Police Service. The TPS can issue a ticket under the “Trespass to Property,” bylaw, but not if someone is on public space, not causing a disturbance, and not likely to pay the fine. “We usually ask them if they need anything, and try to connect them to services,” said Const. Caroline Dekloet of the TPS. 

Now that Reid can afford market rent, he’s hopeful. He’s calling landlords, and getting himself cleaned up and ready for viewings. “The Annex has been super nice to me,” says Reid. “It’s kind of a late start, well restart, for that but I’m confident in my abilities to succeed given the chance.”

Tags: Annex · Life