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

March 26th, 2021 · 1 Comment

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 

During Bloor Street’s pandemic year, you may have seen increased traffic in the doorways of Hot Docs Cinema, Inti Crafts, or the Annex Billiards Club.  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

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Jeff Reid // Apr 7, 2021 at 10:55 pm

    Dear Gleaner:

    Hi! It’s me, the guy in the picture! I have received so many comments abouts the article, it’s unbelievable. It’s like I’m actually real or something! So happy!

    So, a little update, I’ve been accepted into housing, these will be my last days on the streets, April. So I intend to get cleaned up, a new wardrobe, a week’s worth of showers, four straight days of sleep, and I’m fresh as a daisy. Pity there isn’t a Starbucks anymore on Albany. It’s so hard to find a decent cup of coffee around here anymore.

    A note to Shelter Support and Housing administration, invest in cameras. Put cameras up everywhere but the bathroom. Heck, then the bathroom would be the place to mug and steal from other residents. I guess there is no real easy solution. The problem of addiction and thievery in the shelter system is as old as my time, at least. Those lockers don’t do much when people pick or break the lock. Also, for lockers staff must open, perhaps make new staff wait a while before they’re permitted to open lockers. Both scenarios I’ve faced here in Toronto as well as across Canada and the US. Until Broadway I was not able to say I’ve ever had a problem with staff. Staff were never the problem, the clientele was. So the solution would be to change the clientele. How do you do that? I don’t know, there’s the idea that you could open shelters that have zero tolerance drug and alcohol policies. The best shelters I’ve been to were the one’s where if you came back intoxicated, you slept it off outside. There were still theives but the junkies couldn’t come in.

    Oh how I’ve waited for this one… a little hypocritical there, eh, TPS? I’ve been more help to the homeless of this community than any ‘services’ that you’ve offered. The best service I ever got from your side of the iron fence (I really wanted to say fist) (oops, did I type that? Oh well the editor will get it later.) was from the OIPRD. The services you offer are the same ones I’m deliberately avoiding because of (shock and awe) CRIME! I wonder whose job that is? ‘Let’s get you off the street where you can protect your belongings and into a place where the other residents can relieve you of them before you end up back out here again without all this stuff.’ This is basically what you’re telling any fool you end up sending to Maxwell Meghan or, Goodness forbid, Satan House… Oh Seaton House… Sorry. My bad. Seaton, not Satan. I’m probably going to hell for that one.

    So, I guess I should take this time to reflect on my time out here. I’m not going to lie, I loved it. From the friendly community to the free food at the end of the night, the Annex has been extremely good to me and I am eternally grateful for the tolerance and hospitality of the neighbourhood. The Annex is always my recommendation to visit if and when you hit Toronto because it really feels like home; and y’know? It really does.