Sunday, September 14, 2014

Living (and visiting).in Parkdale (Toronto, Ontario)-a good place to live?

A sign in Parkdale, Toronto

This summer I have spent some time  in Toronto on three occasions. One of the times  happened just this weekend. I had the chance to accompany my husband on a trip during which Toronto Tourism wooed church groups to schedule their large assemblies in Toronto (specifically the area near the airport). For these three days I experienced a lifestyle that is quite foreign to me, that of the more wealthy sector of society.

Breakfast Entre.

On Saturday morning I was eating breakfast with the group when one man asked if I visited Toronto very frequently. I said that I had just been here two weeks earlier, in a very different capacity. I told him that I had been staying in Parkdale. He proceeded to tell me that Parkdale was changing from a "bad" place to a very nice place to live. Young couples and students were buying houses and condominiums and making it a "good" place to be.

I sat there listening and feeling sad for the Parkdale that I had experienced just two weeks earlier. Now, maybe my perspective is a little skewed. I walked the streets during daylight hours and I did not see any evidence of some of the less pleasant aspects. But the Parkdale that I saw appealed to me- the life and activity and society of a place to live that is a huge mixture of all kinds of people.

On the other two visits  I stayed in the Christian Peacemaker Teams Aboriginal Justice Team's home in the area of Parkdale, west of downtown Toronto, and  that is quite close to Lake Ontario. The large house that my three colleagues plus two housemates live in is an old lovely duplex that was formerly the Catholic Worker house of hospitality. I have heard stories from my colleagues of visitors:  a homeless couple who lived on the porch for a period of time last summer, of racoons and little kittens or  the lonely CPT guests who drop in for a time to be with fellows of like mind . Some of these visitors have been rehoused quite quickly, others were invited to stay for a while until they were able to find suitable housing. Others made their way back to lives in other parts of Canada or the world.

This is a tiny taste of the Parkdale I experienced.. On my walks I saw a mixture of all kinds of ethnicities and cultures and ages and genders. I saw children spending out-of-school hours playing footfall/soccer together on the schoolyard, women in traditional Tibetan dresses carrying groceries home, and community gardens thriving beside a weekly vegetable market.

I don't know who lives in these apartments. But I did see of lot of Canadian flags- people making a new life in this country.

However, I witnessed one interaction that exemplified the village that Parkdale is, in the midst of a huge city. As I waited to cross Queen Street I spied an elderfy man walking slowly along the sidewalk. Another man met him and asked if he was going home. The first man mumbled, "yes, yes, going home".

"Then you have to turn around. Your home is that way". And the second man pointed in the opposite direction. "And (woman's name) is hunting for you. You need to go find her." He then turned the man around and sent him back up the sidewalk.

The second man then came to wait for the walk signal alongside me. I smiled at him. He said, "It sucks to have Alzheimers."

This is a place to live where every day you walk alongside new and old immigrants to Canada, old and young people, broken and not-so-broken people. I pray that this part of Toronto will not change too quickly to be a "good" place to live. Because, in my opinion, it is already a GOOD place to live.

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