I should explain my neighbourhood. I live in close proximity to the largest social housing project in the city, full of the beautiful people. We also have 2 other social housing buildings within a 7 block radius. We have an “inner-city” school full of passionate, smart, committed teachers who deal with some kids that come to school daily burdened with issues much bigger than what 1 + 1 equals, that must be dealt with before one can learn. We do have desperate women who turn to street level prostitution that wander our streets,some mom’s from our neighbourhood who go out once income assistance checks have been stretched as thinly as they can, but the problem is with the arrogant men who ask ALL of us if we are working making our neighbourhood unsafe, and the pimps who bring other women here to exploit them.
Let me be clear, I NEED shoddy housing to be able to afford to stay in my neighbourhood… let’s be truthful. I need shoddy housing anywhere to be able to live as well as eat and pay the bills.
Since our gentrification started, I have had this simmering panic that one month my landlord is going to say “I sold the house, here’s your 3 month notice”. That my friends is a shitty feeling. I can’t tell the kids I’m scared. I want to kiss my 35+ year old, old school, laminate flooring everyday that we are here. Everyday I don’t have to tell my kids, “we are moving so someone else who has more options than us, can choose to ignore what their actions are doing to others and they can move here” is a good day
I get it you have money, you have a “right” to take over wherever you want, but can you let me live here for 8 more years. Let my kids finish school? Let my autistic son live out the life he sees for himself and finds comfort in?
I mean, we wanted a new library & community center for well… ever. You build 3 or 4 apartment buildings, and voila we have both of them in no time. Then all of a sudden members of our community we have taken care of for ages have no where to go. Molly sat in the library ALL the time, but because a few of the new people complained they didn’t feel comfortable with her solo conversation she has for hours on end, and the enormous amounts of stuff she has with her, she is now only allowed in now for short periods of time.
I know I shouldn’t refer to the new neighbours as “them” but how do you discuss a collective group of people who are threatening mine & my kids security. Who have a particular way of doing things and because everyone knows they are the ones with money things happen, like Molly being displaced out of the library, or prostituted women not being able to use the new coffee shops washroom because they have not bought a drink. Well then, I’ll buy her a drink and you better damn well not come up with another excuse to deny her access to a bathroom!! A bathroom. What does that say about us when people can’t use a bathroom.
I also know I am not talking about millionaires here, most are “middle class” but actions are actions, attitudes are attitudes. Standards are standards. When the “newbies” move in then they want stores/coffee shops/ gyms/ etc that are a part of their everyday lives that maybe have not been a part of ours, and as those stores are created to cater to them we(me/my family/ friends/ the original neighbours) find ourselves surrounded by spaces we can’t access.
I want to be kind to everyone, but how do I be kind to a group of people who I know eventually will displace me & mine for their own want. Who edge me & mine out of spaces because we don’t fit the bill. Although the thing that irritates me the most is the judgments they heap everywhere, maybe not with words but suddenly we have houses with locked gates across their back car park. Have sign on the front lawn and window proudly displaying the high tech security systems in their homes.That look at my sweet and funny, moacha skinned, man sized, teenager in a way that makes me scared for him when he leaves my house. That creates an “us” & “them” feeling all in it’s self.
I am also reminded that this is Thanksgiving weekend, the colonizers holiday. when we celebrate the “original” gentrification. I know there is a push to have it be a weekend to give thanks, but at who’s expense are we giving thanks.I want to confront the holiday, not re-brand it so we ignore the core issue & talk about how great our lives are.I think it is important to address the reality of this weekend, not try to push the horror of it aside. I know the indigenous women I walk through life with, and learn from have no chance to not confront the horror on a regular/daily basis.Yes, I am thankful for more that I can articulate or express, but let’s not create a feel good holiday to ignore the true history of what our 3 -day weekend is celebrating,
I will never know what it was like to have my land invaded. To be killed, raped, and have my language striped of me, be forced to live on parcels of land doled out by those who have decimated your culture and traditions. My heart and solidarity goes out to indigenous people, my son’s people.
But I have the teeniest, tiniest glimpse of what it feels like to be in a constant state of living in the anxiety that one day you come home to that piece of paper that says, “You’re out”
I have to take one of my littles to school….we’ll walk down the alley with new houses we’ll never live in, walk by gates that were not there 3 years ago, and be glared at by the new neighbors who aren’t sure about tattoos & purple hair on a parent. I will smile and say “Good Morning” hoping that my politeness does not encourage more to move here.
All I want is to have a home. My home & I really. really like this home.