Admins of Toronto Facebook group against homeless shelters accused of bullying
The situation in Midtown Toronto has been tense ever since the city opened new homeless shelters in the area and a portion of the community openly expressed opposition to the decision, but many say several residents have now taken it too far.
Nearly 4,300 people have joined a Facebook group called Community Safety- Midtown Toronto over the past few weeks in order to discuss the supposed increase in thefts, break-ins, drug paraphernalia and other crimes in the neighbourhood since the shelters opened, and group members held a protest this weekend against the housing projects.
But according to the city councillor for the area, Josh Matlow, the creators of the Facebook group have been bullying and harassing those who openly challenge or disagree with them.
I know people are feeling many layers of stress these days. Sadly, there are toxic places on social media allowing abuse, bullying & misinformation that amplifies anxiety. I believe if we are kind to each other & thoughtfully address challenges, we’ll get through this together.— Josh Matlow (@JoshMatlow) August 13, 2020
Though the moderators claim to have started the group out of concern for community safety, Matlow says they're the ones, in reality, who are now causing a safety issue.
"The admins/moderators of Community Safety Midtown Facebook Group have been allowing bullying, harassment, misinformation and now doxing," Matlow tweeted this weekend.
"It's unsafe, unacceptable & I'm concerned about the impact it's having on people's lives. Please always seek credible sources for information."
The doxing Matlow speaks of is in reference to Brandon Gomez, an anchor and reporter for CP24 and CTV News.
Over the weekend, Gomez tweeted that some members attempted to share his home address in the group following his coverage of the situation.
"I've recently been made aware that some people unhappy with my unbiased reporting today regarding the midtown Toronto shelter protests have attempted to share my home address in a Facebook group," he wrote.
"Our security teams have been notified. I will not be intimidated, period."
On Saturday, Torontonians in support of the shelters gathered for a counter protest in Midtown, and demonstrators from both sides clashed over whether the new residents should be welcome in the neighbourhood.
A counter protest of the midtown protest against shelters today. https://t.co/ivwoVlMch5— Three Geese Radius (@shawnmicallef) August 15, 2020
Those protesting against the shelters said they were concerned about inadequate safety measures and increased crime, while those opposing them said anyone experiencing homelessness is welcome and will be supported in the community.
Residents in midtown #Toronto are protesting temporary shelters the city has placed in the neighbourhood as a way to house the city’s homeless population during the Covid-19 pandemic.— Brandon Gonez (@brandongonez) August 15, 2020
Residents say they’ve witnessed an increase in crime & are concerned for their safety. pic.twitter.com/ZhfhWjLSMx
Many have also stated that they support the new shelters, but believe the city didn't properly handle their implementation after failing to consult the community ahead of time.
"The City has a responsibility to address and respond to safety concerns in any neighbourhood, while also supporting homeless individuals in our city with dignity and care," reads a release from the city about the protests.
"The City is working hard to integrate the Roehampton temporary housing program into the community in response to COVID-19."
Our community’s support for our city’s homeless is unwavering. We expect the city & province to provide supports to ensure the safety of shelter clients & the community. Working with the mayor & city staff, I remain focused on a collaborative, effective & compassionate approach.— Josh Matlow (@JoshMatlow) August 15, 2020
And in a press release issued earlier this month, the city said that while an engagement process for the community in advance is preferred, "the rapid nature of the response and critical need to protect people experiencing homelessness" throughout the COVID-19 pandemic simply did not allow for it.
The two housing programs located at 55/65 Broadway Avenue are scheduled to close at the end of this month (the city says they're working to rehouse all residents), but what was initially supposed to be a temporary program at the Roehampton Hotel has now been extended for at least two years, and possibly a third.
The city is set to hold an online community town hall on Wednesday, Aug. 19 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., featuring a brief presentation on the Roehampton Hotel, an update on enhanced community supports and a question period for participants.
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