Filed under: Community Organizing, Editorials, History, Ontario
Dave, a member of Parkdale Organize, writes about his experience facing the threat of eviction in Parkdale, Ontario.
Eviction isn’t just ‘moving’, and it’s rarely an acute event. It’s months or years of stress and anxiety, of disempowerment, of not feeling secure in the most basic ways. And for those of us in recovery — as so many of us are in Parkdale — it is traumatic.
Whether recovering from mental health issues, addictions, violence, colonialism, or from any number of forms of oppression, Parkdale is a neighbourhood of survivors — and an eviction or threat thereof can derail a recovery with devastating efficiency.
When my building was bought a year and a half ago by a notorious ‘renovicter’, and knowing an eviction would likely mean leaving this city — along with my family and support network — I was terrified. I felt utterly powerless.
I remember when the landlord toured my unit — my home — when he was first thinking of buying the place. He commented on how cheap the rent was. How grovelingly I agreed and said how grateful I was for that, knowing even as I said it that my gratitude meant nothing to him.
All the hard work I’d done to rebuild my life seemed like it could go up in smoke at any moment — and not because I’d done anything wrong, but because we live in a society where rich people get to exploit poor people.
At first I flailed wildly, reading landlord-tenant law, contacting politicians and social-justice-minded lawyers & journalists… I even got my first cell-phone & signed up for twitter (ha!)…
My hope was that someone more knowledgeable, more powerful, would come save me — because that’s what we’re trained as poor or ill or marginalized people to want, because everything in our media and culture tells us that’s the only way.
But no one swooped in. Politicians were sympathetic, but jurisdictionally challenged. Journalists were interested… if things got to crisis point. Lawyers were helpful, but couldn’t do much until notice was served — and I’d seen what landlords could get away with at the Landlord and Tenant Board.
Friendly as they all were, no one could do anything to help with the stress of knowing that someone far more powerful than me, with money and connections galore, had a target painted on mine and my neighbours’ backs.
Until I saw a flyer, and went to a meeting, and met a group of people — my neighbours — who weren’t looking to anyone else to save them, but to each other.
Absent political favour, funding, influence, or compromise they were building power through sheer force of will and solidarity. As I came to learn, they had already achieved some amazing things.
Over the past year I’ve knocked on more doors than I can count and visited more landlords than I can recall. I’ve done my best to have my neighbours’ backs.
So when I got notice tonight that construction is starting in my building this week, there was an initial pang of panic, but none of the powerless despair I felt in those first months after my home was sold.
Because if this *is* an attempt to push us out, I know we can *do* something about it, and I know we’ve got a neighbourhood behind us. And not just any neighbourhood, but Parkdale. And Parkdale fights back. And that’s a damn powerful feeling.
So here’s my PSA, for anyone who needs it:
If you’re facing eviction or are worried you might be soon; if they’re raising your rent or not doing repairs; if they’re trying to intimidate you or just make living in your building so miserable you move: Talk. To. Your. Neighbours.
It’s not just about your home being saved, it’s about *you* saving your homes, together, and reclaiming the power, dignity, and autonomy this fucked up system takes from you.
If you’re in Parkdale & need help getting started, contact Parkdale Organize. We’re not here to save anyone, but we’re your neighbours, and we’ve all been through it, and we’ve got your back, 100%.