North America

Toronto Star
20 June 1997

By Madhavi Acharya, Staff Reporter

TORONTO-- An abandoned 56-unit apartment building on Jarvis St. may be a nightmare for some, but for Angel Femia it represents a dream.

"I'm excited," said the founder of Lovecry, a charitable organization which helps street kids. Femia is trying to turn Wellsborough Mansions into a haven for them, complete with affordable housing, drop-in center and hostel.

Working with two other community groups -- Colandco Community Land Trust and Toronto Action for Social Change -- Lovecry has bid $100,000 for the rundown, city-owned complex of two buildings and parking garage at 412-414 Jarvis St., which for years has been used as a 'squat' by street kids.

"Even if it's turned down, it's a big move," Femia said yesterday, as about a dozen demonstrators -- many of them squeegee kids -- attended a rally in support of the venture outside the complex yesterday morning.

Adding impact to the proceedings was a $5,000 cheque donated by David Walsh, owner of Nordic Communications, as a down payment for the bid.

He sees it as an opportunity to raise awareness about issues surrounding affordable housing.

"The fact is that no housing is being built for people on low incomes. There's no realistic alternatives for these people," Walsh said.

While the group's bid is a long way from the $500,000 some say the Jarvis St. property is worth, backers say it's a start.

Colandco's Brian Burch, for one, is convinced the $95,000 the group still has to collect for its bid will be available if City of Toronto backs the project, but he wouldn't say where the money will come from.

"There are hundreds of empty buildings in downtown Toronto which could be used to house people who are currently living on the streets," said Matthew Behrens of Toronto Action for Social Change. "This is a chance for the community to come together and create affordable, non-profit co-operative housing."

It can't happen soon enough for Jeremy McDowell, 25, who wants to end his days of living on the streets.

"I fight every day to survive, living in an abandoned building with other Lovecry kids," he said. "I'm not looking to squat any more. I want to be able to pay for housing, but I can't afford it.

"That's all we want. We want a fighting chance to stand on our own two feet."

The proposals will be considered by the city's Executive Committee July 8 and will go to council July 14.

Return to PANGAEA HomePage