For several months, a couple has been squatting in this doorway outside the once treasured, now trashed, bargain store. A seemingly marginal, useless crevice, the two claimed this leftover wedge for their survival, similar to the other 1 in 7 people on this planet who live in informal settlements or “slums”. Although I never spoke to them, I regularly passed by the two as they crafted and sold “homemade” jewelry. Sometimes, I would catch them cradling each other as they slept on their twin-sized mattress.
Now, however, their home has been plastered with broad sheets of wood. This decision was presumably ordered by the unhappy property owner, anxious their investment had become an unintended public shelter. Resilient to their displacement, the couple sat with their belongings beside them on the hot sidewalk, continuing their craft as jewellers, threading small beads along a string, forming colourful necklaces.
Although urban poverty is ubiquitous, camouflaged into our everyday lives, this eviction jumped out at me as uniquely aggressive and cruel. As the city’s social infrastructure erodes, with shelters running out of beds and waitlists for subsidized housing soaring into the hundreds of thousands, where can people who cannot pay the rent, go? Thrusting a pitchfork at poor people and shoving them to the curb reveals how welfare is collapsing in our city. This discompassionate scenario illustrates as Toronto embraces itself as a globally competitive "market city," its public space has become a theatre of cruelty.