Finding Ho-Hum: Good News Stories And Affordable Progress Vs. NIMBY Nastiness

image of two homes on Jarvis Street in Toronto
Jarvis Street photo by Spacing Magazine is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Large old homes on Jarvis Street in Toronto. The one on the left has been renovated to provide transitional housing for women, thanks to the generosity of the owners.

NIMBY almost inevitably marred a recent heart-warming Toronto tale of a single family’s selfless gift to homeless women.

A family purchased a mansion-sized house on a five lane commuter corridor skirting downtown Toronto. Then they realized something far more imaginative and satisfying could be achieved by extensive renovation: a transitional home for up to 25 homeless women.

The owner paid to renovate the home, which recently opened with a new name – Mary Sheffield House. But not before NIMBY reared its ugly head.

The imagination, grace, and generosity of the Ahmadi family who created Mary Sheffield house stands in stark contrast to spiteful wrong-headedness of the court challenge which delayed its opening.

Is ‘Ho-hum, here we go again’ the only recourse for surviving NIMBY challenges? Homelessness is on the increase, caused in large part by a deepening affordable housing crisis. Is there no way that society can insulate itself from the dark and twisted roots of NIMBY that entangle individual and government attempts to find shelter for all?

Shelters, transitional homes and even traditionally effective low income housing such as rooming houses are inevitably targeted by NIMBYites who equate low income with criminality. It is commonly expressed in ways such as ‘I’m not personally afraid, but I fear for my neighbour’s kids as they walk to school.’

In Canada, human rights legislation should protect poorer individuals against such discrimination. One day, might ‘Not In My Back Yard’ protests with such blatant discriminatory focus be quashed before making their expensive and time-consuming way through a courtroom?

Meanwhile, don’t let us spoil such a heart-warming good news story by crying over spilt milk. After a ho-hum, sigh, closed eyes and a moment of heavy-hearted silence in sympathy with fearful nearby residents, don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate the transformation of an old mansion, and particularly the lives of women who are now living there at the CBC: ‘Everybody can win’: How a Victorian mansion became a refuge for homeless women