From time-to-time in the Greater Toronto Area a group called OCAP, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, can garner attention for its activism. The general public alternates between apathy toward, and disapproval of, anything to do with OCAP. Among recent efforts is the open letter to Premier McGuinty at the link below. It makes a specific criticism of a municipal program designed to relieve homelessness in Toronto. The group objects to the way the program involves relocating those experiencing homelessness out of downtown areas to the edges.
Open Letter to Mayor David Miller, Councilor Joe Mihevc and Streets To Homes Manager Iain De Jong
Looks like both cities and suburbs have lost a lot of their cultural weight and the result is a kind of post modern confusion about how we ought to live. Cities and suburbs seem to repel us and attract us.
Suburbs vs. cities — whose utopias? rabble.ca
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development produces a host of data directly useful for assessing social conditions. Do we need a supercomputer to connect rising inequality and the stacked economic gains of the rich with suburban poverty and downward mobility?
Notes for individual countries are found on the OECD site (.pdf files):
Better than many for a long time but no reason to be smug: Canada
Faltering after some improvement: United Kingdom
Forget it, only Turkey & Mexico are worse for income inequality: United States
Some improvement but could do better: Australia
The difficulty of accurately perceiving social conditions in suburban communities is rooted in space and structure. Much of our definition of cities attaches to their evolution under nineteenth century industrialization. When we think of say Paris or Baltimore the weight of our general definition of them is shaped by this older process of identity building. When the era of ex-urban hyper-building got going after 1945 new approaches to understanding human communities were required and began to come about – but have been only partially successful. It seems that wherever the land, capital, political relationships, and economic imperatives are in place multiple worlds developed, inner and outer ones.
There are still arguments over exactly what constitutes suburbia but… well, we feel we know it when we see it. Suburbia is misunderstood, changing, and remains screened by the larger, older identities of place. This pair of links, to items from NewGeography.com, offer general approaches to a more integrated understanding of place.
The two worlds of Buenos Aires
Toronto: three cities in more than one way
The cost of housing has a lot to do with suburban poverty.
It may be cheaper on the periphery but the effect of real estate inflation and low wages is mobile, too. Vancouver, case-in-point made through grim,
Guess where the survey found an increase in homelessness? If you answered ‘the suburbs’ you are correct. Homelessness on the Left Coast can’t just be about the weather and the scenery.
Homeless numbers rise in Metro Vancouver suburbs
Downtown East Side normally leaps to mind when considering poverty in Vancouver, Canada’s Pacific Rim big city. If you’ve ever seen that neighbourhood for yourself anytime in the last few decades then the reference is all too understandable. Unfortunately, Vancouver is now seeing some of the movement of poverty that Toronto is. In January, 2011 the Globe and Mail published a map detailing this change using Statistics Canada census data for 1971 and 2006.
Pockets of poverty are arising in the suburbs of Vancouver while prosperity is popping up in the DES
The United Way takes a look at ‘vertical poverty’ in ageing inner suburbs. ‘Moving up in the world’ doesn’t really mean what it used to.
Vertical Poverty Press Conference
YouTube 16:47 (highly recommended)
Created in 1974, Mississauga is a vast Edge City in the western part of one of North America’s largest city-suburb agglomerations. For decades there it was all about growth, growth, growth. Now, the buzz has begun to wear off a bit, especially in areas with older high rise buildings. This article from the Globe and Mail, a relatively conservative newspaper for its century-or-so of existence, encapsulates the dawning of an awareness of post-growth issues, including poverty. Targeting priority neighbourhoods for social spending, as is done in Toronto, has begun to get support. The tagline of the City of Mississauga is ‘Leading Today for Tomorrow.’ We’ll see what that means soon enough!
Poverty hides in the suburbs: will ‘priority neighbourhoods’ help?
Where to start? Well, a lot of this business began with things we felt intuitively, observed, experienced, read about, and talked about but had difficulty fully articulating. When the economy crashed in 2008 this process of puzzling over what is around us became all the more vexing. Coming across two major papers from the Brookings Institution led to a bit of a ‘Eureka’ moment, made things ‘official’, as it were. Statistical evidence that suburban poverty is increasing in the United States (with implications for Canada and elsewhere) is on the table now, apparently for good. Evidence in Canada is available, worrisome, growing in detail and getting harder to ignore. Proof that a major change is under way in social conditions on this continent.
The Brookings Institution is a major, centre-of-spectrum think tank in Washington, DC. It was established in 1916 and addresses a wide variety of public-interest topics.
This link takes you to a download location for the report:
By 2008, suburbs were home to the largest and fastest-growing poor population in the country.