‘It’s stressful. I break down. I cry’: Hamilton encampment resident braces for another move

Gord Smyth estimates he has spent as much as $3,000 preparing for homelessness in Hamilton. Smyth has invested in a new generator, electrical cables, heaters, a four-season tent. He has mounted an outdoor showering kit behind tarps in a corner of the encampment he and a friend set up.There’s a toaster oven, microwave, coffee maker, food processor, barbecues.He has an alarm that chirps if an intruder messes with his tent during the night.“It’s a new thing for me and I’ve learned very quickly. You need to be prepared.”Smyth, 54, was displaced from his apartment on James Street North in mid-June after the property was sold to a new owner with redevelopment plans.His arrival to the west side of Central Park — off Bay Street North at Mulberry Street — two weeks ago marked the fifth time he’d moved in a month.It’s prohibited to camp in public spaces in Hamilton, and the city follows a protocol that limits small clusters of tents at one location to a maximum of 14 days.“It’s stressful. I break down. I cry,” says Smyth about the taxing cycle of finding a spot, setting up, only to move days later while coping with a host of health problems affecting his mobility.But on Friday, his deadline to vacate once again, advocates with the Hamilton Encampment Support Network formed a human barrier in front of the men’s tents.“We’re going to defend the encampment as best as we can today, if they choose to show up,” network member Sahra Soudi said.But by around midday, the group received word police and city officials had postponed a plan to enforce the bylaw until next week.“It’s a huge relief,” said an emotional Smyth, seated outside his tent with Daisy, his Chihuahua companion.Upon leaving his home, the systems analyst whose career was cut short by a car accident, faced a private rental market that was out of reach.After about five years in the James Street North apartment, his rent was $545 a month — doable on a monthly disability pension of $1,255.But with rents for apartments easily outstripping his income, and a potential years-long wait for subsidized housing, the outlook was bleak.And like others who populate encampments dotting the urban landscape, Smyth has his reasons for not staying in shelters: anxiety in close quarters with others, security concerns, restrictive hours.“Here, if I’m not feeling well, I can stay in bed. If I want to go for a walk, I go for a walk.”Encampments — a highly conspicuous reminder of Hamilton’s housing crisis — are the focus of charged debates that have become more pitched during COVID-19.Last year, a group of doctors, street outreach workers and lawyers waged a legal battle with the city over the municipality’s push to enforce the tent bylaw amid a large encampment on Ferguson Avenue North.That ended with a settlement and protocol stipulating parameters, including the 14-day limit, a cap of five tents per group and considerations for mental health.Coun. Jason Farr, who represents downtown, says he has fielded numerous complaints from constituents about encampments in his ward.They include grumbles over an early-morning explosion reportedly caused by a propane tank, defecation and garbage, he said Friday.But Farr also argues there’s no reason for people to sleep outside with millions in pandemic funding put toward increasing spaces for physical distancing in shelters and hotel rooms.“There are safer and more humane conditions than people living rough outside.”He said the city has “navigated” nearly 650 people to shelters, hotel rooms and housing during the pandemic. On Friday, the veteran councillor said he received a call from the city’s housing director Edward John asking about delaying the Central Park deadline.“And I said, ‘That’s fine,’” noted Farr, adding officials have stretched the 14-day rule more than once.The advocates have a right to express opposition to the protocol, he added. “That’s why we live in a democratic and free society.”In an emailed statement, John said the city’s encampment responses vary “and require significant coordination” with agencies and city departments. “Based on a number of circumstances today, it was determined that regrouping next week was a more considered course of action.”Soudi, meanwhile, describes the displacement of encampment residents in the absence of adequate affordable housing as an “evil” tactic. “If anything, they’re just being asked to move and find another place to stay.” As for Smyth, he’s holding out hope for a proper home, but also bracing to leave again if he must. “We’re preparing for the worst.”Teviah Moro is a Hamilton-based reporter at The Spectator. Reach him via email: tmoro@thespec.com

‘It’s stressful. I break down. I cry’: Hamilton encampment resident braces for another move

Gord Smyth estimates he has spent as much as $3,000 preparing for homelessness in Hamilton.

Smyth has invested in a new generator, electrical cables, heaters, a four-season tent.

He has mounted an outdoor showering kit behind tarps in a corner of the encampment he and a friend set up.

There’s a toaster oven, microwave, coffee maker, food processor, barbecues.

He has an alarm that chirps if an intruder messes with his tent during the night.

“It’s a new thing for me and I’ve learned very quickly. You need to be prepared.”

Smyth, 54, was displaced from his apartment on James Street North in mid-June after the property was sold to a new owner with redevelopment plans.

His arrival to the west side of Central Park — off Bay Street North at Mulberry Street — two weeks ago marked the fifth time he’d moved in a month.

It’s prohibited to camp in public spaces in Hamilton, and the city follows a protocol that limits small clusters of tents at one location to a maximum of 14 days.

“It’s stressful. I break down. I cry,” says Smyth about the taxing cycle of finding a spot, setting up, only to move days later while coping with a host of health problems affecting his mobility.

But on Friday, his deadline to vacate once again, advocates with the Hamilton Encampment Support Network formed a human barrier in front of the men’s tents.

“We’re going to defend the encampment as best as we can today, if they choose to show up,” network member Sahra Soudi said.

But by around midday, the group received word police and city officials had postponed a plan to enforce the bylaw until next week.

“It’s a huge relief,” said an emotional Smyth, seated outside his tent with Daisy, his Chihuahua companion.

Upon leaving his home, the systems analyst whose career was cut short by a car accident, faced a private rental market that was out of reach.

After about five years in the James Street North apartment, his rent was $545 a month — doable on a monthly disability pension of $1,255.

But with rents for apartments easily outstripping his income, and a potential years-long wait for subsidized housing, the outlook was bleak.

And like others who populate encampments dotting the urban landscape, Smyth has his reasons for not staying in shelters: anxiety in close quarters with others, security concerns, restrictive hours.

“Here, if I’m not feeling well, I can stay in bed. If I want to go for a walk, I go for a walk.”

Encampments — a highly conspicuous reminder of Hamilton’s housing crisis — are the focus of charged debates that have become more pitched during COVID-19.

Last year, a group of doctors, street outreach workers and lawyers waged a legal battle with the city over the municipality’s push to enforce the tent bylaw amid a large encampment on Ferguson Avenue North.

That ended with a settlement and protocol stipulating parameters, including the 14-day limit, a cap of five tents per group and considerations for mental health.

Coun. Jason Farr, who represents downtown, says he has fielded numerous complaints from constituents about encampments in his ward.

They include grumbles over an early-morning explosion reportedly caused by a propane tank, defecation and garbage, he said Friday.

But Farr also argues there’s no reason for people to sleep outside with millions in pandemic funding put toward increasing spaces for physical distancing in shelters and hotel rooms.

“There are safer and more humane conditions than people living rough outside.”

He said the city has “navigated” nearly 650 people to shelters, hotel rooms and housing during the pandemic.

On Friday, the veteran councillor said he received a call from the city’s housing director Edward John asking about delaying the Central Park deadline.

“And I said, ‘That’s fine,’” noted Farr, adding officials have stretched the 14-day rule more than once.

The advocates have a right to express opposition to the protocol, he added. “That’s why we live in a democratic and free society.”

In an emailed statement, John said the city’s encampment responses vary “and require significant coordination” with agencies and city departments.

“Based on a number of circumstances today, it was determined that regrouping next week was a more considered course of action.”

Soudi, meanwhile, describes the displacement of encampment residents in the absence of adequate affordable housing as an “evil” tactic.

“If anything, they’re just being asked to move and find another place to stay.”

As for Smyth, he’s holding out hope for a proper home, but also bracing to leave again if he must. “We’re preparing for the worst.”

Teviah Moro is a Hamilton-based reporter at The Spectator. Reach him via email: tmoro@thespec.com

Source : Toronto Star More   

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Rosie DiManno: Have we seen Jennifer Abel’s last dive? Canadian slips to eighth in 3-metre springboard at Tokyo Olympics

TOKYO —Ere was I ere I saw Abel.Jennifer Abel. And, as diving honcho Mitch Geller poignantly observed of Canada’s long-time diving divinity, ’round about 4:30 p.m. Sunday: “I believe that we just saw her last dive.’’Maybe off a cottage dock or local pool in Montreal, the three-metre springboard virtuoso will, on occasion, continue to awe spectators — family, friends and kids on the block — with her diving mastery. Or just cannonball it after a near lifetime of pursuing perfectionism, as an individual and synchro crème de la crème competitor, where every muscle twitch and misplaced toe can make a points difference.Abel won’t suddenly forget how to do a forward 2 ½ somersaults with two twists in the pike position. Maybe will even bang off the complicated contortion with the greatest of ease and ne plus ultra because nobody’s watching. Which is what elite athletes are all the time wailing after a bobble and a botch in front of judges: “But I’ve been training it so well …’’If this was Abel’s swan song, stamp it with a patina of remembrance and retrospection. “Unless I hear different, she finished her career with a double twisting 2 ½ and it’s a big dive,’’ commended Geller. “There’s not that many women in the world doing it.’’Last of Abel’s five dives, that whip-around manoeuvre, all corked arms and hand to the head as the neck strains and legs jackknifed to the chest and feet pointed taut and palms cracking the surface of the water. A dive with a 3.4 degree of difficulty; no woman in the final tried anything harder and only one matched it.But, at 61.20, there must have been details not visible to the untrained eye because Abel wasn’t plentifully rewarded, just a better than average score and total points of 297.45, where gold for China’s Shi Tingmao came off a gobsmacking 383.50 performance.And still, emerging from the pool after exhaling a feather of bubbles, Abel smiled widely and blew kisses to … well, the imaginary fans.“There’s a mix of emotions. There’s more happiness and satisfaction than sadness.’’Because, though finishing eighth when she had been sitting third, it was a moment to reflect upon a career and contemplate a life.“Yes, it is,’’ the 29-year-old agreed. “Because I remember four years ago, I was sort of ashamed of my fourth place. And now I finished eighth.’’She laughed at the absurdity of it.“If I’d been eighth four years ago’’ — she means five years ago, Rio — “I would have been even harder on myself.’’ As it was, it would take a year to recover from the disappointment of no medal for Abel last time, in neither individual nor synchro, many months of ‘’dark thoughts,’’ convinced she’d lost her passion for the sport; couldn’t find it until the 2017 world championships rolled around.“When you’re able to see the whole picture, your whole career …’’ she started to say on Sunday. “…that was my fourth Olympic Games, that was my third Olympic finals. The first, I missed (finals) when I was 16 by one place. So when you look at the bigger picture, everybody would dream to be here, everybody would love to have a medal opportunity, or just being able to finish with a smile even though I missed, and I think that’s the beauty of sport.’The 29-year-old is coming home from Tokyo with Olympic bling, of course — silver, earned with partner Melissa Citrini-Beaulieu in synchro three-metre springboard. Copped bronze in that event with former partner Emilie Heymans in London, 2012. She’d made no secret, however, of her yearning for an individual medal.Not to be. As that Olympic ideation of a medal and a podium is not to be for nearly every athlete who came to Tokyo, whether as a favourite or on a wing and a prayer.Abel, though, had reason to like her medalling chances, in third place coming out of the semifinal, bettered only by a brace of Chinese women who never lose and hardly ever screw up.But Abel, following a strong second dive, forward 3 ½ somersaults, score of 69.75, her highest on the afternoon, had a disastrous third round, scoring a mere 39.00 on the reverse 2 ½ somersaults, a dive that historically been her nemesis. And she’d appeared to have solved it.“It was almost too technically correct, coming off the board,’’ explained Geller. “She had a very good takeoff. The problem is, she doesn’t get a good takeoff consistently (on that dive). She’s usually working on some corrections as she goes where she’s more comfortable. So when she took with what we would consider almost ideal circumstances, she just wasn’t prepared for the timing of the whole thing.’’A baffling inside-out conundrum, we must say.“She doesn’t get enough reps with that kind of quality,’’ Geller continued. Never recovered from that dive, which dropped Abel from third to ninth. “That made the difference. It sort of changed the whole dynamic for her.’’Thing is, the Chinese weren’t actually that otherworldly dominant on this day. At least Wang Han, some 35 points off her compatriot’s pace for silver, with Krysta Palmer of the U.S. rising for

Rosie DiManno: Have we seen Jennifer Abel’s last dive? Canadian slips to eighth in 3-metre springboard at Tokyo Olympics

TOKYO —Ere was I ere I saw Abel.

Jennifer Abel. And, as diving honcho Mitch Geller poignantly observed of Canada’s long-time diving divinity, ’round about 4:30 p.m. Sunday: “I believe that we just saw her last dive.’’

Maybe off a cottage dock or local pool in Montreal, the three-metre springboard virtuoso will, on occasion, continue to awe spectators — family, friends and kids on the block — with her diving mastery. Or just cannonball it after a near lifetime of pursuing perfectionism, as an individual and synchro crème de la crème competitor, where every muscle twitch and misplaced toe can make a points difference.

Abel won’t suddenly forget how to do a forward 2 ½ somersaults with two twists in the pike position. Maybe will even bang off the complicated contortion with the greatest of ease and ne plus ultra because nobody’s watching. Which is what elite athletes are all the time wailing after a bobble and a botch in front of judges: “But I’ve been training it so well …’’

If this was Abel’s swan song, stamp it with a patina of remembrance and retrospection.

“Unless I hear different, she finished her career with a double twisting 2 ½ and it’s a big dive,’’ commended Geller. “There’s not that many women in the world doing it.’’

Last of Abel’s five dives, that whip-around manoeuvre, all corked arms and hand to the head as the neck strains and legs jackknifed to the chest and feet pointed taut and palms cracking the surface of the water. A dive with a 3.4 degree of difficulty; no woman in the final tried anything harder and only one matched it.

But, at 61.20, there must have been details not visible to the untrained eye because Abel wasn’t plentifully rewarded, just a better than average score and total points of 297.45, where gold for China’s Shi Tingmao came off a gobsmacking 383.50 performance.

And still, emerging from the pool after exhaling a feather of bubbles, Abel smiled widely and blew kisses to … well, the imaginary fans.

“There’s a mix of emotions. There’s more happiness and satisfaction than sadness.’’

Because, though finishing eighth when she had been sitting third, it was a moment to reflect upon a career and contemplate a life.

“Yes, it is,’’ the 29-year-old agreed. “Because I remember four years ago, I was sort of ashamed of my fourth place. And now I finished eighth.’’

She laughed at the absurdity of it.

“If I’d been eighth four years ago’’ — she means five years ago, Rio — “I would have been even harder on myself.’’ As it was, it would take a year to recover from the disappointment of no medal for Abel last time, in neither individual nor synchro, many months of ‘’dark thoughts,’’ convinced she’d lost her passion for the sport; couldn’t find it until the 2017 world championships rolled around.

“When you’re able to see the whole picture, your whole career …’’ she started to say on Sunday. “…that was my fourth Olympic Games, that was my third Olympic finals. The first, I missed (finals) when I was 16 by one place. So when you look at the bigger picture, everybody would dream to be here, everybody would love to have a medal opportunity, or just being able to finish with a smile even though I missed, and I think that’s the beauty of sport.’

The 29-year-old is coming home from Tokyo with Olympic bling, of course — silver, earned with partner Melissa Citrini-Beaulieu in synchro three-metre springboard. Copped bronze in that event with former partner Emilie Heymans in London, 2012. She’d made no secret, however, of her yearning for an individual medal.

Not to be. As that Olympic ideation of a medal and a podium is not to be for nearly every athlete who came to Tokyo, whether as a favourite or on a wing and a prayer.

Abel, though, had reason to like her medalling chances, in third place coming out of the semifinal, bettered only by a brace of Chinese women who never lose and hardly ever screw up.

But Abel, following a strong second dive, forward 3 ½ somersaults, score of 69.75, her highest on the afternoon, had a disastrous third round, scoring a mere 39.00 on the reverse 2 ½ somersaults, a dive that historically been her nemesis. And she’d appeared to have solved it.

“It was almost too technically correct, coming off the board,’’ explained Geller. “She had a very good takeoff. The problem is, she doesn’t get a good takeoff consistently (on that dive). She’s usually working on some corrections as she goes where she’s more comfortable. So when she took with what we would consider almost ideal circumstances, she just wasn’t prepared for the timing of the whole thing.’’

A baffling inside-out conundrum, we must say.

“She doesn’t get enough reps with that kind of quality,’’ Geller continued. Never recovered from that dive, which dropped Abel from third to ninth. “That made the difference. It sort of changed the whole dynamic for her.’’

Thing is, the Chinese weren’t actually that otherworldly dominant on this day. At least Wang Han, some 35 points off her compatriot’s pace for silver, with Krysta Palmer of the U.S. rising for a bronze. China has now won 19 consecutive gold medals in this event.

There had been room there for Abel to wrangle silver before it all went pear-shaped.

“It’s the moment, right?’’ suggested Geller. “It all comes down to this. We’re talking about managing all kind of micro movements and sort of shutting out all the what-ifs. So, obviously, they didn’t all get shut out.’’

He paid tribute to Abel’s legacy, though.

“Somebody as prolific as she’s been and respected worldwide for her athleticism, for her drive, for her competitiveness and her results.

“I think she’s looking to see what’s next for her in her life.’’

Rosie DiManno is a Toronto-based columnist covering sports and current affairs for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno

Source : Toronto Star More   

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