The roof over my head – a touchstone of my gratitude


A brief look at Kengi‘s blog reminded me to take stock of how grateful I am to be living where I do, as I do, with rent geared-to-income.

This spring marks the beginning of my nineteenth year in this apartment – I’ve had to do a couple rounds of finger counting just to come to believe that – and, although I sometimes think I need to move out long enough to give it a thorough makeover, I am ever so grateful for this roof over my head (a roof refurbished recently for another generation).  My balcony overlooks the driveway at the right edge of the photo.

Map picture
Map picture

I like to say, perhaps it’s unkind to do so, that I live at the southern end of Bleecker Street as the northern end is a huge housing complex with notorious difficulties not dissimilar from 20,000-tenant projects anywhere. I moved in here in the spring of 1992, just a few weeks before  Terry died (that’s the way my morbid calendar sometimes operates).

Jim and Terry had separate apartments when I moved in, Jim’s across that glassed-in catwalk connecting our two buildings and Terry’s just one floor almost directly above what would become mine.

Since leaving work in 1990 I had moved from a time-share with mice on Wellesley Street to a ‘Metro Housing’ complex out in the east end.  I had been feeling increasingly unsafe there, however, deflecting a few homophobic slings and arrows and so Jim introduced me to the administrator here.  I was told it shouldn’t be too long before I had a place and indeed it wasn’t.  These were the days, after all, when AIDS was killing swaths of men downtown.  This immaculate co-op, unlike the poorly-maintained, underfunded, municipally-administered types of mixed-income housing around, had a special outreach in its subsidized slice of the pie (60/40 market rent-to-subsidy) to people living with HIV/AIDS, single-parent families resettling after domestic abuse, and those with various mental health issues.  So two out of three lights lit up for me!

It was not unreasonable of me to believe, as I helped carry my heavy sofa from the elevator, that I’d probably only move out of here in a body bag.  That may still hold true, I don’t know, but it sure is great that I DON’T KNOW like I assumed then.  I’m still here, as is the sofa!

Over the years, since the advent of the AIDS ‘cocktail’ in 1995-96, people here haven’t been dying as often, nor as quickly, at least not of AIDS-related causes.  While my health is a juggle of AIDS, type-2 diabetes and bipolar II my prognosis is most definitely better than it was when Jim painted this place dusty rose in 1992.  (It’s been changed, trust me, since then!)

I am a pleasant walk from the gay village to the west and to historic Cabbagetown, whose roofs I overlook, in the east.

Government cuts since I moved here have decreased the housing stock for people on fixed incomes, I know, so I never take this place for granted as I know I’d be under-housed, to put it mildly, were I forced to pay market rent.

(On move-in day in 1992 the Premier of the province was New Democrat Bob Rae.  Co-Op housing was still expanding.  Ours survived the Draconian reign of ‘Common Sense Revolutionary’ Mike Harris from 1995 until 2002 and massive federal cuts from then-Finance Minister Paul Martin.  The aforementioned provincial Premier Bob Rae is federal Member of Parliament for my area, but a Liberal Party representative now, and Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty has - for the most part – kept a selection of Housing Ministers at the kids’ cabinet table. We’re still waiting for a vision.)

I’ve still not experienced palm trees in their natural environment (bucket list) but on any gratitude list my housing is right up there!