Tent Fires

Recently a person that we were just starting to know, died as a result of a fire in their encampment. Two Thursdays ago, he lingered at The Dale’s breakfast-to-go. He wanted to help and carried some empty trays back into the building. That was the last time we saw him. 

This morning we received the news that another encampment fire happened overnight. Fortunately, no one was hurt but everyone’s belongings were destroyed. As we gathered some supplies for these community members, one person shared how devastating an event it was. As I write, I am trying to imagine what it would be like to have a fire rip through my home. 

The harsh reality for many people is that home must be made in a tent. There are few to no shelter beds available on any given night. Housing is the opposite of affordable. And while the City can exercise discretion and open Warming Centres before it hits 15 below Celsius, they rarely if ever do. In order to not die from exposure, people light fires. I would too. 

This is a crisis that impacts very real people: each unique, each with a name, each with a story. It’s likely, since we are more interconnected than we sometimes realize, that we all know someone who is acquainted with the shelter system, lived in a tent, or couch surfed. None of us are immune from the potential of poverty. 

Oftentimes the issues that surround all of this feel insurmountable, but I don’t want to give up hope because of that. Sometimes all I can do/all The Dale can do is look for the next little step to take. Today that means giving our friends new tents, sleeping bags and…

fire extinguishers. 

Layers of Complexity and Beauty

During the month of December there were a number of moments which caused me to pause and give thanks. These are just a handful of them. Gifts given and received, from every angle. 

I admittedly can struggle with some low-grade anxiety as we near the fiscal year-end at The Dale. This has lessened over the years, though has never entirely gone away. I think it is a mix of remembering when we had so little and wondering, as we grow, if we will have what is needed. Tossed in is a sense of awe at how people support this community and a desire to trust for our daily bread. This year, aware that we were behind, I felt the all too familiar pit in my stomach. Then, surprise after surprise came and by December 31st, we had…enough. 

One Sunday he showed up at the referral of a friend who has long been connected to The Dale. We spoke at length about his hunt for housing while living outside. I wasn’t sure that he would stick around for the service, but he did. During the passing of the peace he shook my hand and said, “I feel warm in a way that I did not expect”. At the end, as he gathered his belongings, he stuck a small stack of coins in my hand for The Dale. “It’s not much, but it is what I have to give”. I told him it was a LOT. 

We have always had to be creative when it comes to preparing our Christmas meals. There are many components and limited kitchen capacity. This year we had a revelatory experience. Blythwood Road Baptist Church funded the meal. A group of three chefs volunteered to do the grocery shopping and all the cooking, while people from Christ Church St. James came to package everything up. This all freed the staff team to be working through other items on our to-do lists. It was a beautiful example of partnership and provision. 

We embraced while standing on the sidewalk during our meal-to-go. She had just candidly told me about all the reasons why Christmas is hard. As tears ran down her face and welled up in my own, we held each other in silence. Then another person, who also finds the season brutal, suggested that we sing. And so, we did. “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices”. 

A friend who I’ve known for as long as I’ve been in Parkdale made me this: 

A woman desperate to give her grandchildren presents asked if we could help with toys. We had just given away what we had but offered to keep our eyes open for options. A friend connected to a children’s space in Parkdale reached out to ask, “do you have anyone who needs toys? We have more than we needed”. The grandmother and I walked over to take a look and ended up leaving with age-appropriate goodies. She then pulled out a piece of paper and slowly read a note that someone had translated on her behalf, as English is not her first language. It was her gift to me. 

Experiences like this are not a rarity at The Dale. I cherish being a part of a community where the complexity of life is not ignored, and beauty is found in its layers. I cannot help but reflect on this as I consider heading into a new year. 

More Than Just Our Challenges

We chatted briefly one Saturday morning. She was sitting on her walker across the street, looking intently at the meal-to-go we were doing uncharacteristically on the weekend. We had met before on a few occasions but didn’t yet know one another’s names. As we conversed, I learned a little about her life and some of the hardships she faces. “I am more than just my challenges. I really want to do something. I would like to volunteer”. 

Today Maria (I have permission to use her name and tell this story) came to participate at our Breakfast. For a long time, our friend/core community member Ash was the one to hand out the meals, freeing the staff team to connect with people and stand in and with the line. Since Ash’s death, we have longed for someone to assume his role. He so embodied it, that to this day we say, “who wants to Ash today?” Well, on this morning the role went to Maria. 

At The Dale, we talk a lot about how important it is to both give and receive. We invite people into full participation of the community and celebrate that we have a shared responsibility for it. Too often people are robbed of the opportunity to give by being kept on the receiving end of charity. Everyone though has gifts to offer. 

While the line was still active, I went over to Maria to see how she was doing. Her response? “Today I feel like a real person. I love this”. Her whole demeanor softened as she greeted people and handed over brown paper bags of breakfast sandwiches, muffins, juice boxes and fruit. Many people she knew by name, having lived in the neighbourhood for many years. I asked her if I could take her picture, to which she said an emphatic, “yes, please!”

As the breakfast rush slowed, another person encouraged us to close our eyes and soak in the morning sunshine. With our heads back we collectively noticed how good it felt to pause and feel the warmth. Maria watched and reminded us that looking up at the moon and the stars, “is just as beautiful as looking at the sun”. I thought of that as the moon made its appearance tonight. As I again tilted my head back, what came immediately to mind was Maria’s contented face. May we all know, as she does, that we are more than just our challenges. 

Turn Toward the Light

I am sitting in my living room. It is quiet, except for the occasional creaking sound that seems to be brought on by the wind. My body is arguably idle, my brain is not. Today is the funeral for a friend named Ben, a person nearly the same age as me. As is often the case with me and death, it brings up memories of those already gone and causes me to consider my own mortality.

There are so many people that I miss. I can still picture my mother laying on the couch where I now sit, or my father emphatically sharing a story in the kitchen. I have a strong memory of my grandmother (who I called “Gran”) picking very-young-me up to go to Sudbury for a visit with her and Grandpa Bill. We went blueberry picking and then I washed off the purple stains on my hands by going for a dip in Lake Ramsay. Chocolate turtles and clementines always remind me of my paternal grandfather, because he gave us both every Christmas.

Recently, eager to show someone an old picture on my phone, I found myself scrolling by so many shots of Dale community members who are no longer alive. Chevy, Iron Mike, Mark, Clive, Ernesto, Sanchez, to name but a few. I remember Grumpy sitting in the bus shelter and greeting me with, “AHHHH. Did you know I’ve SEEN THE LIGHT? One of these days I’m going to teach you how to preach.” or Little Stevie calling out to me, “there’s my Erinn”. Sometimes my eyes play tricks on me and I think Will is coming around the corner by the library to have a chat on the sidewalk.

During a recent therapy session, my counsellor asked me to talk about some of the people I acutely grieve. I was invited to share about what a person taught me, or what I most remember about them, or how they made me feel. I was also safe to share about what drove me crazy, or even a difficult conversation we once had. Honouring a person doesn’t require remembering only the good. In fact, I think it is honouring to acknowledge the whole person, challenges and all.

I don’t know when my own time will come, or what that experience will be like. Despite being in proximity to death a lot, the whole thing remains largely a mystery. My faith causes me to cling to the belief that it is not the end- that there is more, and it will be beyond good. I like to picture my mom being freed of her wheelchair, or my Gran eating blueberries warmed in the sun, or any one of my friends who lived outside having the most comfortable bed to sleep on.

I have been asked to read two blessings at the funeral today for Ben. Both have a lot to do with light and how we bear it, even in the unbearable things. This part of one of the blessings leaps out at me: “I cannot tell you how the light comes, but that it does. That it will. That it works its way into the deepest dark that enfolds you, though it may seem long ages in coming or arrive in a shape you did not foresee.” (Jan Richardson)

I am about to drink another coffee, made with the machine that Ben first showed me how to use on a New Year’s Eve spent together with our families and friends. The wind continues to blow. I am still sitting and glancing out the window, I notice the sun trying to peek out. The light makes me want to both cry and smile. Whatever I feel, I cannot help but turn my face toward it.

A Year of Hard (and Good) Things

I was sitting in bed one morning last August when it felt like the earth shook. Moments later a text from a neighbour explained the cause and had me running to the back window. A massive tree on a lot next to ours had fallen. It completely filled our yard, coming just short of the house itself while destroying our one-day-old shed in the process. The tree also blocked Dion’s only entrance/exit to the house. I felt stunned, especially hearing that Dion’s Personal Support Worker had been where the tree now lay, less than a minute before.

Shortly before the tree incident, workers had begun to fix the siding on our house. It was a job that we weren’t all that excited about needing done, though understood was necessary. We thought it would be done in about a week, maybe two.  It was not- mostly because the crew seemingly disappeared. In the meantime, we got someone to clear enough of the tree that Dion could get out and decided to escape to a movie. On our way there I had two difficult conversations on the phone- one trying to negotiate the covering of repair costs to our yard, and one attempting to track down the siding company. As I slid into a seat in the dark theatre, I began to cry.

After the movie, while still in the lobby, Dion looked at me and said he was in trouble. I asked a few questions and understood very quickly that “being in trouble” meant “get me to the hospital”. I got him in the van and drove to the emergency room. Though we didn’t know it yet, Dion had a very serious infection, one that would soon mean he could not move his body at all. Infections are no one’s friend but become especially scary when a person has Multiple Sclerosis. That day, even though he eventually recovered from the infection, was the beginning of Dion’s journey to Long Term Care. 

I had what I believe was my first ever panic attack in the hospital that first week of Dion’s admission. It was nearly impossible to talk to the health care team and no easy solution was apparent. I remember repeating the only prayer I could muster, “Speed to save us. Haste to help us. Speed to save us. Haste to help us.” Stumbling out of the hospital, I saw my brother and sister-in law drive by. I hoped they saw me too. Moments later we were on the sidewalk together, me a crumpled mess. My sweet nephew handed me some Kleenex and a bottle of water with concern written all over his face. Together we came up with a next step. 

What followed was a series of next steps, which included things like strong advocacy, hard conversations, and relentless prayer. After a battle to get Dion into a rehab program, we got word that he was accepted and to be moved the same day that I needed to get Cate into her new apartment. At the end of that day, I got into the elevator of Cate’s building and began to weep. I cried all the way home to an empty house. I decided to sit in that sadness and not try to escape it. In the morning I took a deep breath, relieved I managed to get through that first night.

There have been hundreds of nights since that first one. As August nears, I can’t help but reflect on this past year. It has been about living into the tension of so many things, embracing change both chosen and not, and weathering a spectrum of emotions. I have watched Dion adjust to Long Term Care, grieved that MS took him there, and felt relief that he has the support he needs. It is not how we imagined life to look at this stage AND it is our reality. 

The tree got cleared. The siding on the house was eventually completed. Cate comes to the house with frequency, much to my delight (and actually will be living at home again in the fall until going to the UK in January). You might spot Dion speeding down the street in his wheelchair, as the lack of Covid restrictions means he can get out and about. My therapist continues to help me navigate all the change, as does Dion, Cate, my Dale team and a community of family and friends. Some days I am full of energy and ideas. Other days I am hit with waves of sorrow. Death has hit again and again. So has opportunity to listen to live music, eat really good food, receive and give gifts, and experience the embrace of loved ones. 

There is a painting by a friend named Gil that hangs above the piano in our living room. It is pictured below. I stared at it a lot last August, especially as I was pleading for help. I felt like I was/we were stuck in the most turbulent part of the water. I couldn’t imagine the calm. “Haste to help us. Speed to save us”. I can’t claim that the answers came quickly, or that they were the ones I wanted. A way forward was made possible. I do look at that picture now and reflect on how different things feel a year later. There is nothing easy about this road. And somehow, it is also mysteriously good. For that, I am grateful. 

Artist: Gil Clelland

Stories Matter: Tales from The Dale

We have not seen her in a while. She is striking, with an amazing sense of style. On this particular day we spot her hanging out with other people we know on some familiar steps in the neighbourhood. We immediately get chatting and hear about some challenges with her housing situation, a place just around the corner that she wants to show us. She is very transparent, and wants us (and you, the reader) to hear about her years in the sex trade and the toll it has taken. As Joanna and I listen, rain begins to pelt down. Before we depart, our friend hands us each a sunflower. Mine has just two yellow petals left. “I know they’re not beautiful, but it’s my heart. I honour you each with them.”

It’s his birthday. He feels surprised, while we feel grateful, that he has lived another year. His extended family is not in the city and want to remind him that he is loved, and so they send me a video of people sharing birthday wishes, peppered with photos of various eras of his life. The hope is that we will be able to find him so that he can view the video on my phone. Fortunately, it works out. He looks so pleased. I can’t shake the smile off my face.

We first met while he was living in an encampment in Parkdale. Always trying to beautify the land on which he lives, this friend erected a birdhouse close to his tent and excitedly shares about regular gray jay sightings. Over time his art fills the space, canvases leaning against every available surface. Now housed, I get audio messages on social media from him when too much time has elapsed between visits. We always greet each other with a hug.

Whenever the weather is good, we meet outside for our Sunday service. One day a squirrel is positioned in the tree right above me. I have no idea what people are looking at, only to learn there is certainty it is going to land on my head. Another day a woodpecker attaches itself to the shed just feet away from us. It sounds like a (very loud) percussion instrument and persists its pecking throughout our prayer time. At first some of us muffle laughter, until the comments start to fly, nearly derailing the service. Finally, a community member determinedly begins to pray, with as loud a voice as she can muster, “I just feel SO grateful because I have never seen a woodpecker in real life. How amazing.” The bird begins to quiet, almost as though it is giving thanks back.

Our plot in the community garden is taking shape. A neighbour and friend who is always willing to lend a hand decides to build an enclosure for it to keep out the animals that want to take one bite out of everything. One of our only strawberries gets eaten anyway. Our neighbour will not be deterred. Upon hearing the news of the strawberry, he marches over to fortify the walls. We know he keeps on eye on things when we can’t, which is especially nice given that our watering schedule (which is posted in our office) for Fridays and Saturdays says, “hope for the best”.

I think stories matter. I always try to log the events of a day either in my mind or, when I’m feeling especially organized, in a notebook. It is easy to remember the activities that divide up our week at The Dale: meals to go, outreach, fund-raising, etc., but it is all the moments that happen at and in-between these activities that breathe life into this community. I am so grateful to be a part of the web of stories that occur at The Dale. Life here is rich, and full of gifts like sunflowers, birds, garden plots, hugs, and beautiful people.

Cristian “Sanchez” Castillo

I have no recollection of when I met Sanchez. Not remembering where and when I met someone is rare for me. I imagine it says something about the way Sanchez inhabited the neighbourhood. He was one of those people who seemed to be everywhere all at once: in the parkette beside the Health Centre, on the bench outside of what used to be the Coffee Time, by the steps of 201 Cowan Avenue, and always, always with his dogs, Maggie and Chica. 

Sanchez came to Canada from Chile. You could always hear the Spanish in his voice. Sometimes there was a language barrier between us, but in my experience, Sanchez always dealt with this patiently. Usually it made him grin, look down, and slowly shake his head while quietly saying, “I really need to teach you Spanish”. To which I would reply, “PLEASE. Please teach me.” 

I could usually recognize Sanchez, even from a distance. He had a recognizable gait and silhouette. Sometime this year he also started wearing a helmet, to protect him from the falls that were increasingly a nemesis. He didn’t seem to mind, if anything claiming it as a cool new accessory. I loved that about Sanchez. Though there was a lot that he struggled with, he somehow seemed comfortable in his own skin. 

If Sanchez was having a bad day, there seemed to be one thing that would bring him to life: talking about his dogs, especially Maggie (who was actually mother to Chica). These dogs were not simply pets, but true companions to Sanchez. If you look at his Facebook profile, the vast majority of photos are of them. It became a huge concern that Maggie had what at first seemed a growth but proved to be a tumour growing on her belly. Because the surgery required was cost prohibitive, The Dale launched a GoFundMe on behalf of Sanchez.

Heartbreakingly, though the money arrived, the tumour proved too much and Maggie died. I will never forget receiving the news. Nor will I forget what became a necessary support to Sanchez: me, Joanna, and our friend Sam going to pick up Maggie to transport her to the vet. We gathered around Sanchez, with Chica hiding close by, to hold him in the grief and pray. The last time I saw Sanchez was the day I returned with Maggie’s ashes in an urn. 

Not long after this, Sanchez entered the hospital. Because of Covid restrictions, we could not visit him. However, he and I started to communicate on-line. I would occasionally receive video messages- usually short updates and always ending with how much he missed Maggie. I think it is fair to say that recovering from this loss felt unimaginable to Sanchez.

Sanchez was released from hospital, though we had yet to see him. Just yesterday we were alerted to his death through a flurry of calls and messages. I know that I am not the only one in a state of shock. To be candid, it doesn’t feel real. On behalf of The Dale, I want to extend our condolences to his family. I extend the same to those who counted Sanchez friend. There has been a lot of loss in our community over the last few years, something that Sanchez felt acutely. Saying goodbye to a friend is never easy. 

Sanchez- thank you for all of the chats over so many years. No matter how hard the day was, you would always stop and say, “let me first ask: how are you?” I will miss seeing you in the neighbourhood. We all will. I don’t know what you are experiencing now, but I really hope you are tossing Maggie a stick and feeling pride every time she brings it back. Estoy agradecido por ti. I hope I have that right. I mean to say, I am grateful for you. 

Blessed is the Bookkeeper

We first met in the summer of 2014. Greg Kay, a Board member of The Dale at the time, brokered the connection between me and Marion Cameron. We met in a room at the back of 201 Cowan Avenue to discuss whether or not she would be willing to do the bookkeeping for The Dale. We had just suffered the death of our bookkeeper Diana Fong, and I felt unsure of how to move forward. 

Marion did agree to take on the books. I still remember handing over a heap of paper to her and sheepishly saying, “I’m sorry!!” to which she replied, “oh no, this is FUN!” We had definitely found the right person. Marion took that mountain and turned it into excellent records, something she has been doing ever since and all on a volunteer basis.

I deeply value Marion: her work ethic, attention to detail, patience, humour, and friendship. I love the ways we have gotten to know one another over the years. Marion likes cappuccino, the Toronto Blue Jays, and a good glass of wine. She always asks me how I am and gives very good hugs. I know it isn’t much, but I have taken to putting some form of chocolate in the monthly envelope of documents for her because I am so grateful. 

Marion gave me a lot of warning that she would need to step away from her role at The Dale this year. From the beginning she indicated she wanted to give us seven years of very good books, all audited. When she delivered everything to our auditor for 2021, she hit that magic number. Marion has indeed given us what she promised: books that are transparent and meticulously done. Beyond that though, she gave us the gift of herself. 

I have known in my gut that part of honouring Marion’s hard work is to find a replacement for her in the right time frame. I am thrilled to say this has happened. The transition from Marion to another person has begun. Just last week I sat with them, huddled around two computers, to look at the systems Marion has created and is now passing on. A few times I sat back and thought to myself, “blessed are the bookkeepers”. What they do with the piles of information I create is remarkable. 

Marion: thank you for everything you have done for The Dale. It has not gone unnoticed and will be remembered by me, the rest of the staff, and the Board. I will miss our monthly exchanges. I look forward though to still taking you out for coffee and sharing stories about our lives. I hope and pray that this next chapter of retirement for you is full of rest, adventure and lots of chasing those Blue Jays. 

Inhabiting a Neighbourhood by Sharing Space, Inside and Out

When The Dale gave up its own space a decade ago, one of the first questions people asked was: where are we going to go? A legit wondering. At the time, I didn’t yet know. Fortunately, the weather was improving and so I said, “if we have to, we’ll have drop-in at the park”. I also started to knock on the doors of buildings around the neighbourhood to see if there might be a willingness to open those doors to us. That was the beginning of inhabiting Parkdale in a new way.

People often ask me if we would now buy a building if we could. While I acknowledge there are definite cons to not having a space of our own, the pros outweigh them. Does that mean I am anti-building? No, absolutely not. The Dale relies on the buildings of our partners to do a lot of what we love. Also, I never want to belittle the importance of “place” for the many members of our community who do not have any to call their own. By not investing in the purchase of a building, The Dale can pour our resources very directly into what we do, while also supporting those who share property with us.

When The Dale spilled into the streets, we had the opportunity to learn from our core community about what it means to be transient. This was very important, especially for someone like me who, despite my proximity to people who are under-housed, have always had somewhere to lay my head. We also re-discovered the truth that the church is not a building. One Dale member would regularly remind me that, “we are living stones. Where we gather is less important than THAT we gather.”

I appreciate the pedagogy of my friend Jason McKinney around the power of property and the need to shift from having to holding. Jason’s church, Epiphany and St. Mark is the only building currently open to The Dale due to the pandemic (we trust our other partners will begin to re-open as the pandemic continues to settle). I see how he and his church are navigating away from the paradigm of property to the paradigm of commons, in other words they are helping create a community hub. The Dale is one of a number of organizations that reside at and co-create in 201 Cowan Avenue. I know the desire is to continue to grow in the way we all relate to and negotiate with land- land that was not ours to begin with. Together we are discovering how to deepen our responsibility and care for the ground we stand on.

Which is also why it is so important that The Dale’s largest presence is outdoors. When we were permanently housed the people had to come inside to find us. Now we go outside to find our people and it is where they know to look for us. It matters that we get rained and snowed on together, that we can share a snack in the park, that we can slow down and linger for chats anywhere along the street, that we can grow things in our community garden plot. We move from observation of the neighbourhood to participation in it.

Is this an easy way to operate? Not always. Is it messy? For sure. I can honestly say though that not having a building, which was definitely born out of crisis, has turned into one of our greatest gifts. Also true is that becoming a part of a larger community hub, both at Epiphany and St Mark and in other spaces around the neighbourhood, one of our greatest joys. We get to witness amazing things happening all over the place and grow in our awareness that love is present all around us: in and out of a building.

Building the Trust of a City Street

Imagine that the sun is shining and there is a light breeze as you and I set out on a walk around Parkdale, a Toronto neighbourhood. This is the place that The Dale inhabits, a section of the city that is in the west-end, and just north of Lake Ontario. We start at 201 Cowan Avenue, an address that belongs to Epiphany and St Mark Anglican Church, but is used as a sort of “commons” for a variety of organizations, including Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust, Greenest City, Flick the Switch Art Studios, a social enterprise kitchen called Aangen, and The Dale.

We meander across the street to a park with a concrete wading pool, a play structure, a concrete table that gets used either for ping pong or sunbathing, and the HOPE Community Garden in which The Dale has a plot. I share that we tend to grow a lot of herbs, lettuce, and some tomatoes, though last year we tried our hand at miniature pumpkins. Right now, the garden lays fallow, though it will soon be time to plant. To me, this spot feels like a bit of an oasis.

I invite you to walk north on Cowan to Queen Street West, one of the main thoroughfares through Parkdale. There is a community centre to our left, and a Public Library on the right. We run into a friend who is sitting on a bench. He tells us about what is being served for lunch at St. Francis Table (most of us refer to it as “The Table”), a Franciscan Friar run restaurant where you can get a good meal for $1. I suggest we head that way in order to notice the contrast between St. Francis Table and the very hip and high-end restaurants that litter the same block.

This dichotomy is apparent throughout our walk. Once one of the most affluent neighbourhoods in the city, Parkdale shifted to be known as gritty and well-acquainted with poverty. While there were many contributing factors to this, two big ones were the building of the Gardiner Expressway, a highway to our south that made people feel cut off from the lake, and the deinstitutionalization of mental health care (the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, once Queen Street Mental Health is very close by), which meant psychiatric survivors were released and subsequently sought home in the area. Now Parkdale is a study in gentrification- the process by which the character of a poor urban area is changed by wealthier people moving in, changing housing, and attracting new businesses.

I point out a few things as we walk: the popular vintage store called Public Butter, a poster for a protest about affordable housing, the yellow box that looks reminiscent of a Canada Post mailbox but is a receptacle for used needles. We stop to say hello to a group of people in the parkette beside the Health Centre, all of whom are community members of The Dale. One person comes out from the bushes, where they are sleeping rough. Another engages with you about where you are from and tells you an embarrassing story about me. We laugh. We comment on the nice weather before fist bumping a goodbye.

From here we walk south along a very residential street. I point out how you can tell if one of the mansion like homes is a single-family dwelling or a rooming house. We notice young families, a statue of Mary in a front yard, and Tibetan monks in burgundy robes. I suggest we get some Momos, Tibetan dumplings from a place called Loga’s Corner. I introduce you to the owner who gives a lesson on how to eat one, and graciously adds a few extra to our order.

We wave at the proprietor of the laundromat, chat with people hanging out in a bus shelter, and stand in awe of the woman who feeds the pigeons and has birds hanging out on her shoulders and head. We walk along Jameson Avenue, a street lined with mid-rise apartment buildings. Eventually we end up back on Queen Street West. I invite us to stop, close our eyes and take a deep breath, taking active notice of the sounds and smells of the neighbourhood. As we end up back where we started, we discuss your questions. I share a few more stories. We talk about the obvious diversity and resulting richness of Parkdale. We depart with a hug.

Jane Jacobs said, “The trust of a city street is formed over time from many, many little public sidewalk contacts… Most of it is ostensibly trivial but the sum is not trivial at all.” The work of getting to know one’s neighbourhood takes intentionality. For me, walking has been integral to becoming connected to and rooted in Parkdale. It is something I have done since 2007 and that as a Dale team we do on the regular. The arguably trivial moments have led to many profound interactions, deep friendships, and a lot of opportunity to love and be loved. I am always glad to walk and love the opportunity to do so together.