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Tears and Fears for 200 Wellesley Street

September 26, 2010

I feel like crying. I feel like rejoicing.

This weekend I have seen Toronto the Good first hand. I have also seen that we have far we have to go when it comes to how our city responds to emergencies.

First some Kudos and Thank Yous.

First to the many many citizen volunteers. Without you Friday night and Saturday would of been more difficult for all on the scene. Thank you to the first responder Volunteers from the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. George and Jeff your teams are amazing! It was a pleasure to work along side them.

My heart was so full as people came and continue to come to donate. The needs will remain great in the days ahead. Please if you wish to donate drop donations at 519 Church St.

Some facts that I learned this weekend: there are laws, and public health rules that must be followed even when a disaster happens. Who knew there could be so much red tape?

I also learned that the city needs to IMPROVE in how the respond and how they communicate with other agencies. In the first 12 hours there was pure chaos, fear, and frustration for many. People were nervous and upset and given little direction at first. We need so much to get better at this.  By separating the residents into multiple locations people are not all receiving all urgent communication in a timely manner. Some know and understand what is going on while others do not. There were language barriers as well. There were no interpreters except children, neighbours and friends who stepped into the gap and did the best they could.

There were also a lack of case managers on the scene to take care of and access the frailest of the frail and those with mental health issues. On Friday night I ended up even telling the city official of seniors who needed extra care. They needed more people doing assessing as people were registering for the night. Even today right now at the Wellesley Community Center there is a deaf/blind man, and a frail older woman who has a broken arm(she is 90). Both have slept on cots in the center the last 2 nights. What a shame! Dear city officials we need to do better. I pray there will be case managers on site to help these most vulnerable residents!

Now the city has set up ways to give to the city with the funds raised going to the residents. What is the transparency going to be like? How will Torontonians know the cash given gets to residents in need and not to pay for the emergency response which should be part of the budget??? Past history has shown money given to the city does not get to residents. I remember the Secord residents well. So if you wish to give, give where? The Red Cross was first responder but they do not receive cash donations except for international appeals. Did you know that? I didn’t till today. The Salvation Army and several United Way agencies have also been front and center helping in the response. This is where I would give. Physical gifts to 519 Church Street and then the rest to local agencies who work and support this community every day as they will respond better to the needs in this community.

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