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Homewood stroll battle heats up

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Homewood stroll battle heats up

The owners of Banting House Inn say problems connected to sex work on Homewood Ave forced them to close their business. IMAGE 1 OF 1
Activists call for decriminalization of sex work
A sex-work advocacy organization says residents living on or near Homewood Ave should take their complaints about sex workers to those politicians who continue to criminalize prostitution.

About 30 local residents blamed sex workers for damage to private property and late-night noise at an Oct 12 meeting with Ward 27 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam.

“The problem here is the law, not sex workers,” says Chanelle Gallant, a sex work activist and communications coordinator for Maggie’s, a Toronto sex workers’ organization. “Residents should take their concerns up with the lawmakers who have put sex workers in the situation where they can’t exert any control over their work.”

The city of Toronto is considering traffic restrictions on Homewood Ave to decrease the number of johns cruising for sex workers along the stroll through the night.

If the restrictions are adopted, drivers would not be allowed to turn onto Homewood Ave from Wellesley St between 11pm and 6am.

The proposal has now gone to the Toronto and East York Community Council.

But Gallant says not all area residents are in favour of the turn restriction. Homewood Ave resident Dara Douma wrote to Wong-Tam requesting her “inaction.”

“I’m writing to request that you do not help this group in their NIMBY-ish relocation program,” the letter states.

Douma says sex workers shouldn’t have to hide in dark alleys or unsafe spaces.

“For myself, their presence makes my street safer. They are a good measure of how safe a street feels. They are more vulnerable than I am, and they are at a greater potential risk of becoming victims of violence or abuse, so I feel safe walking home at night as long as they feel safe on this street,” she says.

Detective Matt Moyer, of the Toronto police, says he doesn’t think a turn restriction will do much to curb sex traffic in the area.

“I think first and foremost we have to provide safety,” he says. “But this won’t stop the sex trade. If the traffic is restricted, sex-trade workers will find a way to circumvent it and work around it.”

Moyer says unclear laws about sex work are often confusing.

“We take direction from the courts,” he says. “It’s the same as marijuana. It’s hard as police officers these days, because we don’t have a clear-cut definition of what we should do and shouldn’t do.”

Moyer doesn’t have statistics on the number of resident complaints. He says no records are available unless police are called. “We don’t get a lot of calls for service up there . . . We’re doing everything we can to accommodate the community and the sex-trade workers, but you can only do so much.”

Wong-Tam says the initial complaint came from the Homewood-Maitland Safety Association (HMSA) in the spring. The association asked that the city consider restricting the turn.

This is not the first time the issue was raised. In 2008, the HMSA launched a series of late-night demonstrations in an effort to drive sex workers from the area.

The group has once again been writing letters to police, the mayor’s office and Wong-Tam.

Business owner Paul Hyde formed the HMSA about five years ago with a handful of other residents.

“We approached [former Ward 27 councillor] Kyle Rae and the police, but it went nowhere,” he says. “Meanwhile, some of the residents were attacked. It was getting so bad that we formed a neighbourhood association. We just felt the sex trade shouldn’t be in a residential area.”

After 11 years at 73 Homewood Ave, Hyde and his partner are selling Banting House, their bed and breakfast. 

“It’s difficult to mix tourism with sex trade. Our customers don’t like it. It frightens them,” he says. “We just wanted the sex workers to stop vandalizing our cars and our homes. The noise at night is terrible, the damage to property and the threat of violence . . . the turn restriction won’t end it, but it will calm it.”

Hyde says he is in favour of sex-worker rights, “but one right shouldn’t come at the expense or safety of others . . . Until sex work is legalized and monitored, and there’s regulation around where it can take place, this is the way we should go,” he says.

Gallant disagrees, noting that there is no proof sex workers are responsible for damage to property or violence in the neighbourhood.

“We think the arguments made by some of the homeowners are baseless,” she says. “We don’t think sex workers contribute whatsoever to the danger of a neighbourhood. In fact, we believe gentrifiers pose a danger to sex workers.”

Gallant reminds that sex workers are also residents of the area and will defend their right to work. She says just 10 percent of sex workers work outdoors.

“Sex workers are pretty good at defending the area where they work,” she says. “I don’t think this will keep sex workers away. Maggie’s believes sex workers are entitled to share that space.”

Gallant says the only long-term solution is decriminalization.

“Decriminalization would prevent gentrifiers from targeting and harassing sex workers, and it would make things safer for sex workers as well. Also, if sex work was decriminalized, we could be at the table and have a conversation about these issues.”
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Comments

call me a NIMBY
I'm sorry, but I don't live on Homewood or Maitland, but I've walked by plenty of times and seen lots of trannys around. PLEASE KEEP THEM THERE, I don't want them in front of my place. I guess I'm a true NIMBY because I sure as hell don't want them crawling around my place at night!
Link in above comment removed ...
I attempted to insert a link to a news article about Shawn and Chad. Therefore the sentence w/ (SEE: ... doesn't make sense ... "If the local ... " was the start of a new paragraph. I guess including links in the comments section is no longer possible?
Proof is required...
I've walked home along Homewood Ave most every night for the past 30 years, and often quite late. And yes, I occasionally see and talk with some of the sex workers I meet.
As for “vandalism, noise, fights etc etc etc” due to the “trannies” I have yet to see or hear it. Odd that ... As a down-town street there are many people out and about late at night ... FYI: Several years ago there was a shooting on this same street attributed to patrons of The Phoenix, nearby on Sherbourne. Then there's two schools at Maitland and Homewood and there's often noise from the students who participate in rowdy games and activities. There's also housing (halfway house) for some of our disadvantaged citizens on this street. Recently, a woman social worker was stabbed and killed by one of the residents there. Then there's garbage trucks that roll up and down the street making a terrible racket and occasionally, party goers walking home late and being boisterous. None of these criminal acts or “noise” incidents can be blamed on the sex workers who work Homewood. Personally, I feel safer knowing there is someone on the street late a night versus it being empty, vacant and unpopulated.
I'm sure the sex workers feel safer too since in the not so distant past two teenagers (Shawn Keegan and Chad Vivian) were killed on this street. (SEE:
If the local residents don't want crime on their streets, perhaps they shouldn't live down-town?
Sex workers do not attract crime (unless it's directed AT them), they deter it by occupying the streets and being vigilant & watchful.
I would respectfully suggest that the local Resident Association (HMSA) come up with some prosecutable proof that the incidents they are upset about are in fact being perpetrated by sex workers versus some random ne'er-do-wells walking through the neighbourhood.
Homewood nightmares
Anyone that says there has not been any problem with trannys on homewood is either lying or just plain crazy. Trannys have been responsible for vandalism, noise, fights etc etc etc... i have been living on homewood with my bedroom right out front and i can tell you trannys do NOTHING but cause a problem for residents AND are directly responsible for lower real estate values...... this article is bias in favour of trannys! How sad businesses, good businesses, have to sell and get out of the neighbourhood!!!! I DON'T BLAME them! I don't know what RIGHT a tranny has to come into the neighbourhood and cause this havoc!!!!!
Where is the problem?
I live on Homewood and have for over 10 years. My bedroom faces right onto the street. What noise and vandalism are these people talking about??? I have seen these working gals for as long as I can remember. They are courteous, quiet clean and stay to themselves. What makes me sick is the lies being told by a very small group of up tight homeowners on the street. What they are claiming is just not true. So don't buy into it. Frankly, the vast majority of long term residents don't give a rats behind about the issue. What pisses me off is the fact that I may not be able to turn onto my own street after 11pm. With no witnesses, no proof, this sort of pursuit renders clear thinking a thing of the past. As for the HMSA, they are a tiny group of old biddies. As for Hyde, me thinks he is selling because he got a million dollars for the place, not because the Trannies are running him and his partner out of town.
Bad situation
Even if all the laws against prostitution were repealed, the sex workers would still be on Maitland. Some Toronto sex workers place ads in Now Magazine and work out of their apartments. Other Toronto sex workers prefer to ply their trade on streets like Homewood Avenue (where they can turn more tricks in a night). Toronto should adopt the approach of Hamburg and Amsterdam and have designated red light districts for prostitutes away from middle-class residents. Until then, Paul Hyde is taking the only real option available to unhappy residents on Homewood Avenue: to move. The city and the police obviously don't want to do anything about the problem and left wing groups like Xtra and Maggie's will continue to attack the homeowners. Unless the residents result to more drastic action (e.g., posting pictures of johns and their license plates on a website for the general public to see), the residents will continue to have to put up with the noise and the vandalism.
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