Where Do We Go From Here?

BY Lee Edward McIlmoyle 

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I grew up in the far East End, practically on the contested border between Hamilton and Stoney Creek. I won’t say we had border wars, but it was tense asking where you were from, when I was growing up. I lived in the same housing project (the “White Survey”) for most of the first 23 years of my life, including a relocation from the front to the back of the survey in the 90s to get away from some undesirables. I attended Hillsdale Elementary (now gone), and then continued my education at first Glen Brae Middle School and then Glendale Secondary School. I met many of the friends I have retained through most of my life in that end of town. My first loves, including some of my dearest friends to this date, were all met and wooed there. But this is not an East End Story. In the words of a comedian whose reputation is not what it once was, ‘I told you that story to tell you this one.’

‘I told you that story to tell you this one.’

When I was twenty three, I was out of art college (a little early), and working as a temp worker at Procter & Gamble (that should date me a bit), and living in my Mom’s basement, as most former college students of my generation did. The pressure was on to move out, but I was bringing down a measly $8.65 an hour as a temp worker, and I had been working in one department for so long, I developed sinusitis, a severe skin rash, and an allergy to the soap I was packing that persists to this day. I somehow got UI to give me medical leave money, filed with WSIB, and spent months in my first apartment just taking medication and trying to recover. Then my girlfriend left, and I had to find a new place, which I did relatively quickly, moving into the Claremont Court Apartments of Stinson Street in 1994. I’ve been in this same building for 22 years, moving apartments only once, from the third to the first (basement) level. What can I say, I’m used to staying put.

Despite my annual rent increases, the issue of Gentrification, or more to the point, of Displacement, hasn’t really caught up to me personally yet. I’ve been married to a gal from NYC for the last ten years as of this past September, and we’re pretty cramped in this one bedroom apartment I’ve been living in since 1998. It needs work. A LOT of work. There’s a crack in the load-bearing wall that runs half the length of the apartment and is visible on both sides. The floor boards are in rough shape, due to fire damage predating my residency in the building. The plumbing regularly gets shut off for repair. The buildings are post-WWII construction. The first replacement windows in all the time I’ve been here were just installed last winter. Lockable windows. New security cameras and front doors with key locks we haven’t been given the key for.

now that my wife and I are thinking about moving, there are so few clean, safe two-bedroom apartments within our financial range anywhere close to the urban core of Hamilton

And of course, now that my wife and I are thinking about moving, there are so few clean, safe two-bedroom apartments within our financial range anywhere close to the urban core of Hamilton, where we do most of our volunteer, activism, and arts-related work. My wife doesn’t get around so good these days, and neither of us drives, so moving out of the core is problematic.

And then there are those locks on the front doors of the buildings; they wouldn’t go condo on us, would they? Is it even legal? Probably not, but how many of our multicultural residents would know that? How many would be shown the door before the rent got so high that we all moved away of our own accord? How much longer can I afford this apartment, even at my grandfatherly rate?

So, Displacement hasn’t caught up to me yet.

But I can hear it.

Lee Edward McIlmoyle,

Creative-at-Large

Want more? Continue reading our Gentrification issue

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