Friday, April 23, 2010

"Oh just check the internet, it's all on the internet!"

So what's the score with being broke in Toronto?

What is it with the 211 information service? Like a quarter of the info they give you is out of date. They keep directing people to dinners at Metropolitan United, sending a bunch of homeless dudes wandering around the church and pestering whoever answers the buzzer. Or what about the place on Queen and Jarvis that charges $2.50 and the folks at 211 don't know about it? Do they update their listings when we call them back with helpful information? No, they don't. But they'll bug us to answer surveys on the content - those of us who have a landline, that is. Thanks.

How many times have we bussed or biked or walked miles based on bad info?

Then there's the terrible government-supplied PDF, totally disorganized, terrible maps, ok it's a nice effort, but come on, a PDF? Why would we be interested in checking out a PDF? We're poor and hungry. We use cellphones and old computers at drop-ins. And why would the 211 folks not just publish their sources on the 'net? Oh, that's right, they do, on their own terribly-organized and confusing list.

Is it so terribly hard to just make a google map and calendar? No, so here it is on this website.

Also, how come none of the websites of these individual organizations seem to have information for their actual clients? There's no meal schedules on the Scott Mission site, the St. Stevens site... and why not? Are the sites just for people who might be donating, or other organizations, or what? Who are these sites geared towards? Other government people? Concerned citizens? Do they want to carefully control the information, or is there some advantage to employing a bunch of people at 211, most of whom are not great communicators, let alone "information retrieval specialists," to research and regurgitate outdated information over the phone?

It's absolutely silly that some loser with a blogger account could do a better job than three different organizations of presenting this very simple information, but when it comes to building websites... pretty much anybody can do it better than the Canadian government, and the web agencies who end up doing their work for them.

Of course, it's wonderful of them to have collected the information from which this site draws its beginnings. But this site is about the information that we, the broke, homeless, destitute, fucked-up residents of the not-so-mean streets of Toronto, share with each-other. And it's about the amazing people, mostly Christian volunteers, bless their hearts, who help us get by when nobody else knows how to. It's the charity of the people at places like St. Felix, the Augusta House, the Good Shepherd, PARC, etc, who make it possible to eat safely and healthily on no cash in this city. It's a rarity - the drop-ins in Vancouver totally suck, for example!

So here it is, this is a good beginning, and I hope to see comments and tips showing up in here from other broke-ass, fucked-up-in-one-way-or-another people who use these awesome places to get by. Let's help each-other out and take the pressure off 211 and these other services that obviously are not going the distance. It's easy enough to share information, that's what the internet's for.


  1. Thank you for starting this blog! :D

    I'm new to Toronto and was searching for a food bank where I could drop off a few cans I have extra this week, and it was just freaking impossible to find an address on the 'official' websites. The donate-links provided were all about $$$ and credit card numbers. I was getting pretty depressed, but now I'll recommend your blog far and wide. A most excellent idea you had here. :)

    {btw, I just learned about The Stop program. If you'd like to add their address to your map, they're at 1884 Davenport (according to the website -- I've never been). They're at thestop dot org.}

    1. The Stop got added! And yeah, a proper information query system is invaluable, and this website proves how easy and cheap it is to make, which flies in the face of the government's terrible subcontracting situation. They should just have in-house teams that contract out the odd thing here and there to freelancers... not massive contracts handed out to companies who want to build a $3000 website for $250,000, in two months all at once instead of gradually over a year. Those awful sites and their pdf files and their broken links really are part of the wall that poor people come up against... it's the wall that makes you realize that our social systems are window dressing and harm reduction. They're not actually here with any expectation of succeeding. It's a big joke operation, and that includes the websites. Donors and taxpayers want to see a big list of places and programs, and they never have to actually use them, so they don't realize how impossible those lists are to use or how inaccurate they are. Same with 211 - all they want is for people to know that it does exist, so they can continue to look down on the poor. It's disgusting. Fortunately, the internet and free commercially-provided tools have made it easy to DIY the whole thing. It'd be nice to do it in a more collective way though! Blogger does allow for people to be blog authors without having admin access... maybe some blog authors could be added??