A group of Toronto tenants in Parkdale have occupied an empty apartment in their building in order to run a food bank out of it.

In a press release emailed to Narcity, food bank organizer Paterson Hodgson said the group needed the space because they're serving more than 50 families every two weeks.

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We need to do everything we can to make [the food bank] successful and safe.

Paterson Hodgson

The press release states that tenants at the West Lodge towers in Parkdale have been operating the West Lodge Tenant Food Bank since November.

They were running it out of the lobby when they started, but Hodgson said that they needed more space to meet demand.

“Given the number of people we are serving, we need more space,” Hodgson said. “If our landlord won’t make space for us, we’re going to have to take it.” 

Residents believe over 200 units in the building are empty, and they want the units rented out immediately to put a dent in Toronto's housing crisis

But they say Hazelview Properties — the managers of the West Lodge towers — have not responded to requests of rent relief and no COVID evictions.

A spokesperson for Hazelview Properties told Narcity over email that they "fully support" the residents' food bank but they don't condone the taking over of the empty apartment.

"We would be pleased to discuss collaborating and supporting this valuable community initiative by making space available," the spokesperson said.

According to the spokesperson, Hazelview has delivered 700 fresh-food packages to residents in need at West Lodge and has operated rent-relief programs throughout the pandemic.*

Although eligibility for those programs are limited for residents who are already behind on rent or don't qualify for government relief programs.*

And they said new residents will be moving into vacant units shortly.

Tenants in the buildings have been organizing since April as part of the Keep Your Rent movement.

And the organizing group estimate 25% of tenants are behind on at least one month's rent.

*This article has been updated.

 
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