In 1880, Jarvis Street, just east of Toronto’s central business district, was the
city’s premier residential district, home to notable Torontonians such as the Masseys and
the Gooderhams. By 1920, the street would host a new group of young, unattached,
white-collar workers. Changes to the social, demographic, and occupational character of
Jarvis Street were accompanied by physical changes to its built form. The family estates of
the nineteenth-century elite were converted into boarding and rooming houses, or torn down
and replaced by some of the city’s first apartment buildings. These changes were driven by
the growth of corporate capitalism in Toronto and the attendant growth of white-collar
workers, as well as changes to urban form associated with the growth of the city outwards.
This article examines the relationship between neighbourhood change and larger
socio-economic changes occurring across the North American urban landscape at the time. It
does so by using a variety of historical data, including City of Toronto tax assessments,
city directories, as well as contemporary newspaper accounts. This case study of Jarvis
Street’s social, gender, occupational, and physical changes shows the way that larger
socio-economic processes are written at the scale of the neighbourhood. In doing so, it
demonstrates the importance of understanding neighbourhood change as local materialization
of larger social, economic, and demographic processes.
This article explores the links between urban restructuring, homelessness, and collective action in Toronto in the 1980s and 1990s. In Toronto, as elsewhere, urban restructuring at this time comprised a series of interconnected political-economic and spatial shifts, including economic and occupation change, gentrification, neo-liberal welfare state reform, and urban entrepreneurialism. Jointly, these political-economic shifts were implicated in the production and consolidation of new forms of socio-spatial polarization and segregation that dramatically changed the landscape of urban poverty. One of the most visible manifestations of the uneven effects of restructuring was the emergence and consolidation of mass homelessness. This changing landscape of poverty, in turn, produced a new landscape of political activism. It is this contested landscape that I explore in this article through a focus on homelessness as a primary mobilizing issue in opposition to restructuring during this key period in Toronto’s transition into a second-tier world city. I argue that urban restructuring, homelessness, and the dynamics of collective action were linked in two important ways. First, collective advocates and activists defined the crisis of homelessness as a direct effect of urban restructuring; in this way collective action mobilized to defend the interests of homeless people was simultaneously a collective struggle to contest urban restructuring. Second, the politics of restructuring directly informed the dynamics of collective action over time, influencing their organizational, strategic, and tactical dimensions.