There was a man who bought a house in a quiet, tree-lined, suburban area outside of Toronto. He and his family were happy. The parks were nice and the people were friendly. On the end of his street was a large house. His neighbor told him it was housing for "young offenders," but lately the charitable organization that ran the place seemed to have younger kids from the Children's Aid Society housed there.
This didn't bother the man. The parks were still nice and the people were still friendly.
One day, the demographics in the house changed. The kids were older, and maybe (he thought) they were scarier. They played basketball in the yard. The man was no longer happy, even though the parks were still nice and the people were still friendly and he hadn't had any problems with the bigger, scarier, basketball-playing residents. The charity was once again housing young offenders who had been sentenced by the courts to "open custody."
Protests were mounted, petitions were signed, and the media was contacted. Politicians showed up at neighbourhood information sessions. But, as in war, the first casualty was truth. Fact-based dialogue was not going to be part of the equation. For the physical and emotional protection of the youth in their care, the charity that had been in that location for 30 years without incident closed its doors and moved the residents to another location.
It was a classic NIMBY (Not-In-My-Back-Yard) scenario.
NIMBY movements have sprung up in response to everything from windmills to mosques, prisons to homeless shelters. Often, the individuals involved do not oppose the concept of what they are objecting to, but they just want it to be somewhere else. Youth "open custody" facilities may be a good alternative to prison for the young people involved, but don't locate one across the road from me.
Of course, people should feel comfortable in their surroundings. They shouldn't fear leaving their houses or feel they need to cower behind drawn blinds and speak only in hushed tones. But at what point does the "right" of the neighbourhood (or a vocal minority within it) infringe on the right of those who would gain from the presence of these organizations—even if we find those people "scary"?
In this true story, the organization was able to relocate the youth to another of their facilities, an older building that has been a youth justice facility for 50 years. As I drove by the building last week, on a quiet tree-lined, suburban area outside of Toronto, I noticed that the adjacent vacant lot had been sold to a land developer. A new sign announced that 50 stacked townhouses will be built next door.