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Take a drive along Dundas Street east of Highbury and there are many motels. The signs advertize “Luxury for Less, Honeymooners Paradise.”

Recently I was part of a London Camera Club field trip to the Central Library. It was a cloudy/ rainy Saturday morning in downtown London.

I found it interesting that there was a small gathering of an eclectic group of men on the second floor relaxing in their chairs. Seeing my camera a couple of long haired , bearded gentlemen offered to pose for a portrait for only $20.00. I laughed and told them that I charged $50.

Along came Ron a senior citizen dressed in a very large trench coat and running shoes. He asked if I would take his picture; he even offered to pay me a loonie He posed and I clicked the shutter.

Ron gave me his address , “Maple Glen Motel”, and I promised to deliver the photo. I was taken aback, foolish me, I never conceived of someone living full time in a motel.

A week later I made my way over and dropped in to deliver his photograph. The asphalt was broken, screen door mesh was torn. Inside was a very small, room with a T.V, single bed & shower. No closets - all of his clothes and personal affects were stacked on his bed.

Ron has spent one year at the Glen. He receives a check for $520. from Ontario Works for which he is allotted $325 for rent/ utilities and $195.for food and personal needs. He pays $550.00 per month for his “penthouse”.

One can try and supplement their meagre income by picking up day jobs at “Labour Ready.” The for profit company “offers dependable temporary labour.”Workers line up at 5.30 a.m to check the day’s offerings in construction, factories and landscaping. The hired workers are issued a voucher which can be cashed on site before six pm.

The “Motor Court Motel” advertizes out front their “Honeymoon Paradise” with a queen heart shaped bed, Jacuzzi, imitation fire place for only $90.00.

Out back of the motel there are three buildings converted into rooming houses. Each building is subdivided into three floors with three men on each level sharing a common kitchen, television and bathroom. A beer fridge in each small, dingy bedroom for $100.00 per week including tax. No women tenants are wanted.

When you crunch the numbers the motel owners are taking in $2,700 per week from the boarding house. Not bad eh. At present there are no vacancies.

The single lonely men live in many of the motels on the strip. They do not have the means to be able to pay for first and last months rent up front from their government checks.

Many have lost touch with their families and need a permanent address to receive their Ontario Works checks/ Drug Benefit Card. The rooming houses/motels offer a refuge from a cold society that the men feel has all but forgotten them.

Next time you drive by the fluorescent lights on Dundas take a moment to reflect for a moment. Try and answer the questions who and why Londoners spend their nights behind the locked motel doors.

I wager that every one of the long term residents has his own personal heart breaking story that probably will never be heard.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com