Shel­ter ap­proved near Shops at Don Mills

Lo­cals re­act to 24-hour respite cen­tre open­ing this month

Bayview Post - - NEWS | NEIGHBOURHOOD -

The Don Mills Civ­i­tan Arena, just south of Lawrence Av­enue West near the Shops at Don Mills, will dou­ble as a 24-hour home­less shel­ter this summer amid an un­prece­dented de­mand for shel­ter space in Toronto.

The hockey arena is one of two new respite cen­tres sched­uled to open this month, on a tem­po­rary ba­sis, and will take clients from two ex­ist­ing shel­ters un­able to con­tinue op­er­a­tion in the An­nex and on the Cana­dian Na­tional Exhibition grounds down­town.

The arena at 1030 Don Mills Rd. will open May 21 and will have 100 cots set up on the con­crete pad where the ice is in­stalled dur­ing the win­ter sea­son.

Pa­tri­cia An­der­son, with City of Toronto, Shel­ter, Sup­port & Hous­ing Ad­min­is­tra­tion, said the arena has shower and wash­room fa­cil­i­ties on site, wel­comes pets and will serve all gen­ders.

“Clients will be trans­ported by the city to the site when it opens. Af­ter that, the site is ac­ces­si­ble by TTC. If re­quired, we would pro­vide to­kens,” An­der­son said.

Doris Bies, of Don Mills Residents Inc., said there has been a mixed re­ac­tion to the shel­ter within the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

“We’re em­pa­thetic to the needs of the home­less. I just find it to be odd to bring peo­ple up here when most of our home­less are in the down­town core,” Bies said.

The An­nex shel­ter on Dav­en­port Road, which opened ear­lier this year, will be forced to shut down on May 25 for ren­o­va­tions to turn the build­ing into a per­ma­nent shel­ter for women. The emer­gency shel­ter op­er­at­ing in the Better Living Cen­tre, at Exhibition Place, will close May 11.

An­der­son said the city chose the arena be­cause the build­ing would have oth­er­wise been empty all summer, with no ex­ist­ing pro­gram­ming sched­uled. She also pointed out that home­less­ness is not con­fined to down­town Toronto.

“There are peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness all over the city. It’s not just a down­town is­sue,” she said.

Bries said some residents have also voiced con­cerns over how the shel­ter will im­pact the Shops at Don Mills and sur­round­ing area.

“What are they go­ing to do dur­ing the day when they’re not in the shel­ter? When they’re not in the arena?” Bries asked. “There is a chil­dren’s park be­hind there. Would they be hang­ing around there? Would they be go­ing into the Shops at Don Mills?”

The tran­si­tion will be­gin in the com­ing weeks, and An­der­son said com­mu­nity re­la­tions is pri­or­ity num­ber one. THE DONWAY W.

“This site will be op­er­ated by City of Toronto staff. As with all our ser­vices, staff will sup­port clients as re­quired and ad­dress any is­sues with neigh­bours should they arise,” An­der­son said.

Other residents noted that the cen­tre is in pretty rough shape.

“Some peo­ple are wor­ried about the Civ­i­tan’s abil­ity to prop­erly house the home­less in there,” Bries said. “In the sum­mer­time, that build­ing gets so hot. It’s in pretty bad dis­ar­ray be­cause we know that build­ing is com­ing down in the next year or so. So they haven’t re­ally put any ten­der lov­ing care into it. Would it be ap­pro­pri­ate for peo­ple to be sleep­ing in there?”

There won’t be any ren­o­va­tions made to the arena, ac­cord­ing to An­der­son, apart from mi­nor changes such as ramps put in for ac­ces­si­bil­ity.

Still, Bries said there are oth­ers who think it is a great use of avail­able space within the city.

“A gen­tle­men on our street ab­so­lutely loves it, thinks it’s a great idea, great use of the space. It’s ac­tu­ally some­thing that he would love to vol­un­teer for,” she said.

The fa­cil­ity will en­sure the on­go­ing avail­abil­ity of meals, ser­vice re­fer­rals and places to rest for those ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness in Toronto.

Since the start of 2018, the city has added 807 shel­ter beds, in­clud­ing 648 beds in mo­tel pro­grams and 159 in emer­gency shel­ter pro­grams. A sep­a­rate ini­tia­tive is un­der­way to cre­ate 1,000 new shel­ter beds by 2020.

“What are they go­ing to do dur­ing the day when they’re not in the shel­ter? When they’re not in the arena?”

The Don Mills Civ­i­tan Arena will house 100 home­less men and women come May 21

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