North York tem­po­rary respite site closed early

The city has an­nounced new shel­ters for this com­ing win­ter by Jes­sica Wei

Bayview Post - - News -

When the Don Mills Civ­i­tan Arena was re­opened as a tem­po­rary sum­mer respite cen­tre for the home­less this past May, con­cerns swirled around the lo­cal com­mu­nity. Many wel­comed the open­ing of new respite cen­tres but were skep­ti­cal that hav­ing a site lo­cated so far from the down­town core would make an im­pact on the es­ti­mated 16,000 in­di­vid­u­als in the city’s emer­gency shel­ter sys­tem. Their con­cerns proved true: the shel­ter closed a week ahead of its sched­uled va­cancy dead­line.

“It closed early sim­ply be­cause there weren’t that many peo­ple us­ing it. It was al­ways go­ing to be a tem­po­rary ser­vice,” said Pa­tri­cia An­der­son, who works with City of Toronto, Shel­ter, Sup­port & Hous­ing Ad­min­is­tra­tion. Ac­cord­ing to An­der­son, the ca­pac­ity was 120 peo­ple. “I don’t think we ever had more than 85 peo­ple at that site,” she added. Ac­cord­ing to An­der­son, the lo­ca­tion was cho­sen be­cause the land was al­ready part of city-owned prop­erty, and there were no ex­ist­ing sum­mer pro­grams that would be in­ter­rupted. Amidst the crit­i­cism that the respite cen­tre would be too far from down­town, she in­sisted that the site was still well used.

“It’s on a ma­jor trans­porta­tion line,” she said. “We know that home­less­ness is not sim­ply a down­town is­sue.”

Home­less ad­vo­cates are wary of so­lu­tions that re­quire home­less peo­ple to be far from down­town.

“There wasn’t re­ally much in the way of pro­gram­ming or so­cial sup­ports be­ing of­fered from those sites or other ser­vices that are typ­i­cally of­fered at a shel­ter,” said Yogi Acharya, an or­ga­nizer with the On­tario Coali­tion Against Poverty (OCAP).

In Septem­ber, the City of Toronto an­nounced that it had se­cured three new tem­po­rary respite struc­tures, which will be op­er­a­tional this win­ter. The struc­tures are mod­u­lar, with in­su­lated walls and full plumbing, with din­ing and com­mon ar­eas. Each struc­ture can ac­com­mo­date 100 peo­ple. Two lo­ca­tions have been an­nounced, both lo­cated down­town.

Acharya still be­lieves that the city is not do­ing enough to com­bat the is­sue of home­less­ness in Toronto.

“We are in the midst of a deadly cri­sis of home­less­ness,” he said. He said that the greater goal of the city should be find­ing suitable so­cial hous­ing, as well as grow­ing with the pace of the in­creas­ing home­less pop­u­la­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the City of Toronto’s Daily Shel­ter Cen­sus, the gen­eral shel­ter oc­cu­pancy rate was at 92 per cent as of Sept. 20.

“We are in the midst of a deadly cri­sis of home­less­ness.”

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