A new refuge for homeless women in the Annex
Toronto opens new shelter amidst criticism
The Davenport shelter had no toilet. They were using a porta-potty outside.”
When the temporary homeless shelter at 348 Davenport Rd. in the Annex opened in February, it was championed by the local councillor, as well as area celebrities such as Adrienne Clarkson and Margaret Atwood. Despite some criticism from the local residents association, the respite centre remained open through the winter and closed on May 25. The space will be turned into a women’s shelter, with a partial opening scheduled for the end of this year.
“There is a huge need for shelter services for women in the city,” said Patricia Anderson, with the City of Toronto’s Shelter, Support & Housing Administration. “Eighty beds will be available as of the end of this year.”
In 2019, Phase 1 of the opening will unfold, with around 30 more beds for new clients.
However, some homeless advocates have felt that the City of Toronto has not done enough to combat the rising number of homeless people on the streets.
“We are in the midst of a deadly crisis of homelessness,” said Yogi Acharya, from the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP). “More than 100 people died last year, and we’re on track to have the same record this year, or worse.”
Acharya and his team at OCAP took hidden cameras into three of the city’s homeless respite centres this past winter, including the Davenport site. They found conditions Achwarya described as “deplorable.”
“You see people are crammed in one giant room,” he said. In many sites, there were either too few washrooms or washrooms that were missing doors.
“The Davenport shelter had no toilet. They were using a porta-potty that was bounded outside,” he said. “When I called the manager to get somebody a place, she cautioned against going to Davenport because there was no hot water there.”
In a report put out by the city ombudsman last March, the ombudsman, Susan E. Opler, found that the nine winter respite sites visited by her staff were deemed to be “inconsistent and/or inadequate.”
They also found that “the indoor temperature at one site was unacceptably low,” a conclusion that was also consistent with OCAP’s findings.
“The internal temperatures at these respite sites were routinely at 15 degrees,” said Acharya.
Last month, the City of Toronto announced that it had secured three new temporary respite structures, which will be operational this winter. The accessible structures are modular, with insulated all-weather walls and plumbing and heating, with dining and common areas. Each structure should accommodate 100 people.
The temporary respite site at 348 Davenport Rd. when it opened this past winter