Highlights from Architect and EMBRACE presentations and Q&A

February 6, 2018, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

David Appleton Community Centre

Attending (total approx. 34):

  • Community Liaison Committee (CLC) members, neighbours, and representatives from local organizations (approx. 20)
  • Presenters:
    • Costanza Allevato, chair / convenor (City of Toronto, SDFA)
    • Paul Didur (Architect, PDA)
    • Bruce Davis (Consultant, Public Progress)
  • Elected representatives:
    • MPP Laura Albanese
    • Councillor Frances Nunziata (Ward 11)
    • Councillor Sarah Doucette (Ward 13)
  • City of Toronto staff from the Shelter, Support and Housing Administration and from Facilities Management (5)


  • 6:30 – 7:00 p.m.
    • Opportunity for the community to mingle and view the architectural designs.
  • 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
    • Paul Didur, architect: Presentation of architectural designs and Q&A.
    • Bruce Davis, consultant: Facilitated discussion on next steps for an “EMBRACE” group of community members to support shelter residents and integrate the shelter into the community.

Summary of Community Feedback – Architectural Plans

In general, the community was were pleased with the proposed designs. One person said: “We wanted a lounge, a computer room, a medical area, counselling service areas, a community space, smaller rooms… I think we’ve ticked most of the boxes of the things we asked for.”

Several Community Liaison Committee (CLC) members also spoke about what they had heard from the shelter clients they had spoken to during their tour of Fort York. They felt that the men they had spoken to would feel comfortable and would be well supported in this space.


Community space

  • Q: The community space and the lounge for the shelter clients share a wall – could that wall be made retractable? Or put a door in? That would provide more options for enlarging the space for joint shelter-community programming, or for providing more space for clients to use the space when it is not booked.
  • A: We will look into that. Sound management and material durability are key factors.


  • Q: The community space is 500 sq. ft.; we had hoped for a 900 sq. ft.
  • A: When you count the community space, plus the flexible dining room space, it adds up.


  • Q: Has the function of the community space been decided? We had discussed a number of ideas, including a social enterprise café.
  • A: The community space has been designed to accommodate a range of uses. Further decisions will be up to the community in collaboration with the shelter. We also wanted to ensure that uses could evolve over time.

Managing sound and air circulation

  • Q: Sounds in a shelter (especially snoring) can really affect the mood in the shelter and people’s ability to sleep. How will sound be managed?
  • A: We’ve organized the space into “pods” to balance air circulation with sound management. Each pod has its own dedicated fresh air or conditioned air supply. We are bringing in more fresh air than a normal AC unit. We can also look at the plan to hang some baffles


  • Q: Will windows open?
  • A: As is standard in shelters, windows will not open. We can look into options for having windows that will open only partway, with a louvre. We would prioritize installing these in rooms that are designated for pets.


  • Q: What is the height of the walls between the bedrooms?
  • A: About 10 feet.


  • Q: There are multiple access points (e.g. main entrance, garden entrance, dining room entrance). How will you manage security?
  • A: There would be limited access at these additional points of entry. This would be managed via a buzzer system and/or and access-card system. Details are being worked out.


  • Q: Will there be cameras on the exterior and interior? And near the unisex / universal washrooms?
  • A: Yes, lots of cameras in the exterior and the interior, including in the corridor leading to the washrooms. The universal washrooms / single person washrooms will also be equipped with emergency alarms.

Building exterior

In general, people were keen to see the look and feel of the building improved. They liked the proposed green space on the corner of Ryding and Runnymede. They wanted to ensure that the building was beautiful and that it looked inviting and welcoming for both shelter clients and community members coming in.

  • Q: People were not keen on the yellow-and-black paint in the sample images.
  • A: In the next phase of work, the community is welcome to offer suggestions for ensuring a welcoming and visually appealing building exterior. No decisions have been made re: paint colours, etc. We can look into the possibility of getting an artist to do a mural on part of the wall as well.


  • Q: Could we have more greenery along Ryding?
  • A: The way it is now, we have enough parking (8 spots). If we created more green space, we would lose parking spaces and we would have to go to the Committee of Adjustment.


  • Q: Is there any opportunity to have a green roof?
  • A: Unfortunately, no, the current building would not support that. For us to restructure the building, it would be cheaper to tear it down.


  • Q: Is there a tub space for pets? E.g. for a flea bath?
  • A: We haven’t made any allowances for that. We can look at options for where one could go.


  • Q: Could the offices be made smaller to generate more room for other uses?
  • A: For accessibility, you need the turning radius for a person in a wheelchair.


  • A CLC member shared the book Homeless Shelter Design: Considerations for Shaping Shelters and the Public Realm (John R. Graham, Christine A. Walsh and Beverly A. Sandalack).

Summary of EMBRACE Presentation and Community Feedback

Bruce Davis noted that the architecture is the hardware and the people in the room who will make the shelter successful are the “software.” The Community Liaison Committee has completed its work, aside from a review to take place six months after the shelter opens. The work to be done now should include a larger group of community members with a less formal, more open-ended membership structure.

“EMBRACE” would not have a governance or advisory role; rather, it would be an “auxiliary” committee designed to support the shelter over the long-term. It would build the bridge for community members to “cross the moat.” It would meet 4 to 6 times a year to plan events and discuss opportunities with 731 Runnymede staff.

Examples could include a community barbeque organized by EMBRACE; or an art exhibition organized in collaboration with shelter clients and local artists; or a regular pick-up soccer game in the nearby park. EMBRACE could also suggest or co-organize workshops with shelter staff to address a need in the community (e.g. diabetes awareness) – these workshops would be open to both shelter clients and community members. EMBRACE would not take over functions that staff currently lead. Staff would still be responsible for providing the regular shelter services related to housing, employment, health, etc.

In general, the community members present were excited about the potential for this new model. Several people mentioned skills they had that they could bring to the initiative. Others mentioned local non-profit groups (e.g. Frontlines) who may find opportunities in this space.

They raised questions about:

  • Who will lead the group and be the primary liaison with the shelter?
  • What will the mission and mandate of this group be?
  • What kind of financial resources may be able to support the group’s activities?
  • How will permissions and bookings work in terms of accessing and programming the community space?
  • How will we manage recruitment and commitment challenges among volunteers experiencing a high level of burnout?

Bruce clarified that the purpose of this group is to provide volunteer-led auxiliary support, similar to a school board model. Some funding may be available through grants for specific projects that EMBRACE may decide to pursue. This would require research.

In response to the other questions, Bruce offered to draft a Terms of Reference and proposed a start-up meeting in April. This will also give time to recruit other individuals from the community who may be interested in joining.