The City of Toronto is continuing to work to address community concerns raised about the midtown temporary shelter programs located at 55/65 Broadway Ave. and the Roehampton Hotel.
Local residents have expressed concern over the use of these properties and the process that led to them being established in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the City’s ongoing response to homelessness.
Since mid-March, the City of Toronto has moved more than 3,500 people throughout its emergency shelter system, including more than 1,300 individuals who have been transitioned to permanent housing, to achieve physical distancing of two metres between shelter beds, in accordance with Ministry of Health guidance for congregate living settings. The City took these urgent actions in order to save lives and protect vulnerable people, who are at greater risk of COVID-19 related harms.
The City conducted an exhaustive search for shelter space and consulted with property managers, developers and landlords to secure safe spaces that were available, affordable, of suitable size, accessible and close to transit and services. As part of these ongoing efforts, the City leased several properties across Toronto, including the Roehampton Hotel and took possession of two vacant Broadway Avenue apartment buildings in midtown Toronto to serve as temporary shelter locations. These buildings are a small part of the overall shelter system that currently houses approximately 7,000 people city-wide.
This week the midtown properties have been the subject of much public attention following several incidents at the Broadway Avenue program including an overdose death of a client, a City employee being stabbed by a client and a fire. The Broadway Avenue program is scheduled to close at the end of this month and the City is working to re-locate all residents there.
The City recognizes that these incidents, along with other unacceptable incidents in the community, are upsetting to residents and businesses.
While an engagement process for the community in advance is preferred, the rapid nature of the response and critical need to protect people experiencing homelessness – some of the most vulnerable residents in our City – did not allow for it. Since the emergency opening, the City has moved as quickly as possible to provide supports for clients and the community. The fast pace of establishing this site has led to frustration for some residents and the City is actively working to address concerns raised by the community to ensure the safety of residents, clients and staff at the sites.
The City has taken a number of steps to address concerns at both sites by increasing community safety teams, Toronto Police patrols and holding clients accountable for disruptive behaviour that puts others at risk. City shelters maintain conduct expectations for all clients. When clients fail to comply with expectations, they face appropriate consequences, including forfeiture of their spot in that location. The City will continue to monitor the situation and take further action as required.
To address concerns and improve communication with residents, a community engagement team is working with the local councillor to establish a Community Liaison Committee for Ward 12 – Toronto-St. Paul’s. The Community Liaison Committee will provide resident representatives, businesses and community organizations with an opportunity to be actively involved in identifying concerns so that the City can quickly address issues.
The City is hosting an online community town hall on Wednesday, August 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. This town hall will include a brief presentation on the Roehampton Hotel, provide an update on enhanced community supports and allow participants to ask questions. The meeting link and telephone number will be available at toronto.ca/PhysicalDistancingShelters one hour before the session is set to begin.
Members of the community can share feedback or ask questions by:
City Council has previously delegated authority to staff to find and select new locations for shelters. The City is not required to seek community input or permission on the location of new shelter sites. However, the City is committed to engaging communities and the focus of the engagement process is on how best to support and integrate the shelter as part of the neighbourhood.
Background on the two midtown shelter programs:
The City leased the Roehampton Hotel in the Mount Pleasant Road and Eglinton Avenue East area for two years, with an option to extend to a third, as a temporary shelter solution. This hotel was slated for demolition and will be part of a future redevelopment application by the property owner. Clients began moving into Roehampton Residence on July 3. This site, one of the 17 hotel locations activated since mid-March, has 109 units for up to 174 clients.
The Roehampton Residence program is run by City staff. The site will offer case management, housing search help, meals, harm reduction and recreational programming. The Roehampton Residence provides services to all genders and is pet-friendly.
Outdoor space within the property is being created so that clients have a place to spend time outdoors without having to be in front of the building. Meetings are held regularly with the clients which include reviewing the Good Neighbours Policy and their responsibilities. Educational signs have been posted in the building regarding conduct in the neighbourhood.
Security measures and community supports already implemented include:
Security measures and community supports to be implemented at the earliest possible date include:
Broadway Avenue temporary shelter
The site at 55/65 Broadway Ave. was set up as an interim shelter program. Since April 29, clients have been moved from encampments to this site. Case management and housing search supports have been provided, resulting in permanent housing for 14 clients.
The Broadway Avenue program was designed to be temporary, while the units were vacant pending redevelopment. The City will vacate this site by the end of August.
The City is working with all current residents on permanent housing plans. Clients will be assisted to move to an alternate temporary location in another neighbourhood if permanent housing cannot be secured before the shelter closes.
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