midtown toronto homeless shelter

Two controversial homeless shelters in Toronto are now vacant

Toronto residents who have been protesting the City's conversion of three unused buildings in midtown into temporary homeless shelters amid the pandemic now have a lot less to complain about, as two of the premises were vacated last week.

The now-empty apartments at 55 and 56 Broadway Avenue, along with the old Roehampton Hotel on Mount Pleasant Road, have been a cause for concern in recent months among locals who've cited lax security and an increase of crime in the neighbourhood tied to the hundreds of interim tenants.

The twin Broadway mid-rises were always due to be emptied for redevelopment at the end of August, while the defunct hotel, though likewise slated for demolition, will likely serve as a shelter solution for two to three years.

The City is still working to relocate all of the displaced clients.

Earlier this month, a City staffer working at the former facility was stabbed by a resident, and another stabbing — the victim, this time, someone living at the shelter — took place outside the doors of the Roehampton site just over a week ago.

A tenant was also charged with nine firearm offences after a handgun was found in his possession, while another died of an overdose and more were evacuated during a two-alarm fire.

Scattered drug paraphernalia, break-ins and thefts around Yonge-Eglinton have also been reported by citizens who some are accusing of NIMBYism (not in my backyard).

Adding to tensions is the fact that administrators of a 4,600-strong Facebook group called Community Safety - Midtown Toronto have allegedly been spreading misinformation and bullying anyone who tries to advocate for the rights of those experiencing homelessness on their page.

Demonstrators on both sides of the issue have taken to the streets to march, while the City has held online town halls to address the issue.

On Aug. 7, the City issued a release stating that it was "continuing to work to address community concerns," reiterating that the shelters were part of "urgent actions in order to save lives and protect vulnerable people, who are at greater risk of COVID-19 related harms."

Additional staff are due to be deployed to the remaining site, and the City is working with local schools to implement a "safety and security plan" following worries from parents in the area.

Ward 12 Toronto-St. Paul's Coun. Josh Matlow has been vocally opposed to the way the City has run the sites, saying in a statement that it "should have provided advance notification and information to residents given the length of the lease at the Roehampton Hotel" and "more importantly, a plan to address the impacts of the behaviour of some new residents on the surrounding community should have been put in place prior to occupancy."

"There must also be space to openly and honestly address the way the city managed the opening of the shelters and real behavioural impacts on our community," he added.

"In no context is it acceptable to leave needles on our streets and school yards, harass people, break into stores, steal, defecate in public or make people feel intimidated and unsafe. I believe this is inarguable and cannot be accepted as the status quo."

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