Toronto neighbourhood really doesn't want new homeless shelter
While the City of Toronto moves to expand its shelter network during a time when outbreaks and physical distancing have meant a cut to centre capacities, some residents are pushing back against proposed locations, not wanting the city's homeless crisis rendered so visible in their own backyard.
A proposed municipal shelter at 2950-70 Lake Shore Blvd. W — the current site of a BiWay dollar store and a vacant four-storey office — is one of these contentious spots, with the acquisition of the property currently in motion and locals already complaining about the impact a shelter could have on their neighbourhood.
An online petition against the shelter started back in the summer has garnered more than 1,500 signatures from residents that "recognize the need for more shelters in our city to assist vulnerable residents and also recognize that COVID-19 has increased that need," but believe that the area is already supporting MORE THAN its fair share of social services."
Of main concern to community members are the fact that the centre "will negatively impact New Toronto community safety," especially given the close proximity of schools and daycare centres, and that it will "negatively impact Lake Shore Boulevard West revitalization and our businesses who have made New Toronto their home."
This is definitely not the first instance of Torontonians decrying such supports for those experiencing homelessness in their area — people in Midtown literally took to the streets to protest two shelters that they said were leading to an uptick in crime earlier this year, while others complained about the tent encampments that cropped up in many of the city's parks over the summer.
More recently, tenants of Liberty Village blamed a two-year-old respite centre for a spate of recent break-ins to businesses.
But if the homeless crisis has been exacerbated by COVID-19 and no one in the city wants a shelter in their vicinity, where should those experiencing homelessness — also rightful members of our communities — go?
A portion of the petition that reads "we are not against the need for shelters — we oppose the proposed shelter location in our community" seems completely oblivious to this line of thinking.
"My area has enough crime and problems, I don't need to have homeless people on my front step daily," one petitioner wrote on Change.org.
"NIMBY because I care about my backyard," another added.
Councillor Mark Grimes, who reps the area, moves for some consultation before the acquisition of the property is completed. pic.twitter.com/Mtem7aTpcK— Matt Elliott (@GraphicMatt) July 28, 2020
A community information session was held to get public input on the project on Oct. 20, where residents and local businesses voiced their concerns in the hopes that the city uses the site at least in part for something like permanent affordable housing instead.
City Council is meeting further to talk about this option and more about the potential shelter and its effects this week.
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