novotel toronto homeless shelter

Toronto evicting hundreds from shelter during the holidays and people are furious

The October announcement that a Toronto hotel-turned-emergency shelter would revert to hotel uses has activists and residents up in arms, who are alleging that profit is taking precedence over compassion for the hundreds of unhoused persons that will be affected by the switch.

The former Novotel Toronto on The Esplanade was leased by the City in February 2021 to function as an emergency support and temporary shelter as part of Toronto's pandemic response.

And after almost two years of housing those in need, the site at 45 The Esplanade closed to new admissions on Oct. 12 and began the process of relocating all of the 251 residents of the shelter with a target to have all residents out before the end of 2022.

The property will then revert to hotel uses in 2023, once again accommodating tourists and business travellers at the expense of the current residents. And even then, it probably won't remain a hotel for much longer after that, as plans are in the works to redevelop the site with a twin-tower condominium complex.

In October, the City issued a press release stating that it "has also purchased two other former motel/hotel sites to provide urgently needed affordable housing. The project at 222 Spadina Ave. (formerly the Super 8 Hotel), currently under renovation, will provide new homes with supports for approximately 84 people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness."

"The project at 4626 Kingston Rd. includes the renovation of a motel to create 22 new affordable homes with supports for people experiencing homelessness. Renovations were completed this summer and residents have begun to move into the new homes."

Despite new shelters in the works and the existing 25 temporary shelter sites already open across the city, the sudden end of the hotel's lease and ongoing relocation have angered current residents and organizations rallying support.

Toronto Overdose Prevention Society is among the groups speaking out about the evictions on social media, saying, "It's rich the city makes all these claims about housing people and here you have a shelter where people have been staying, needing housing and are now being chucked back in to congregate settings as COVID and respiratory illnesses climb or on to the street."

The Novotel is just one of many emergency shelters set to close in 2023, announced not long after the City shuttered the Bond Place Hotel with a long-term plan to build affordable housing on the site.

The City's data states that as of Nov. 9, the shelter system is at an astonishing 99.7 per cent capacity.

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