Etobicoke community calls for public consultation for planned shelter

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Plans to build a shelter in an Etobicoke neighbourhood are upsetting some residents. – Jul 25, 2020

A planned homeless shelter in a west-end Toronto neighbourhood is sparking complaints from some residents because of its central location — a feature the mayor says is key to the project.

The shelter, which would be located within the buildings at 2950 and 2970 Lake Shore Boulevard West in Etobicoke, is detailed in a proposal set to go before city council on Tuesday.

“If I didn’t see it on the agenda, it would have gone through council, they would have bought the property and then, surprise, surprise, we’d get a sign saying we’re putting a shelter here,” said Chris Korwin-Kuczynski, the chair of the Lakeshore Village BIA.

A former Toronto city councillor himself, Korwin-Kuczynski said the public should have a chance to weigh in on the proposal before any decision is made.

“No matter who feels this way or that way on this issue, the people in the community should be consulted,” he said.

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Korwin-Kuczynski also said many local business owners have told him the location on a main street would drive customers away, detracting from ongoing efforts to revitalize the area.

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The site is part of a goal to add 1,000 new permanent shelter beds for people who are homeless, a city spokesperson told Global News in an email.

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The agenda item states the combined large size of the two properties offers “flexibility in responding to changes in shelter standards and demand as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Mayor John Tory said determining the right site for such shelters is a difficult balancing act.

“These are just fellow citizens of ours who’ve fallen on some hard times, maybe because they lost their job, maybe because they lost their family or developed a problem with alcohol or drugs,” he said.

“So we’re giving them a helping hand to get back on their feet.”

Greg Cook, an outreach worker with Sanctuary Ministries of Toronto, offered cautious optimism on the proposal, especially if it eventually leads to more permanent housing.

He said opposition to locations such as this is part of a not-in-my-backyard mentality.

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“I appeal to their humanity,” Cook said. “People shouldn’t be in tents, right? Winter’s not that far away. I can’t imagine camping out at -20 degrees.”

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The location — near transit and businesses — Mayor Tory said is part of the point.

“A lot of people, we hope, will actually leave the shelter during the day and go to work and come back, whereas they won’t be able to do that if they’re in a place that’s in the middle of nowhere,” he said.

If the properties are purchased after the Tuesday vote, the city said it would then create a community engagement plan that would include opportunities to speak with staff about how to best integrate the service into the community.