Our community is united in its support and compassion for our city’s homeless population- and certainly in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and an opioid and housing crisis.
However, the behavioral impacts on Midtown residents’ safety from the new shelters at the Roehampton Hotel and 55-65 Broadway are not acceptable and valid concerns cannot be dismissed. Criminal acts in any area of Toronto cannot be tolerated, and Midtown is certainly no exception. I’ve confirmed that Shelter Staff will, and have already, removed clients.
I’ve told City Staff that the implementation of the Broadway site has been wrought with problems and there has been far too many incidences there, including another one today. I saw it myself, while my daughter and I were walking on Broadway earlier this evening. I can confirm that the Broadway site will be closing before the start of the school year. City Staff have told me that each resident will be offered a place to live- please note that they will not be housed at the Roehampton Hotel.
Moreover, the lack of sufficient supports for both the community and the shelter clients when the shelters opened was also unacceptable. I wrote to Premier Ford about our concerns.
My focus has been on finding solutions. I have reached out to local Parent Councils, Childcares, Condo Boards, BIAs, Resident and Tenant Associations, and have been working closely with the Mayor’s Office and Senior City Staff on a daily basis to address these concerns and ensure that the necessary resources are put in place.
As a result of this collaborative approach, important additional supports have been added over the past couple of weeks, including:
Routine perimeter walks of the property by security guards
Community Safety Teams picking up hazards such as needles and monitoring 24/7 for inappropriate activity
City of Toronto Corporate Security mobile patrols
33 cameras throughout the site
Toronto Police Services’ Community Response Unit visiting the site regularly.
Inner City Health Associates will begin providing physician, nursing and psychiatric supports and Toronto Public Health – The Works, which provides harm reduction services, will be on site twice per week
Working with local schools on a safety and security plan for when school resumes- I’ve told city staff that the real objective is to have a safe environment before school starts so that these supports aren’t needed in the first place.
Hiring additional housing workers to be assigned full-time to the site. These workers will provide individualized supports and housing search assistance while referring clients to mental health professionals, employment services, skills training, harm reduction and addictions counselling, and other supports as needed.
I believe that we will begin seeing real and substantive improvements based on the work that is being done.
As I’ve written to you before, I’ve always supported the use of the Roehampton Hotel, which was a large empty building, to support the city and province’s COVID-19 emergency response. I said this, at the height of the pandemic, to Chief Pegg who was leading Toronto’s emergency response and to Premier Ford’s office.
However, when I first learned about the City of Toronto’s lease for the Roehampton Hotel in July, I requested City Staff to undertake a proactive community engagement process, given the two year agreement. Staff refused, citing capacity issues due to the COVID-19 emergency. I strongly disagreed with this decision as I believe it lead to less information, and more anxiety.
On behalf of our community, I then requested City Staff to hold a public meeting -and I appreciate that this will happen tomorrow evening. I very much hope you will be able to participate.
Please visit this link here to join the discussion by computer or phone from 6:00pm-8:00pm tomorrow evening-Wednesday, August 19, 2020,
This community meeting will be an opportunity for you to ask questions regarding the above measures, to advocate for additional resources, or to request any other information regarding the shelters.
While I know this has been a contentious, and really difficult issue in our community (especially with the many pressures we’ve all been experiencing during the pandemic), I want to commend everyone who has made donations to help the shelter clients. In fact, the Roehampton site has reported a significant increase in donations as a result of the efforts from residents across the neighbourhood. I have been told that the clients are deeply grateful.
Shelter Services staff have identified clothing, such as socks and underwear, shoes, towels, and toiletries as top priorities. Please feel welcome to visit the site to drop these items off.
I look forward to the conversation tomorrow!