Our community understands and supports the need to provide shelter for vulnerable people in Toronto- and certainly in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic along with an opioid and housing crisis.
However, concerns raised about the recent behavioral impacts on Midtown residents’ safety from the new shelters at the Roehampton Hotel and 55-65 Broadway are real and should not simply be dismissed as “NIMBY”. The behavior affecting neighbourhood safety is unacceptable and, on behalf of our community, I have requested it be fully, and immediately, addressed by City Staff.
The tent encampments that have sprung up across Toronto in the wake of COVID-19 demonstrate the unquestionable need for additional housing in our city. The existing shelter system at the beginning of the pandemic was completely ill-suited to stop the spread of a virus that thrives in congregate settings. I’ve been informed that the City of Toronto has leased 34 hotels and apartment buildings in neighbourhoods across Toronto.
Many of you have provided the new residents of these shelters with food, clothing, household essentials, and gift cards. We have come from a place of kindness and should continue to do so.
There must also be space to openly and honestly address the way the city managed the opening of the shelters and real behavioral impacts on our community. 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.
The Broadway Ave site will be closed by September 7, 2020. And as with the Broadway site, our understanding regarding the Roehampton Hotel was that the intended use was as temporary housing, or another emergency-related use at the height of the pandemic to protect vulnerable people from COVID-19, which I fully supported and would do so today. In fact, if there were congregate places in our city where vulnerable people were suffering from an outbreak of COVID-19 and needed a temporary place to self-isolate (especially in such close proximity to Sunnybrook Hospital), I think it would’ve been a remarkable opportunity given that it was an empty building.
Then, City staff negotiated a 2-year lease, with an option for an extension, to occupy the Roehampton Hotel. The building is owned by a developer who has an application for redevelopment of the site.
The duration of the shelter occupancy should have triggered additional steps from City Staff prior to residents moving into the site as was customary with other locations prior to COVID-19. When I learned about the lease agreement, I immediately asked city staff about what their communications plan to the public would be. I was told that they weren’t putting out prior notice on any of their sites throughout the city during the emergency. I strongly disagree with that approach as it ultimately leads to less transparency, and more anxiety.
City Staff should have provided advance notification and information to residents given the length of the lease at the Roehampton Hotel. More importantly, a plan to address the impacts of the behavior of some new residents on the surrounding community should have been put in place prior to occupancy.
I have made hundreds of calls since learning about the length of the lease at the Roehampton Hotel, including to area school council chairs, BIAs, trustees, condo boards, daycare operators and tenants associations, along with any other stakeholders I know to ensure that they are informed and involved. I’ve also organized that they be included in direct discussions with city staff.
While the city’s system delegates shelter operations and location decisions to Shelter Services Staff, and do not go through city council, my role is to represent our community to the city.
I have been meeting frequently with the City’s shelter services staff and have requested they send out a notice with information to the local neighbourhoods and organize a community meeting. They’ve agreed to my request. I’ve made it clear that we don’t want the meeting to be solely “an active listening exercise”, but expect them to deliver a substantive plan that is already in progress and that addresses each and every valid concern raised.
The community meeting to hear from City Staff will be held online:
Date: August 19, 2020
Time: 6 – 8 p.m.
You can find details on how to access the meeting remotely through the City’s website here (scroll to bottom of page)
Thus far, I am able to report that the City will implement the following services to help address the community impacts. I expect the actions below to be just the start of a more comprehensive plan to provide wrap-around services to protect surrounding Midtown residents and support the well-being of shelter clients.
Immediate Actions to Address Impacts from Shelter Sites at Roehampton Hotel and Broadway Ave:
Community Safety Team
• Increased from a team of two (2) to a team of seven (7) at all times
• Team operates 24 hours per day 7 days per week
• One team of 2 assigned to Broadway area
• One team of 2 assigned to Roehampton area
• One team of 2 are floaters and can be assigned to areas outside of the immediate area One team member assigned to the immediate property of Roehampton to monitor, clean up and engage clients
• All team members can respond to immediate non police or non EMS related matters when made aware by the community.
Security at Roehampton
• Four Guards (24/7) that are required to monitor all cameras, respond to any security issues on site and conduct perimeter patrols of the area immediately surrounding Roehampton and the two properties immediately surrounding Roehampton
• Prior to opening Roehampton corporate security installed 28 security cameras to monitor the building
• Five (5) additional cameras have been installed to have a live view of the exterior of the Roehampton property; as well as the two properties immediately surrounding Roehampton
• The additional cameras will allow Guards to capture and respond to any security breach; as well as identify individuals
• Additional contract will be put in place to clean school properties in the area
• Fence installation at 820 Mount Pleasant
Mobile Patrol Site Visits
• Mobile Corporate Security Guards are visiting the site and the neighbourhood twice per day in marked City of Toronto vehicles 24/7 starting this Friday, July 31
• The mobile team will identify, document and forward any concerns noted during their patrols
Clients (shelter residents)
• Clients identified in any negative behaviours or criminal acts within the community will be followed up with immediately and directly; which can include their discharge
• Shelter resident Meetings will be held regularly; which will include going over the Good Neighbours Policy and their responsibilities
• Staff have been meeting with clients one on one to discuss their responsibilities of being good neighbours
• Educational signs have been posted in the building regarding conduct in the neighbourhood
• Toronto Public Health – The Works (Harm Reduction) visits clients twice per week. Toronto Public Health is currently examining if they can expand services and what those services may look like
• Inner City Health Associates (ICHA) a team of doctors, nurses and personal support workers will be visiting soon to go over what health services they can provide to our clients
• Toronto Police Services – community response unit, is visiting the site regularly. Conversations with TPS are ongoing on how they can further support and/or provide enhanced community safety measures to the surrounding community
• Increased garbage pick-up has been established including exterior cleaning of hotel and local TTC shelters
• Increase in garbage / waste bins will be provided
• Exterior pool at the Roehampton Hotel will be covered to provide an outdoor space for residents and an area to smoke away from the sidewalk
Who To Contact
I’ve asked the City to provide us with direct contact information to share with residents to respond to immediate concerns:
To contact the Roehampton Hotel site: 437-247-2287 – available 24/7
To contact the 55-65 Broadway site: 437-343-9491 available 24/7
To get in touch with the Community Engagement Facilitators with any questions regarding any detailed information you want to answered, you can reach them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 416-479-0243
If your property has been damaged, witnessed illegal activity and/or feel that your safety is at risk, please report it to the Police. You can do so online at: www.torontopolice.on.ca/core or by telephone at 416-808-2222. If you wish to remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 416-222-TIPS (8477) or online at: www.222tips.com.