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NEWS: Shelter blamed for spike in crime (May 2018)

May 9th, 2018 · No Comments

May shift to women only next year

By Geremy Bordonaro

A temporary drop-in homeless shelter at 348 Davenport Rd. is once again home to controversy. Some local residents say that there’s been a noticeable increase in violence and drugs in the area since the shelter — publicly supported by Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) and the Annex Residents’ Association — opened in January.

“We have seen a significant increase in crime in the Davenport area compared to last year. It’s safe to say that this is due to the shelter,” said Staff Sergeant James Hogan of the Toronto Police Service’s 53 Division.

Steven Boujikian, who runs a laundromat near the shelter, said there’s been a huge increase in crime.

“There’s way more crime…way more violent crime. People shooting up on the streets. Even a few weeks ago someone walked into a local bar and died. Just on the spot…How is that acceptable?”

“Since the shelter opened,” said Cheryl Zimmer, a tenant representative at 250 Davenport Rd. who provided this photo, “we have seen an increase in people coming into our building, doing drugs in the stairs [and] hallways, and then leaving to go to the shelter.” COURTESY CHERYL ZIMMER

And tenant leaders from 250 Davenport Rd., which is run by Toronto Community Housing, came armed to a February 15 community meeting with pictures that showed used needles and said that shelter users were having “drug parties” during the day.

“Since the shelter opened,” said tenant representative Cheryl Zimmer, “we have seen an increase in people coming into our building, doing drugs in the stairs [and] hallways, and then leaving to go to the shelter.”

“This whole thing was uncalled for,” said Boujikian. “It just doesn’t fit in the area. You have all these homeless people walking around with nothing to do, causing trouble…. You can ask anyone in the area. Ask them ‘was this a bad idea?’ and they’d say ‘yes!’”

Cressy acknowledged that “respites are challenging…. They are challenging for the residents and they can also be challenging for the neighbourhood.”

However, he didn’t offer much of a solution.

“The purpose of a respite is very much that of a band-aid. It is to provide an emergency response to ensure the people have a warm place to go in the cold winter months.”

Cressy added that respites simply are not good enough to provide adequate safety for the neighbourhood and those within the building itself.

“What respites don’t have, because they’re open on an emergency basis, is that comprehensive series of supports” he said. “They don’t have all of those supportive programs to help people get out of homelessness. That’s the distinction.”

Boujikian said that the police also haven’t been very effective in addressing the increase in crime.

“The police are ignoring us,” he said. “They’re doing nothing with our complaints. Nothing to help us.”

Hogan conceded that resources have been stretched, and that it’s been difficult to respond.

“We’ve done what we can to help the community but it’s been tough.”

“The clientele that uses these respites are often homeless, dealing with addiction issues, mental health issues, and they’re hard,” Cressy said. “There’s no question that it’s hard.”

The councillor said that there needs to be a way to address homelessness in Toronto.

“It’s not enough to just do band-aids, these respites. What we need to do is create supportive housing facilities where people can transition out of homelessness,” Cressy said. “The objective here can’t just be to provide shelter. We need to have a program to end homelessness.”

The shelter closed at the end of April. It will be redeveloped into a women’s shelter with residents who will stay between three to six months. More amenities are also planned, as well as programs to help the residents find more permanent housing. This new program will be the first of a new model of shelters that Cressy says “are a stark improvement”.

—with files from Terri Chu



NEWS: Shelter offers temporary respite (March 2018)

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