Toronto Mayor John Tory and Coun. Josh Matlow are calling for urgent “additional, effective and immediate measures” to help ensure the safety of local residents and clients at a temporary shelter in Midtown.
The requests came in an open letter to Mary-Anne Bédard, general manager of shelter support and housing administration at the City of Toronto, published on Wednesday.
As the COVID-19 outbreak worsened in Toronto earlier this year, staff leased three properties — the Roehampton hotel and two adjacent buildings on Broadway Avenue — to shelter some of the city’s homeless population.
In the months since, the move has caused controversy among locals residents and fuelled a polarizing debate. Some who live in the neighbourhood say there has been conspicuous increase in crime and public drug use in the area.
A group of residents even organized a protest against the shelters earlier this month, saying they now feel unsafe in their own neighbourhood. They were met on the street by another group of demonstrators who support the temporary housing.
In their open letter, Tory and Matlow tried to assuage the concerns of both sides.
“As you are aware, a shelter client was stabbed over the weekend. This was just the latest incident that has impacted residents at the Roehampton shelter, the Broadway site that is in the process of closing this month and in the wider neighbourhood,” the pair wrote.
“Break-ins, shoplifting, discarded needles, and other threats to safety are unacceptable in any area of Toronto and must be fully addressed,” they added.
While the entire public service including the Toronto Police Service has responded by implementing several measures, they continued, recent events have demonstrated that more must be done.
Tory and Matlow requested that the following actions be taken:
- Expedited school safety plan.
- Expanded safety team patrols.
- Addiction treatment and supports.
- Recreational space and programming.
Tory and Matlow are requesting regular updates on this list “beyond the daily briefings we have been having so that we can report back to area residents on a frequent basis and be accountable for improvements which must come about.”