City of Toronto opens new homeless shelter in Scarborough

·4 min read
A view of the front entrance of the new shelter at 705 Progress Ave. is visible here. (Submitted by City of Toronto - image credit)
A view of the front entrance of the new shelter at 705 Progress Ave. is visible here. (Submitted by City of Toronto - image credit)

The city opened a new homeless shelter in Scarborough on Monday and its first residents will be from Seaton House in downtown Toronto.

The new shelter has 63 beds, all physically distanced, for people 18 and older who identify as men, the city said in a news release on Monday. The shelter is located at 705 Progress Ave., near Bellamy Road North and Ellesmere Road. It has 25 shared bedrooms and two individual rooms.

"Initially, the people moving into this shelter will come from Seaton House. Eventually, the shelter will become a resource for people experiencing homelessness from the local and broader community," the city said in the release.

The new shelter is part of what the city calls its George Street revitalization project, a plan that involves the closure and redevelopment of the northernmost block of George Street between Dundas Street East and Gerrard Street East. That block includes the Seaton House men's shelter at 339 George St. and the project involves the building of a new smaller shelter to replace Seaton House.

"Emergency shelters, like this one here at 705 Progress, provide so much to people during their most difficult times," Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson told a crowd of people at the opening of the shelter.

Scarborough shelter to provide supports, city says

The new shelter has a commercial kitchen, a communal dining and programming room, meeting spaces, a computer lab, a TV lounge, laundry facilities and a pet washing station. The shelter is pet friendly.

There is artwork created by local artists is in the front, dining and back areas of the building.

Submitted by the City of Toronto
Submitted by the City of Toronto

The city said it will operate the shelter and it will provide the following supports to residents:

  • Employment assistance, including help with job searches or help with research into educational or training programs.

  • Daily activities to help build life skills, including cooking, money management and budgeting.

  • Assistance with appointments in the community.

  • Connections to primary health care and mental health supports.

  • Daily programming that will include social activities and entertainment, such as games, bingo nights, excursions and picnics.

  • Harm reduction supplies and supports and staff trained in crisis management and de-escalation techniques.

Every shelter resident will receive a neighbourhood orientation, the city said. The shelter is about a 10-minute walk from the Scarborough Town Centre.

Shelter not part of city's COVID-19 response

"This shelter is providing permanent shelter spaces and is not part of the city's COVID-19 response," the city said on its website.

During the pandemic, the city opened several shelter hotels and temporary homeless shelter sites to create new spaces for people experiencing homelessness. The city said it had to do so to meet provincial health ministry guidelines for physical distancing in congregate living settings and to provide indoor space for people living outside.

Submitted by the City of Toronto
Submitted by the City of Toronto

The building containing the shelter is owned jointly by the city and the Toronto District School Board. According to a May 2021 TDSB document from its planning and priorities committee, the shelter can occupy the space until Dec. 31, 2023, with an option for renewal for five years.

In the past two years, the city said it has worked with the office of Coun. Paul Ainslie to make the surrounding community aware of the shelter.

"This program is going to provide many individuals experiencing homelessness in Toronto with emergency shelter and critical services, including local resources that will support them on their journey towards moving into permanent housing as quickly as possible and get them back on their feet," Ainslie said at the opening.

Ainslie said the city held a virtual community information session, did community outreach, set up a project webpage and talked to community residents, neighbouring businesses and the Toronto police. It also set up a community liaison committee, which has been meeting since December 2020.

Shelter is 1 site for Seaton House residents

At the Sept. 9, 2020 virtual community information session, the city told residents it has developed a Seaton House transition plan to coordinate the relocation of people, programs and services from 339 George St. to alternate locations while the street is redeveloped.

That transition plan, the city had said, includes the relocation of about 200 people living at Seaton House. The city had said the shelter at 705 Progress Ave. is one of the five sites to which people from Seaton House are being relocated.

According to the city's Daily Shelter and Overnight Service Usage webpage, a total of 7,810 people used Toronto's shelter system on Sunday, May 8. The city says Toronto runs the largest shelter system in Canada, with 101 shelters.

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