Former Toronto mayor David Crombie has come forward to help save the Red Door Family Shelter.
Crombie, who previously spearheaded the fight to save several of the city’s school pools from closure, will now serve as the head of a leadership team working to come up with solutions to keep the local non-profit at its longtime home at 875 Queen St. E.
His role will be to make connections with various organizations and levels of government.
“We can make this just not about Riverdale, just not about this area. We can make this (fight for Red Door and for family shelter beds) something that defines this city so let’s keep at it,” said Crombie, whose involvement in the battle to save the Red Door was announced Monday, April 7 during an emergency community meeting on the future of the 106-bed shelter for homeless families.
More than 300 people attended the gathering, which began with a video presentation and included two in-person testimonials from former Red Door clients Kozeta Izeti and Stephen Simpson.
“I cannot put into words the help, support and direction that Red Door gave to us,” Izeti said.
“If it wasn’t for Red Door (Family) Shelter I wouldn’t be where I am (now).”
Simpson said although it’s unfortunate organizations like Red Door need to exist, he’s grateful his family had a safe, stable place to go when there were no other options.
“We should feel a great sense of sadness the Red Door needs to exist but it’s necessary,” he said.
“Shelters provide choice where no choices exist.”
The Red Door Family Shelter, which has administrative offices on Carlaw Avenue and a second shelter for women and children fleeing violence at an undisclosed location, is currently embroiled in a messy real estate deal involving 31 properties.
Presently, the east-end building Red Door has called home for more than 30 years is in receivership.
A new developer has expressed interest in purchasing the property and building a condominium. However, a Red Door family shelter is not part of those plans.
On Monday night, Red Door’s executive director Bernnitta Hawkins said the groundswell of support for the shelter has been “phenomenal.”
“I can’t tell you how overwhelmed we are with the support we are receiving from the community,” she said during the meeting.
“It’s clear the message is getting out. … We have every reason to be cautiously optimistic.”
In just more than two weeks, an organizing committee has been formed and the Save the Red Door campaign launched, she noted.
The committee meets weekly at Red Door’s administrative offices at 21 Carlaw Ave. Anyone interested in getting involved is asked to email SaveTheRedDoor@reddoorshelter.ca
Further, upward of 11,000 people have signed the Save the Red Door online petition.
Hawkins said the petition, which can be found at www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/save-the-red-door, has garnered so many signatures in such a short time that petition platform Change.org will soon be working with the Red Door to help “take the outreach to a whole new level you couldn’t even imagine.”
“We’re just trying to get the word out to as many people as possible. This isn’t going to be a quick fix,” she said, urging all in attendance to reach out to Mayor Rob Ford, councillors and election candidates as well as spread the word by distributing flyers.
People can also support the cause financially at www.reddoorshelter.ca/donate/donate.php?d=7
Ward 30 Councillor Paula Fletcher has been involved in saving the Red Door even before its real estate struggles went public.
“(The Red Door) has a tremendous history in our community,” the Toronto-Danforth representative said Monday evening.
“We’ve packed a room to say yes to a shelter in our community. I’m so proud of this community and I know you are too.”
Recently, Fletcher filed an “in service” motion calling for the creation of an inventory of facilities and programs provided by churches across Toronto and for a report to the June 25 Community Development and Recreation Committee (CDRC) meeting on options for maintaining charitable and community services in their existing location when a church is sold.
She’s also in the process of drafting a letter to the CDRC, which Fletcher sits on, for its April 17 meeting asking for the committee’s support to keep the Red Door at its Leslieville location and, in turn, not lose family shelter beds in the city.
“We’re going to make sure the Red Door stays on Queen Street,” she said.
Toronto-Danforth MPP Peter Tabuns was also in attendance and spoke at the meeting as did Ward 29 Councillor Mary Fragedakis.
A representative from MP Craig Scott’s office was also there.
Mayoral candidate Olivia Chow dropped by the meeting to offer her support for the Red Door.