Whatever may happen down the road, Toronto council has the Red Door Shelter’s back.
Council voted unanimously Wednesday, June 11 to throw the city’s resources behind the family shelter as its board tries to ensure it can continue to operate on Queen Street East in Leslieville.
The shelter, which has 106 beds and has operated out of the former Woodgreen United Church at 875 Queen St. E. for 32 years, is in jeopardy after the owners of the property were forced into receivership over a real estate dispute.
The shelter had helped the owners buy the site from the United Church of Canada, with the hope of including the shelter in a larger condominium redevelopment of the site.
But the shelter has a lease until March of 2015 now, and the board is scrambling to negotiate with other possible purchasers of the site to allow them to remain.
According to Executive Director Bernnitta Hawkins, Toronto council’s support, even though at this point it’s not financial, is an invaluable aid in those negotiations.
“This means we now clearly have the City of Toronto’s support to go and find a solution to our problems,” she said. “The support is critical. It provides a foundation underneath us in terms of our negotiations with whoever we have to deal with. We are in positive negotiations with one of the potential purchasers now.”
The shelter has an occupancy rate of between 95 and 97 per cent. The shelter caters to families who are homeless for a variety of reasons: fleeing domestic violence, recently come to Canada or substance abuse issues, among others.
The children at the shelter are integrated into local schools and according to Councillor Paula Fletcher, the community is extremely supportive of the shelter’s continuation.
“I’ve never heard one voice against the shelter,” Fletcher said. “There are signs in every store on Queen Street – signs in Little India. The community has rallied so strongly, they bring presents for Christmas, for Thanksgiving.”
The motion passed by council authorizes senior city staff to help the Red Door Shelter in terms of planning its next move.
Should the city be asked to guarantee a loan, the matter will come back to Toronto council for final say.