The Salvation Army is exploring the possibility of opening a shelter for homeless men in Leslieville.
The Christian church and international charitable organization has been searching for close to two years for a new location to replace its 124-bed Hope Shelter on College Street at McCaul Street, which it was forced to close last April after the property’s owner sold the building. The Salvation Army was a long-time tenant of that site and the lease ended.
“The Salvation Army has been working with the City of Toronto to find a new location to replace the Hope Shelter that we unfortunately closed in the spring of 2015,” said Andrew Burditt, a Salvation Army spokesperson, early Friday afternoon.
In a letter posted to its website today, the Salvation Army said “after an extensive search” it may have found a new home for the shelter at 29 Leslie St., between Queen Street East and Eastern Avenue.
They’re proposing opening an 80-bed shelter for homeless men aged 18 and older. The intention is to offer most, if not all, of the same services the Salvation Army offered at its College Street location for 40 years including three meals a day, counselling, housing placement and follow-up, and referrals to other services.
“Our staff would be providing services on-site 24/7. Shelter residents do not have to leave the shelter during the daytime or line up to get into the shelter,” said the letter signed by Bradley Harris, executive director of the Salvation Army’s Toronto Housing and Homeless Supports.
Burditt noted the Salvation Army has not bought the Leslie Street property.
In an accompanying memo, Gordon Tanner, director of change management for the city’s Shelter Support and Housing Administration, indicated the building at 29 Leslie is ideal as it’s “a suitable size, is accessible for those who cannot climb stairs, and is close to transit and other services its clients use.”
Further, he said the location is compliant with municipal shelter bylaw requirements that it be on an arterial road and is more than 250 metres from another shelter.
City council must still approve a shelter for this site.
The first step is a city staff report to the Community Development and Recreation Committee scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 27. Anyone wanted to speak at the meeting can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 416-338-5089.
Council is expected to vote on the shelter location at its Feb. 3 and 4 meeting.
The plan would be to start renovations in April with the goal of opening by the fall.
Community members are invited to learn more about the proposal at a drop-in open house hosted jointly by the Salvation Army and the City of Toronto’s Hostel Services Division on Saturday, Jan. 16.
Ward 32 Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon and her staff, as well as representatives from 55 Division police station, are expected to be in attendance.
The consultation won’t include speeches or lining up at microphones, and will run from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Toronto Fire and EMS Training Centre, 30 Knox Ave., south of Eastern Avenue. Letters were distributed to residents Friday, Jan. 8.
“The purpose of this meeting is for members of the public to have a one-on-one conversation with Salvation Army representatives and city staff,” Burditt said.
“It’s for people to get specific answers to specific questions.”
Harris said the Salvation Army is committed to being a good neighbour.
“We want our shelter to contribute to the wellbeing of both our clients and the neighbourhood,” he wrote in the letter. “To ensure good communication right from the start, we have hired Joy Connelly, an independent facilitator.”
Connelly will be hosting a comment table at the open house to collect the community’s suggestions, which will be forwarded to the city and the Salvation Army.
Anyone seeking more information or those who can’t attend the Jan. 16 open house can join an email list for updates by contacting Connelly at email@example.com or 416-466-2371.
Visit www.salvationarmy.ca/ontariocentraleast/2016/01/08/new-hope-in-leslieville for more information.