[Hpn] Street City closing: up to 100 people facing homelessness

Graeme Bacque graeme2@funcow.com
Tue, 01 Aug 2000 08:57:31 -0400


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August 1, 2000
Shelter's closing likely to harm mentally ill
Residents can't cope in hostels, advocates say

By Bruce DeMara
Toronto Star City Hall Bureau

Advocates for the homeless are protesting the closing of Street City, 
saying residents of the decade-old centre will have difficulty coping with 
addictions and mental illness in the city's regular hostel system.

``These are people who don't generally fit into the regular shelter system. 
It's too crowded. It may be okay for a person of strong mental health or 
who's not dealing with addictions,'' said Kira Heineck, a member of the 
Toronto Disaster Relief Committee.

Street City, which opened in March, 1990, houses 70 people in permanent 
units and also has 30 hostel beds. It offers a ``harm reduction'' program 
offering counselling for people with addictions and mental health problems.

John Jagt, director of hostel services, said the centre, located near 
Eastern Ave. and Cherry St., will close over the next 14 months. The 30-bed 
hostel is to close next month.

``We don't disagree that the loss of these beds will work against our plans 
to meet our target to try and add 675 permanent new beds (to the system). 
It sets us back by 100 beds,'' Jagt said.

But Jagt said the centre is badly designed, requires major renovations 
which could cost several million dollars and it has also run into 
opposition from neighbours.

``Physically, these facilities are running out of time. It's a very hard 
building to supervise and manage and it's not always safe for the 
clients,'' Jagt said.

``Street City has become somewhat of a flashpoint in that neighbourhood and 
has been blamed for a lot of issues,'' Jagt added.

But Heineck said ``NIMBY-ism,'' the not-in-my-backyard reaction of area 
residents and businesses, is not sufficient reason to close the site.
``The reason this place is being closed down is because of the NIMBY-ism of 
the community and the councillors have been unable or unwilling to face it 
down,'' Heineck said.

Heineck said Street City's residents will have to be relocated to other 
shelters across the city, places without the counselling resources to 
handle their special needs. ``People would lose their networks and their 
community. They're losing people they trust in terms of the health care 
system . . . their friends, their support network. They're losing whatever 
it is that's helping them keep themselves together.''

`People would lose their networks and their community'
Beric German, another member of the committee, told the city's homelessness 
advisory committee that the building shouldn't be closed until a comparable 
site is ready to receive them. German said he expects many of the residents 
to live outside rather than going into the hostel system, something which 
will almost certainly claim more lives.

``I hope the city pays for the death of these people,'' German said.

Councillor Jack Layton (Don River), chair of the advisory committee, said 
he believes the province, which owns the land through the Ontario Realty 
Corp., wants it back.

The building is on the edge of the West Don Lands, the former Ataratiri 
site and the future site of a major redevelopment linked to the city's $12 
billion waterfront renewal plan.

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August 1, 2000 
Shelter's closing likely to harm mentally ill
Residents can't cope in hostels, advocates say

By Bruce DeMara
Toronto Star City Hall Bureau

Advocates for the homeless are protesting the closing of Street City, saying residents of the decade-old centre will have difficulty coping with addictions and mental illness in the city's regular hostel system.

``These are people who don't generally fit into the regular shelter system. It's too crowded. It may be okay for a person of strong mental health or who's not dealing with addictions,'' said Kira Heineck, a member of the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee.

Street City, which opened in March, 1990, houses 70 people in permanent units and also has 30 hostel beds. It offers a ``harm reduction'' program offering counselling for people with addictions and mental health problems.

John Jagt, director of hostel services, said the centre, located near Eastern Ave. and Cherry St., will close over the next 14 months. The 30-bed hostel is to close next month.

``We don't disagree that the loss of these beds will work against our plans to meet our target to try and add 675 permanent new beds (to the system). It sets us back by 100 beds,'' Jagt said.

But Jagt said the centre is badly designed, requires major renovations which could cost several million dollars and it has also run into opposition from neighbours.

``Physically, these facilities are running out of time. It's a very hard building to supervise and manage and it's not always safe for the clients,'' Jagt said.

``Street City has become somewhat of a flashpoint in that neighbourhood and has been blamed for a lot of issues,'' Jagt added.

But Heineck said ``NIMBY-ism,'' the not-in-my-backyard reaction of area residents and businesses, is not sufficient reason to close the site.
``The reason this place is being closed down is because of the NIMBY-ism of the community and the councillors have been unable or unwilling to face it down,'' Heineck said.

Heineck said Street City's residents will have to be relocated to other shelters across the city, places without the counselling resources to handle their special needs. ``People would lose their networks and their community. They're losing people they trust in terms of the health care system . . . their friends, their support network. They're losing whatever it is that's helping them keep themselves together.''

`People would lose their networks and their community'
Beric German, another member of the committee, told the city's homelessness advisory committee that the building shouldn't be closed until a comparable site is ready to receive them. German said he expects many of the residents to live outside rather than going into the hostel system, something which will almost certainly claim more lives.

``I hope the city pays for the death of these people,'' German said.

Councillor Jack Layton (Don River), chair of the advisory committee, said he believes the province, which owns the land through the Ontario Realty Corp., wants it back.

The building is on the edge of the West Don Lands, the former Ataratiri site and the future site of a major redevelopment linked to the city's $12 billion waterfront renewal plan.
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