[Hpn] In the Market for a home

Graeme Bacque gbacque@idirect.com
Tue, 16 May 2000 12:29:03 -0400

May 17, 2000

In the Market for a home
Anonymous donation starts St. Stephen's homeless project

By Jim Wilkes
Toronto Star Staff Reporter

For years folks around Kensington Market knew it as the A Tasca restaurant.

In a few months, some down-and-outers will be calling it home.

A $150,000 gift from an anonymous donor helped kick-start the $2.6 million 
project, which will see 13 homeless people move into the building on 
Augusta Ave. just south of College St., in early October.

It will be run by St. Stephen's Community House, which already operates a 
drop-in centre and other services for area youth, the homeless and 
newcomers to Canada. The group will consolidate many programs from its 10 
locations in the new location.

The same donor gave the same amount to Dixon Hall to begin a townhouse 
project for the homeless in south Riverdale, which opened earlier this year.

Both organizations are United Way agencies.

``The biggest thing we're short of is housing,'' said United Way president 
Anne Golden.

More than 300 people are expected to use the daytime drop-in centre which 
will be created on the main floor of the old restaurant. Apartments will be 
renovated upstairs.

The building will also be made available for community meetings and events 
in the evening, said Liane Regendanz, St. Stephen's executive director.

She said organizers are trying to allay fears of merchants and residents 
worried about homeless people moving into their neighbourhood.

``It's a challenge for sure,'' Regendanz said. ``But we've been providing 
essentially the same services in several other locations in this community.

``We've listened very carefully to the concerns that have been raised by 
merchants and residents - who have legitimate fears - but the homeless are 
already here.

``We're not encouraging homelessness, we're trying to reduce it. That's the 
whole point of what we do.''

Councillor Olivia Chow (Downtown), who lives just a few blocks away, agreed.

``These people are on our streets anyway,'' she said. ``But if there is a 
home for them, they won't be on the street any more.

``That's what's exciting about this project. This isn't a shelter.

``It's actually a permanent home for these people.''

The province is contributing cash to the project, but the group also 
launched a fundraising campaign yesterday to get the $500,000 needed to 
complete the building.