TORONTO: More NIMBY-ism

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@idirect.com)
Mon, 19 Apr 1999 11:46:24 -0400


Hostel tries to appease neighbours

Residents want shelter closed over assaults

By Catherine Dunphy
Toronto Star Feature Writer

Some of the men at the Salvation Army's hostel on Broadview
Ave. say it's saving their lives.

Some of the neighbours say it's ruining theirs. They want the
60-bed temporary hostel, south of Gerrard St. E., shut down.

Instead, city council voted last week to extend the hostel's
mandate another two months and review things then.

``There were some real problems with the hostel,'' Councillor
Jack Layton said. ``Assaults and police-corroborated incidents.
People in homes on Hamilton St. back on to the parking lot
where people were being sick. It's unpleasant.''

But, Layton added, the hostel is necessary.

``Everything is painful and scary when it comes to
 homelessness and the homeless feel it most of all,'' said Layton
(Don River).

The hostel opened just before last Christmas after city council
declared an emergency.

The city opened the former Broadview Ave. temple as a shelter,
along with Doctors Hospital, an empty community health care
centre on Pape Ave. north of Queen St. E., and a North York
youth hostel.

The Doctors Hospital shelter closed last week, and homeless
activists are demanding that the other temporary emergency
shelters remain open.

But residents and the Chinese Business Council of East
Toronto complain that clients loiter and urinate in doorways,
accost women on the street, aggressively panhandle, stash beer
and stolen goods behind their buildings and often fight.

The Salvation Army has already started to make changes.

It is creating a 4.6-metre buffer area at the back of its parking lot
where shelter residents won't be allowed, planting cedars to
give neighbours more privacy, closing access to the backs of
neighbouring buildings and creating an area in the middle of the
parking lot with planters and benches for residents to smoke.

``They will be away from the houses and from the street,'' said
Salvation Army Lt.-Col. William Kerr.

The residents themselves say things are calmer now.

``For a while guys were getting high and in trouble but they've
cleaned it up now,'' said Todd, 35, a resident who spends his
days sitting outside playing his guitar. ``We can't let people
take advantage of the place.''

Chris Bedwell, 36, spends his evenings in the neighbourhood
library reading and working on the computers. He's looking
hard for work - light industrial warehouse work - and he's
handed out hundreds of résumés.

``This place is nice but I don't want to make it my life,'' he said.
``I'm only here until I get a better life.''

Mark Ostopovich, 46, says he doesn't know why neighbours
would find the residents intimidating.

``There's some panhandling, but people are people. We all look
different from each other,'' he said.
``But if it weren't for the grace of the Salvation Army, a lot of
guys here would be lying in the park.''

Ostopovich said quite a few men in the hostel share his
circumstances: They've been working on the east or west
coasts and have come back to Ontario, where they were
brought up, to start again.

``I'm a skilled worker,'' he said. ``This is just a temporary place
 for me.''

And John Jackson, a former cab driver who lived in his own
place in the Gerrard St. E. and Coxwell Ave. area until Christmas,
said living in the hostel has helped him kick his alcohol habit.

``I desperately wanted to quit drinking, but I needed to be away
from my situation - the whole merry-go-round I was on - to do
it.''

But many in the neighbourhood say the men are terrorizing
them.

``People feel unsafe here,'' said Jason Wong, president of the
Chinese Chamber of Commerce of East Toronto. His travel
agency is next door to the hostel.

``Every morning my staff come and find several tall guys here,
 with bottles and cigarette butts and vomit.''

Long-time Hamilton St. resident Manuel Saraiva calls the hostel
residents thugs. One has at least three aliases, he said.

``We are half a block from the Don jail and there is no screening
process. The Salvation Army protects them.''

Hostel supervisor Robert Abbatangelo said operators are
hoping to put to rest most if not all of the neighbours' concerns
within the next two months.

``That's our goal, to become good neighbours,'' he said.