Activists demand hostel be reopened

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@arcos.org)
Tue, 02 Jun 1998 05:12:45 -0400


June 2, 1998=20

=A0Activists demand hostel be reopened=20

Vow downtown businesses will `pay a price'=20

By Jack Lakey=20
Toronto Star City Hall Bureau


Members of a lobby group for homeless people stormed a city hall committee
meeting yesterday, demanding that a closed downtown hostel be kept open for
another month.=20

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty is also vowing that businesses that
lobbied to close down the 50-bed Salvation Army hostel on Dundas St. E.
will ``pay a price'' for putting homeless people back on the street.=20

The group had started a presentation to Toronto's municipal grants review
committee when about 30 members started hollering that they wanted the
hostel, which closed yesterday, to remain open until alternatives are found.=
=20

They were also angry over the Sunday night death of a homeless man who was
well-known to many of them, saying they believed he died because of poor
health from living on the streets.=20

``I'll be damned if I'll let more people die on the street,'' shouted
Gaetan Heroux, a social worker who was among those making the presentation
to the committee.=20

ROLLED EYES

As members of the group were shouting about the man's death, Councillor
Gloria Lindsay Luby (Kingsway Humber), who chairs the committee, repeatedly
rolled her eyes and kept saying that their time was up.=20

Lindsay Luby wanted the protesters removed, but Councillor Joanne Flint
(North York Centre South) reminded her that, since the committee members
would be returning to nice homes and beds after work, maybe they could
listen to them for a few more minutes.=20

Metro Hall security staff rushed to the committee room, with one officer
carrying many pairs of handcuffs. But everybody calmed down after several
police officers arrived.=20

Members of the group told councillors that as many as 200 hostel beds will
be closed by the end of June, leaving many people on the street.=20

Coalition spokespersons John Clarke and Sue Collis said they are frustrated
at hearing that homeless people must be kept out of sight to ensure that
tourists are not disturbed.=20

``If you can't handle 20 people in your room today, maybe we'll stay until
you can,'' Hollis told the commitee.=20

``As long as social policy . . . is dealt with on the basis of trying to
accommodate ratepayers groups and businesses, rather than on the growing
need that is out there, you're going to have problems,'' Clarke said.=20

``Those businesses that indubitably lobbied against this place, we've
already started to make them pay a price for what they've done.''=20

The Salvation Army had been running a drop-in at the site before beds were
added last November as part of the city's Out of the Cold program.=20

The program was intended to provide emergency shelter for the homeless
during the winter months.=20

But Councillor Kyle Rae said many bars, restaurants and stores in the Yonge
and Dundas Sts. area have complained to him about an increase in crime and
about the high number of people hanging around outside the building.=20

While business people agreed to the hostel being open during the winter,
they don't want it open year-round, he said.=20


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