Women's shelter fights to survive

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@idirect.com)
Wed, 24 Mar 1999 05:37:22 -0500


Women's shelter fights to survive

City community to listen to residents' plea

By Catherine Dunphy
Toronto Star Feature Writer

They don't understand why their neighbours don't like them.

Carrie Runge is 23 and recovering from surgery after giving
birth to twin boys, being cared for by a foster family.

Judy Hayden, 41, was an 11-year employee of the federal
Department of Indian and Northern Affairs until depression
overcame her after the death of her parents.

They are among the 30 women living at Amelie House at 126
Pape Ave., north of Queen St. E., an emergency shelter the city
opened in January with a promise to close April 15.

But now it has a plan to keep the shelter open and permanently
house 18 women there.

``I don't know why the neighbours are so angry with us,'' says
Hayden. ``The doughnut place on the corner is more trouble
than us.''

Runge says Amelie House is the best shelter she's stayed in.
Hayden calls it worth fighting for. She plans to say that to the
city's community and neighbourhood services committee today.

About six women from the shelter are slated to address the
committee before it votes on whether or not to keep the shelter
open as permanent housing. At least twice as many residents
are fighting the plan.

``The safety of my children is my priority,'' says Marlene
 Altozaar, who is moving out of the neighbourhood.

She has called police at least 10 times, she says. Yesterday she
reported a woman screaming and banging on her front porch.

``I'm not saying don't look after these people,'' she says. ``I
 think that woman on my porch should get the care she needs.
She should be in a hospital.''

The shelter moved into a building vacated by the South
Riverdale Community Health Centre and is still partially used as
an ambulance depot. The two-storey brick building was built in
1907 as a police station.

``It has never had a residential use,'' says Curtis Fahey, who
works at home as an editor. He says there were often cars idling
on the sidewalk when it was a health centre dealing with 200
patients a day. ``I don't know why there's been so much
hostility shown to the shelter. There has never been a single
problem with it.''

He has collected signatures from 28 neighbours supporting
Amelie House.

'`There's more support than I originally thought for this
shelter,'' he says.

Area Councillor Jack Layton admits the shelter's supporters are
the minority.

Most residents are angry they weren't consulted before
Toronto council decided to open the space as an emergency
shelter.

``I think if we had had public consultations, it would have
overridden council's emergency declaration,'' he says.

Layton says the community told him they wanted long-term
housing instead of a shelter on the site, which is what they will
get.

But many resident say they don't want any more shelters or
social housing in their neighbourhood. They say 53 per cent of
Pape Ave. between Eastern Ave. and Gerrard St. is already
social housing.

``I know we're going to seem like we're NIMBYs (Not in My
Back Yard) but we think this part of Riverdale already does its
fair share,'' says Sarah Parrish, who works out of a home office.