TORONTO: Business Strikes Again - 50 Beds Lost to Greed

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@arcos.org)
Wed, 27 May 1998 05:07:19 -0400


May 27, 1998=20
Business complaints shut down Salvation Army's 50-bed hostel=20

By Natalie James=20
Toronto Star Staff Reporter

The Salvation Army is closing a 50-bed downtown hostel and laying off 15
staff after losing city funding because of complaints from area businesses.=
=20

``Operating a hostel in the middle of a tourist area is incompatible,''
said Toronto Councillor Kyle Rae (Downtown), defending the decision.
``People are intimidated and terrified by (the homeless).''=20

The Salvation Army operated a drop-in service at the site before the hostel
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, Rae said, many bars, restaurants and stores in the Yonge and Dundas
area have complained to him about an increase in crime and about the high
number of people hanging around outside the Salvation Army 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

``There was no discussion about extending it into the tourism season.''=20

News of the closing came as a shock to hostel-user Dusty Fiske. ``They're
putting 50 people back on the street,'' said Fiske, who used to sleep on
grates behind the Royal Bank at Front and Bay Sts.=20

The businesses are being unfair, he said. ``Would they rather me sleeping
in front of their building than sleeping in this building? Does that make
any sense?''=20

Margaret McCleod, an executive director of the Salvation Army, said she had
been told by city staff the program would be extended throughout the year
as long as there was a need for it.=20

``I don't think (businesses) have rights over the lives of others,''
McCleod said. ``I feel bad that people we have staying with us don't have a
place to stay as of June 1. It's also unfortunate to our staff.''=20

Toronto Social Services commissioner Shirley Hoy said she too expected the
program to continue.=20

McCleod said The Salvation Army tried to respond to community concerns in
April by hiring security guards and ending 24-hour access to the building.
The doors were locked by 11 p.m. to discourage people from hanging around
outside.=20

But that wasn't enough. The city decided to stop funding after a meeting
between 25 local businesses and the Salvation Army earlier this month.=20

``With the (Yonge/Dundas Sts. redevelopment project) going on, there may be
a few people who want something else in that location versus what we're
doing,'' McCleod said.=20

Next month, The Salvation Army will revert to its original afternoon
drop-in program on the site on weekdays only.=20

Rae defended his decision to back the businesses over the homeless. ``There
must be thousands of hostel beds in my ward,'' he said. ``I invite other
constituencies in the area to do their fair share.''=20

Contents copyright =A9 1996-1998, The=A0Toronto=A0Star.
User interface, selection and arrangement copyright =A9 1996-1998,
Torstar=A0Electronic=A0Publishing=A0Ltd.=20

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