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Better Living Centre will be used as 24-7 winter respite site for Toronto's homeless
Published Thursday, December 21, 2017 7:56AM EST Last Updated Thursday, December 21, 2017 12:58PM EST
Mayor John Tory says the city will be using a portion of Exhibition Place’s Better Living Centre as Toronto's newest 24-7 winter respite shelter for the city's homeless.
Speaking at a news conference on Thursday morning, the mayor said the site will open on Thursday with about 20 new beds but will be able to host about 100 people in the next few weeks.
The new shelter will be the sixth 24-7 winter respite site currently operating in the city.
“We are moving as quickly as possible to address the unprecedented demand on the shelter system," Tory told reporters.
The move to open a new shelter comes after city council approved a plan earlier this month to spend $10.6 million to add 400 new beds to the city’s overextended shelter system.
The city has identified motel rooms and existing shelter facilities for the remaining 300 spaces.
Tory said 84 of the 400 spaces have already opened and 230 will be open in the next few weeks. The remainder of the beds will open at some point early next year.
Some councillors and homeless advocates have pushed the city to open the Fort York and Moss Park armouries to increase shelter capacity.
At this month’s city council meeting, Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam put forward a motion asking that a formal request be made to the Department of National Defence so the city could open temporary shelters at the armouries by the end of 2017. Council ultimately rejected the idea.
Tory said city staff believes the Exhibition Place location is a better option because it is a city-owned site that is accessible and larger.
"It is a building we own. We are not displacing or competing with any other activities in that building really to speak of," he said.
"It can readily accept all of the necessary modifications to make it suitable as a place to function as a shelter."
City council has set an occupancy standard of 90 per cent for Toronto’s shelter system, however sites commonly exceed that number.
Tory added that standards will not be "relaxed" at existing shelters.
Wong-Tam has previously said that 400 new beds will not do enough to address the crisis.
The city’s interim general manager of Shelter, Support and Housing Administration has said it is not clear whether 400 more beds will make a meaningful impact on the occupancy rate.