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Toronto starting to wind down Esplanade shelter site, reduce spacing in other shelters to make more room

The Novotel hotel on The Esplanade is shown in this image taken from Google Maps. The city has leased the site for use as a temporary shelter. The Novotel hotel on The Esplanade is shown in this image taken from Google Maps. The city has leased the site for use as a temporary shelter.
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The city says that it will begin winding down use of a hotel at 45 The Esplanade as a temporary shelter starting tomorrow, but will begin opening up new shelter spaces by reducing physical distancing at other locations.

The Esplanade site — which has been a source of some controversy in the neighbourhood — is one of three temporary shelters being decommissioned by the city this year. The owner of the property expects to start using it as a hotel again in 2023.

“This shelter program will close to new admissions on October 12, and the City, in partnership with its operating partner, Homes First Society, will work with residents to develop individual relocation plans, which could include transition to permanent housing or a move to another shelter,” the city said in a news release Tuesday.

In the release, the city acknowledged that the shelter system is facing “undeniable pressures” brought on by factors which include stresses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid poisoning crisis, the increase in refugee claimants as border restrictions have eased, and the critical lack of and access to supportive and affordable housing.

The city said that while the rest of the shelter system is not making a full return to pre-pandemic capacity levels, capacity will be raised to meet an expected increase in demand heading into the winter months. Space between beds will be reduced from two metres to 1.25 metres (spacing before the pandemic was 0.75 metres).

“Given current pressures on the system, as well as an expected rise in demand as we move into the winter months, and as directed by City Council in April 2022, the City will begin to introduce a safe and moderate increase to capacity in the base shelter system,” the city said in a release.

The movie is expected to open up another 500 beds at city shelters where, the municipality says, "rigorous infection, prevention and control measures will remain in place.”

Toronto reduced capacity at existing shelters and opened up 40 temporary shelter sites during the pandemic to allow for physical distancing in order to help prevent outbreaks.

The Esplanade site – formerly a four-star Novotel location – opened in February 2021 and spurred complaints from neighbours about garbage, needles and waste in the area.

There are currently 25 temporary shelter sites open across the city.

While some of those temporary sites are now being closed, the city said it ultimately hopes to improve the lives of those using the shelter system by moving them into more permanent housing.

“The emergency shelter system plays an important role in supporting the health and wellness of those experiencing homelessness, but its intended purpose is to provide short-term accommodation for people,” the city said. “The solution to homelessness is permanent housing with supports.”

To that and the city has recently purchased three properties — 65 Dundas St. E., 222 Spadina Ave., and 4626 Kingston Rd. — to convert into affordable and supportive homes.

City Council approved a plan in April for gradually transitioning away from temporary shelter sites. 

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