By MICHELLE McCANN
The City of Toronto has extended the lease for the YWCA-run women’s shelter in the Beach, temporarily located in the former Days Inn Hotel on Queen Street East, until at least October of this year.
Nina Gorka, Director of Shelters, Girls’ and Family Programs for the YWCA Toronto, said that the original plan was to move back into the Davenport shelter by August 2021. But the city informed the YWCA last week that the construction work at the site had run into delays.
“So, we’re working with that date [October] right now and, you know, we’re happy in the home that we have,” Gorka said of the pushed back schedule. “So, for us, it’s not a bad thing necessarily.”
The shelter was moved to the hotel last spring when the YWCA’s Davenport and Dupont site was closed for renovations. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Davenport location’s dormitory style rooms had also raised safety concerns and so, the hotel’s individual rooms offered a better way for residents to physically distance.
Gorka said the shelter residents have enjoyed being in the Beach area this past year. She said they especially like the “proximity to the beaches and the water has been, I think in many ways, quite therapeutic for our residents to be able to access that.”
She noted that the hotel is close to a community health centre that offers programs and supports that have been helpful to the residents. Gorka said the residents have an accessible TTC stop near the shelter, a safety feature that the women appreciate. The shelter is for homeless single women ages 16 and over and provides 35 beds in the former hotel’s rooms.
When the shelter first opened, many in the community welcomed its residents and expressed a desire to provide support by offering food and donations. However, there were some with concerns about the impact the shelter could have on the community.
Gorka said that since she got back from maternity leave in August, she hasn’t received any complaints from the community about the shelter.
“I think it speaks a lot about the work that the staff are doing and just a real willingness on behalf of everybody to make it work,” she said. “Whether it’s temporary until August, or temporary until a little bit later than August.”
Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford worked closely with the Days Inn Hotel’s property owner and the YWCA to facilitate the temporary lease last year.
Bradford said he hasn’t received much feedback about the shelter and no messages concerning community safety. Any messages he has received, have been from community members concerned that shelter residents are getting all the supports they need.
“This is especially important to keep in mind as we have an important discussion about a new modular supportive housing project being planned for East York,” Bradford said in reference to concerns about that project’s impact on the safety of the neighbourhood.
“There are important safeguards in place and a lot for work done with communities to make sure these projects are a success,” he said.
With the October 2021 move date remaining tentative for the women’s shelter, Bradford’s office noted that the lease has another extension possibility that could see the YWCA remain at the Queen Street East site until March 2022.
But Gorka said the YWCA is looking forward to moving back into the Davenport shelter, once renovations are complete there.
“We have sort of put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into the other location, as much as we’re appreciating this temporary home,” she said.
Bradford said the Days Inn site was always a temporary solution and that the property owner, The Sud Group, is continuing with its future development plans for the land.
“I have been working closely with them and the local community on the proposal as this develops and we are expecting to see more details in the near future,” Bradford said of the proposed development which has sought a six-storey, 110-unit residential building at 1684-1702 Queen St. E.
That building site is on the north side of Queen between Orchard Park Boulevard and Penny Lane and includes land to the east of the hotel on which the Murphy’s Law Pub and Brett’s Ice Cream buildings are located. The front of the Murphy’s Law building appears to be included in the architectural plans submitted to the City of Toronto as part of the rezoning application.