By ANSON WONG
The Red Door Family Shelter recently celebrated the opening of its new facility in Leslieville.
At the corner of Booth Avenue and Queen Street East, it is the second Red Door Family Shelter in the area and it is for families dealing with homelessness issues. The other Red Door Shelter is for women and families fleeing from domestic abuse.
Along with the shelters, Red Door also operates outreach programs, therapy, and food banks. For youth, there are childcare and homework support programs.
A petition signed by more than 50,000 people brought city attention to the need for the Red Door Family Shelter in East Toronto. Toronto-Danforth Councillor Paula Fletcher made the motion at Toronto Council to lease the building to Red Door for $1, a measure that was unanimously supported.
Red Door works regularly with organizations such as OAITH (Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses) and the Toronto Shelter Network when it comes to relocating families and single women to new homes.
The new Red Door Family Shelter is a joint project between a private condominium developer, the City of Toronto and Red Door.
“This is the first time that a developer and the city have worked together around a homeless shelter,” Carol Latchford said, executive director of Red Door Family Shelter, said of the new facility in Leslieville which was officially opened in June.
The original owner of the Red Door building went bankrupt, and the building went into receivership. The shelter relied on temporary quarters throughout the ordeal. Developer Chris Harhay purchased the location before renovating it into the building it is today.
Latchford said Councillor Fletcher played a key role in working with the developer and the city to make the new Red Door Family Shelter a reality.
The new building is larger than the women’s shelter with 106 beds versus 50. Each unit has its own bathroom and rooms can also be adjoined to accommodate larger families.
“You can just open this door and then you could have mom and dad in one room and youth in the other room,” Latchford said.
“The majority of our numbers are mom and two, but we do sometimes get larger families.”
Red Door has made several accommodations to abide by social distancing and other rules during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Stringent COVID-19 protocols are in place to ensure the safety of everyone in the shelter, Latchford said.
“There’s a lot of precautions that are put in place that I don’t know if the general public understand,” Latchford said.
She said the pandemic has made it much more difficult for women to escape from domestic abuse situations.
A large part of this is because the abuser is working from home, said Latchford.
She said many others who want to flee abuse are afraid of going to a shelter because they worry they may catch COVID-19.
Latchford attributes this concern to a lack of distinction between different types of shelters, in particular homeless shelters for people living on the streets.
“It’s hard for people to distinguish all the different types of shelters that there are,” Latchford said. “And there’s these blanket kinds of statements that get made and they have an impact on people.”
She said the Red Door shelters are safe places to be, and South Riverdale Community Health Centre investigates regularly to ensure proper COVID-19 standards are being met.
“It’s the same amount of risk as when you go to the supermarket,” Latchford said of the COVID-19 concerns. “I personally would take my family and live in the [Red Door] shelter.”
For more information on the Red Door Family Shelter, please go to https://www.reddoorshelter.ca