Toronto to open more facilities as shelters struggle with ‘unprecedented demand’

Two more temporary shelters — one of which is destined to become permanent — are set to open in Toronto as the city grapples with housing its most vulnerable residents during a particularly harsh winter season.

The additional 24-hour drop-in centres would boost capacity of the city’s winter respite system by 200 to 660 spaces across eight sites.

The new locations, 348 Davenport Road and 354 George Street, will start taking clients on Saturday and Sunday, the city announced Thursday.

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READ MORE: Toronto officials call for added measures to bolster shelter beds for homeless

The new facilities would compensate for the closure of the 100-capacity Moss Park Armoury, which was temporarily opened with the support of the federal government earlier this month following significant public pressure. The location will shut down on Jan. 29.

City officials said there will be transportation between the new locations and Moss Park.

The facility on Davenport near Dupont Street will remain open until April 15 — when winter respite centres throughout Toronto are set to close — and be converted to a permanent 90-person capacity shelter by the end of 2018.

Former Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson, a resident of the upscale Annex neighbourhood where the new shelter is located, was among those in attendance for the announcement on Thursday.

“I am happy that I live in a diverse and welcoming neighbourhood like the Annex, which will provide shelter to help the most vulnerable Torontonians in their time of need,” Clarkson said in a press release from area Coun. Joe Cressy.

The George Street facility is located near Gerrard Street at the site of the former York Detention Centre youth jail. The city had previously made arrangements with the province to use it as a temporary winter shelter, but the space needed work before it could open.

“I want to thank the federal and provincial governments for their assistance as we respond to this unprecedented demand on the Toronto shelter system,” Mayor John Tory said in a news release.

“The Moss Park Armoury was made available until the provincial government readied the George Street location, and we now have two new respite sites for those in need.”

READ MORE: Toronto’s Moss Park armoury to be opened as winter respite site

The city’s announcement comes a day after homelessness activists rallied near Toronto City Hall.

Toronto is beginning with a project of five new shelters across the city that will provide more than 300 beds to vulnerable people with often complex health needs.

But anti-poverty advocates say there is an urgency to add more shelter beds now. They are calling for at least 700 permanent beds to the shelter system by April 15, and at least 1,500 permanent beds by the end of the year.

Rally at Toronto City Hall calls for more shelter beds for homeless

In December, an average of 5,429 people per night used the city’s shelter system. That number is up by more than 1,200 from the previous year.

–With files from David Shum and The Canadian Press

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