George Brown Urbanist: Davenport Triangle homeless shelter opens as respite

348 Davenport Rd. to be converted to full shelter with daytime supportive services in the spring

A new respite centre has opened at the Davenport Triangle, and will be converted into a permanent homeless shelter later this year. 

The location is where Dupont Street meets Davenport Road, close to the Casa Loma campus of George Brown College, has up space for up to 100 people. When converted to a shelter, 348 Davenport will have beds for up to 90 people. 

The shelter will be a small step in filling an urgent need for beds in Toronto. Current estimates say 1000-1500 additional beds are needed to fill the demand for shelter spaces in the city.

Joe Cressy, a city councillor in the area, points out that this location is going to be part of a new model for shelters in the city, one with daytime supportive services.

“The purpose here is not just to ensure that people have a warm place to sleep at night but to provide the wraparound services and supports so that people can stand on their own two feet,” said Cressy.

Previously, many shelters provided space only at night, with people forced to leave the facility in the morning and hang out in the local area. 

“The opening of that particular shelter is great if it proceeds on track and on time, but we need so many more,” said Yogi Acharya, an organizer with Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), which has been fighting for better housing and shelters. 

The shelter crisis has been exacerbated by the rental housing crisis which is driving up private rents, as well as excessive waiting lists for subsidized housing.

“For the last 10 years we’ve basically maintained the same number of shelters even though the need for shelters has increased,” said Joe Mihevc, city councillor, and the mayor’s poverty reduction advocate. 

Mihevc, who has been a councillor for 27 years, said that former mayor Rob Ford didn’t increase shelters and nor did John Tory, Toronto’s current mayor, in the early years of his term.  

“So we’ve fallen behind the times, that’s why there’s this big push,” said Mihevc. “Because we recognize that it’s just crazy out there on the streets.”

Anti-poverty advocates have pushed for the opening of emergency respite centres during the winter to prevent homeless deaths and injuries in winter weather. 

OCAP has been critical of the conditions of the city’s respite centres and brought cameras in document them in February.

“If you cram that many people with inadequate resources into these small spaces and staff who often times aren’t trained then things escalate and living conditions deteriorate,” Acharya said. “That’s precisely what’s happening in those respite centres, and the city needs to remedy that.”

Homeless shelter locations have been met with opposition from local residents, as a classic NIMBY or “Not In My Backyard” issue. In this case, however, the Annex Residents Association, has supported the shelter.

Even so, a new residents group, the Davenport Triangle Residents Association (DTRA), have spoken out about the shelter. But their out-of-touch arguments have been ridiculed as almost a parody of the usual anti-homeless shelter arguments. 

For example, Nigel Napier-Andrews from the DTRA, told the Globe and Mail, “I am driving a Mercedes. Will I leave this on the lane? No, I will not.” Shawn Micallef called Davenport Triangle Residents association “gold-plated, straight from central casting community villain opposition” in his piece in The Star. Napier-Andrews later resigned.

Mihevc said that dealing with NIMBY’s is always part of city politics, but eventually, folks who are resistant to shelters become supporters.

Cressy agreed and said that overall he’d been heartened by the response from the wider community. 

“The Annex is and always has been an inclusive place and we’re going to keep it that way,” Cressy said.


George Brown Urbanist: Davenport Triangle homeless shelter opens as respite