LEVY: Downtown neighbourhood overwhelmed by respite shelter

After three community meetings in which they pleaded with city staff to shut the crammed 21 Park Rd. respite shelter and a revealing August report showing the shelter’s impact on the neighbourhood, residents were informed Friday morning that the shelter is a go again this winter.

In an e-mail written just days before the Nov. 15 winter season start date and one hour before the division’s announcement on the winter season shelter plan, manager of shelters and community outreach Nilgun Erkoc indicates the 30-bed shelter will remain open due to the “ongoing high demand” for overnight emergency shelters.

Janet Lambert, a resident of the surrounding Collier-Asquith neighbourhood, said the shelter has absolutely “overwhelmed” their tight-knit community and even the homeless they once took care of are gone because they “fear for their safety.”

Janet Lambert, president of the Asquith Collier Association, poses for a photo by a play area at the end of Collier St. in downtown Toronto, Ont. on Thursday August 23, 2018. Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun/Postmedia

She said the crammed shelter has attracted many “vulnerable people” with complex medical and psychiatric needs who have been preyed on by drug dealers, pimps and bike thieves.

“These people are falling through the cracks,” she said, noting the shelter has been rife with drugs, bed bugs and gang activity.

Their most recent incident report showed pictures of feces left on a resident’s fence and dirty needles dropped in parkettes that residents have essentially been left to pick up on their own.

Images from a report by the Asquith Collier Association titled – The Use of City Parks: Striking a Balance. Asquith Collier Association/Toronto Sun/Postmedia

In her e-mail Erkoc plays down the existence of dirty needles in the neighbourhood surrounding the “harm reduction shelter” claiming staff with the shelter operator, Margaret’s, conduct outdoor clean-up of discarded needles in the parkettes as part of their duties.

Lambert predicts the residents of the 21 Park Rd. home, where Oscar Peterson once taught music, will be supplied needles and will continue this winter to shoot up outside, without any response from Margaret’s (the operator) and city officials.

Images from a report by the Asquith Collier Association titled – The Use of City Parks: Striking a Balance. Asquith Collier Association/Toronto Sun/Postmedia

She said residents are terribly disappointed with the complete lack of communication from the city from August until Friday.

“They’re just basically saying you’re on your own,” she said. “They (city staff and councillors) don’t care about neighbourhoods anymore.”

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Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies