A Toronto woman who lost her brother to the streets welcomed a city council committee's approval Wednesday of an 80-bed men's shelter in Leslieville, which is scheduled to open this fall.
The city's Community Development and Recreation Committee unanimously approved the Salvation Army's request to open its HOPE Shelter on Leslie Street near Eastern Avenue.
Leigh Chapman told CBC News her brother Brad, who died on the streets less than six months ago, would have benefitted from the shelter.
"He had a really difficult life, he was in and out of shelters, he was on the streets and he was in jail periodically," Chapman said. "I would have loved to have him nearby."
"If anybody has ever had that experience of walking by somebody on the street and thinking, 'That bum on the street is somebody I recognize and love and means something to me,' they would think otherwise about having a homeless shelter in their community," Chapman told CBC News.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for our community to provide services to the most vulnerable," she said.
In a gentrifying neighbourhood full of young families, opposition to the shelter has been strong, but Chapman feels the concerns are "grounded in fear and misinformation."
Rod Rego is one resident who is opposed to the shelter.
'Consider the need of residents'
"We need to be concerned about homeless but we also have to consider the need of the residents who live there and their families and their safety concerns," said Rego, who attended Wednesday's meeting.
He said his major concerns are that the shelter will be close to "five secluded laneways, not all of which are well-lit. There's a park, a secluded wooded area in the park, a beer store, a Loblaws that sells beer, and a rooming house above a dive bar."
April Cook, another Leslieville resident, told CBC News she hopes the shelter "is integrated properly, that it's patrolled, and there's not a lot of loitering in the park and all those laneways."
Mary-Margaret McMahon, the city councillor for Ward 32, said the shelter poses little risk to the community but added she would like to change the process for approving shelters.
"People are saying, 'You didn't consult with me,' but there's no consultation," McMahon said. "They are used to being consulted on many things — parks, laneways, condo development applications — but shelters follow a different process," she said, adding that as long as it is 250 metres from another shelter and on a main street, the city can proceed despite local objections.
Coun. Josh Colle agreed with McMahon.
"We've got to re-examine the process. We've got to be more honest with our residents of what it entails and what to expect," Colle said. "I don't think the city's done a good job of it and it's put everyone in an awkward position."