Yonge Street Mission's move to Chinatown draws ire at meeting

Emotions ran high at a public meeting Tuesday night about Yonge Street Mission's proposed move to Chinatown.

Residents question effect of street youth agency moving into neighbourhood next year

Angie Draskovic, the president and CEO of the Yonge Street Mission, said she understands the Chinatown BIA's concerns about the mission relocating to the neighbourhood.

Emotions ran high at a public meeting Tuesday night about Yonge Street Mission's proposed move to Chinatown.

After serving street youth for nearly 120 years, the agency plans to relocate to a 24,000-square foot building on Spadina Avenue just north of Dundas Street West next year.

But the plan has been dogged by controversy. 

Last week, business owners in Chinatown rallied against the planned move and handed in a petition to Toronto Mayor John Tory's office.

Several residents questioned the effect Yonge Street Mission would have on the neighbourhood, especially on local businesses. One resident said the area is "over-serviced with community service organizations" and another cited safety issues.

Eddy Chen, who owns a business close to the property that the youth agency purchased, said Yonge Street Mission "did not consult with the community first. They did not inform us about this relocation and this relocation is not good for them."

'Not a good fit for the area'

Chen said Tuesday he is concerned the agency will attract street youth who are not from the area and disputes the organization's claim that it will be serving those who live on Chinatown's streets.

"We have nothing against street youth, but they're not a good fit for the area," Chen said.

Yonge Street Mission's president and CEO told CBC News that it's understandable that people have concerns. 

"We want to hear those concerns because they'll help us design the best response the community needs," Angie Draskovic said.

​She told CBC's Metro Morning last month the mission has "had many conversations with over 150 stakeholders in the community, many of which are confirming the need is there and are inviting us in."

Coun. Joe Cressy represents the Trinity—Spadina ward and supports the agency's move into Chinatown. 

"YSM is moving into the neighbourhood, as is their right to do so, and my role here is to bring [local residents and YSM] to a table and to say, 'What are those issues and what can we do to address them?'" Cressy told CBC Tuesday.

"It's very easy to say no, it's much harder to say yes," he added. "But when you're dealing with street youth, we need to get to yes and that is what's required of our city."

Several people at Tuesday's meeting ran to the youth agency's defence.

"Please don't blame the Yonge Street Mission," one man said. "We have a lot of cleaning up to do in this neighbourhood. Clean up your own backyard before you get NIMBY about it."