Oakwood residents oppose homeless shelter move

Some residents who live near the intersection of Vaughan Road and Oakwood Avenue are opposing a plan to relocate a men's shelter into the neighbourhood.

Proposal would re-locate a 50-bed mens shelter to 616 Vaughan Rd.

A proposal to relocate the Cornerstone Place men's shelter to this location near 616 Vaughan Rd. has drawn opposition from local residents. (Google)

Some residents who live near the intersection of Vaughan Road and Oakwood Avenue are fighting a plan to relocate a 50-bed men's shelter into the neighbourhood.

At issue is the relocation of Cornerstone Place to 616 Vaughan Rd. from its current location at 833 St. Clair Ave. W.

Cornerstone Baptist Tabernacle has operated the shelter at the St. Clair West location since 2001 but the property has been sold to a developer. The shelter closed July 31 and its clients have been temporarily relocated.

A city report says the shelter is "an important component of the overall men's shelter system."

The shelter's proposed new location is a 6,500 square foot space in a bar that operated under the name Town Talk before closing before Christmas.

Andrew Ross, chair of the Oakwood Village Community Association, said a men's shelter would be a poor fit in the neighbourhood, which he said has already struggled with drug activity and other issues and lacks support services for the homeless.

"It's really about the location being appropriate for this service," Ross said in an interview Thursday on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. "There are no social services whatsoever there. There's not even a coffee shop there. I'd urge anyone to take a walk through there and see what we're talking about."

Ross said the area has struggled recently with the operation of illegal booze cans, prostitution and drug dealing. On a recent tour of the area, Ross showed a city employee where a bullet hole punctured a window across the street from the proposed shelter site.

Ross also said many residents feel the shelter's proposed new location was put forward without adequate consultation.

The city held a community meeting about the shelter's planned move on July 28. More than 300 people attended.  A city report says Cornerstone Tabernacle became aware of the Vaughan Road location in June of this year after "a long and difficult search for a new site."

Reasons for community opposition to the shelter, summarized in a city report, include worries about safety and the potential for a negative effect on property values. The report also said some residents worry the shelter would "threaten recent neighbourhood improvements."

"While we're working very hard to improve the lot of this specific strip along Vaughan Road at Oakwood," said Ross. "We're not done yet."

The city's community development committee is meeting Thursday to decide whether the shelter move will go ahead.

The shelter suspended operations at the St. Clair West location in July. Since then, staff have been working with the city to ensure Cornerstone's clients have other places to stay.


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