Rejecting homeless shelter move could violate Charter rights

If council rejects a plan to relocate a homeless shelter, the city could be violating the Charter rights of the shelter's clients, according to a legal opinion.

Lawyer says city could face Charter challenge if new location in Oakwood Village is denied

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

The City of Toronto could leave itself open to a Charter challenge if council turns down an application to relocate a men's shelter in Oakwood Village, according to a legal opinion put forward by the shelter's lawyers.

The opinion is that not allowing Cornerstone Baptist Tabernacle to move the 50-bed shelter from its former location on St. Clair West could violate the Charter rights of the shelter's clients.

The paper, written by Andrea Wobick of the firm Ursel Phillips Fellows Hopkinson, says Cornerstone is prepared to consider "the full gambit of legal options at its disposal" if the application to relocate the shelter is denied.

The shelter had operated on St. Clair Avenue West for 14 years but a recent sale of the property has forced Cornerstone to find a new location.

A group of residents is opposing the proposed relocation to 616 Vaughan Rd., which is near the corner of Oakwood Avenue. They say a shelter is a poor fit with the neighbourhood, which has struggled in recent years with drug activity and other issues.

Andrew Ross, chair of the Oakwood Village Community Association, spoke about the proposed shelter relocation earlier this month on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. He described the area as "vulnerable" and said adding a homeless shelter could reverse recent improvements in the neighbourhood.

But not every Oakwood Village resident is opposed to the plan.

In a CBC interview, local resident Sue Sneyd said blocking the shelter's move would set a bad precedent for the city.

Cornerstone's offer to buy the Vaughan Road property expires at the end of the month and is conditional on council's approval. The last council meeting of the term got underway today. The meeting is expected to take four days and will be the last meeting ahead of the Oct. 27 municipal election.

If the shelter's relocation is not approved by this council, the Vaughan Road property will go back on the market on Sept. 3.