Toronto

City admits Seaton House 'inadequate' after guest shares photos taken inside facility

The City of Toronto has acknowledged that its largest men's shelter is failing to meet acceptable standards after a guest shared photos from inside the facility with CBC Toronto.

Toronto plans to close the shelter by March 2020, open smaller shelters in its place

Haynes said some men inside the crowded downtown Seaton House shelter appeared to be suffering withdrawal symptoms without assistance. (Justin Haynes)

The City of Toronto has acknowledged that its largest men's shelter is failing to meet acceptable standards after a guest shared photos from inside the facility with CBC Toronto.


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"We recognize that Seaton House is now really an inadequate facility to operate the kinds of programs and services we wish to deliver," said Gord Tanner, Toronto's Director of Homeless Initiatives and Prevention Services.

The downtown shelter currently houses around 580 men, making it the largest facility of its kind in Canada. The city plans to close the shelter by March 2020 as part of a revitalization strategy for the area near Jarvis Street and Gerrard Street East.

As the shelter approaches its final year of operation, conditions inside the facility are being excoriated.

"It's the seventh circle of hell," said Justin Haynes on Metro Morning Thursday. "It is the most hopeless, dismal, filthy place that I've ever seen."

Haynes recently separated from his partner and found himself struggling to find affordable housing in downtown Toronto, where his 12-year-old son lives and goes to school.

He chose to stay at Seaton House as a temporary solution, which was his first experience with a homeless shelter.

The city plans to demolish the current Seaton House and replace it with a new facility in the coming years. (City of Toronto)

Inside, Haynes said he witnessed rampant drug use and suggested many residents appear to have serious mental health issues. He says the facility was clearly understaffed and unable to meet the challenging needs of its residents.

"There's a feeling of impending violence all the time. It's how I image prison is, but with more booze and crack," he said.

"I point the finger at city hall," Haynes added.

Haynes said this man in this image was loading a crack pipe inside the facility. (Justin Haynes)

During his interview Friday on Metro Morning, Tanner said the city is moving toward a new model which will include smaller facilities around the city.

He agreed that large shelters like Seaton House are not working as they should.

"With a large facility like that there are challenges in running it and that's why we've got a plan to close that facility and open some new facilities that are smaller and much more focused on meeting the needs of people who experience homelessness," Tanner said.

While the city will be opening smaller shelters, Tanner said the total number of beds is expected to increase by 1,000 by the end of 2020.

You can listen to Tanner's interview in the player below.

Yesterday, a homeless man on this show described the city's largest men's shelter as one of the "circles of hell". Seaton House houses hundreds of men. Today we talk to Gord Tanner from the City of Toronto's homelessness services, about the future of Seaton House, and about sheltering some of the city's most vulnerable men. 8:06