731 Runnymede Rd Shelter Update

 Staff Report and revised proposal adopted by Community Development and Recreation Committee

The staff report and revised proposal for a shelter at 731 Runnymede Road, put together following significant work by the Community Liaison Committee over the summer, was passed by the Community Development and Recreation Committee (CDR) on Tuesday, September 20. You can read the full report here: http://www.toronto.ca/…/20…/cd/bgrd/backgroundfile-95982.pdf  

I am grateful for the hard work of the local residents who volunteered their time for weekly meetings this summer as part of the Community Liaison Committee, working alongside City Staff, Councillors and local agencies. Their thoughtful consideration of the proposal and needs of the local community helped inform this report, which will now move on to City Council for final approval on October 5 & 6.

Both Councillor Nunziata (Ward 11) and I attended the CDR to support the staff report, which we felt adequately balanced the needs of people experiencing homelessness and the concerns of the surrounding neighbours. The community feedback and engagement on this issue have led to a broader discussion about how we support our local neighbourhoods while living up to our obligations as a City to provide shelter for those in need.

The structures are now in place to allow community input on this shelter going forward as well as to expand the discussion around safety and overall health of the neighbourhood. I will be pushing for Council to learn from our experience with this shelter proposal and adopt practices that allow for greater community participation in the location and development of City services. A motion to that effect was also passed at CDR on September 20.

Below please find an overview of work to date, a summary of the Staff Report's recommendations, well as next steps in the process.

Sarah Doucette, City Councillor – Ward 13

Original Proposal

Earlier this year, Shelter, Support and Housing Administration (a City division) notified my office, and the community, of their proposal to locate a 100-bed emergency shelter for homeless men at 731 Runnymede Road.

What Happened?

After three public meetings and deputations at the City's Community Development and Recreation Committee (CDR) in June, the decision was made to create a Community Liaison Committee (CLC), made up of the local Councillors and area residents from Wards 11 and 13, as well as City staff and representatives from local agencies, to develop a plan for a shelter program that will meet the needs of an appropriate number of homeless men at 731 Runnymede Road.

The Runnymede Shelter Community Liaison Committee (CLC)

The Runnymede Shelter CLC has been meeting weekly since August, with its first objective being to develop a program for the shelter to be located at 731 Runnymede Road and identify what an appropriate number of beds for this site would be. As part of their work, the CLC familiarized themselves with the City's standards as they relate to shelters, learned about the types of services typically provided in shelters, the services currently available in the community that could serve shelter users, and also visited a homeless shelter.

All material regarding the CLC, including minutes from their meetings, is available in English and in Portuguese on the City's website; the material can be accessed using the following link: http://bit.ly/2aQcAP7

Appropriate Number of Beds

Consensus could not be reached among CLC members on what an appropriate number of beds for the shelter at 731 Runnymede Road would be; however, the majority were in agreement that we should start at a lower capacity and then build as services are in place to better serve shelter users. The range of what CLC members felt would be an appropriate number of beds was between 30 and 100.

In addition to the number of beds, the CLC discussed room sizes and agreed that a variety of room sizes, with a mix of single, double and quad rooms would be ideal. There was also consensus that the number of beds could be increased during extreme weather conditions.

Shelter Program

There was consensus among the CLC regarding the types of programs and services that should be available for shelter users including: housing supports; mental health and addiction supports; income and employment supports; recreation supports; and case management. In addition, the CLC felt it was important to integrate the shelter into the neighbourhood by providing community space within the shelter to address both the needs of shelter users and the broader community.

Staff Report

City Staff have summarized the work of the CLC into the staff report CD14.9 Update on Proposal for Emergency Men's Shelter at 731 Runnymede Road which was considered at the Community Development and Recreation Committee meeting of Tuesday, September 20, 2016. The complete report can be found at: http://bit.ly/2cm5bXa

Based on the work of the CLC, the Staff Report recommends that City Council approve an initial occupancy of 50 beds for the shelter at 731 Runnymede Road, with the flexibility to add beds in response to extreme weather conditions and to increase the occupancy rate over time to better support individuals requiring shelter access.

The decision from Community Development and Recreation Committee must go to City Council for final approval at their meeting of October 5-6, 2016.

What Next?

The Runnymede Shelter CLC will continue meeting as the group's work is not yet complete. In addition to working on the exterior design of the shelter, the CLC's work plan includes the establishment of a Community Safety Committee to address existing issues of safety and security in the neighbourhood, as well as working with the Rockcliffe-Smythe Neighbourhood Improvement Area planning table to develop a Rockcliffe Smythe/Junction Strategic Plan.

To participate in the Community Safety Committee, contact: rscommunitysafety@toronto.ca or Stephen Linton at 416-392-8710. The first meeting of this committee was held on September 16, and interested residents are welcome to join it or attend one of the upcoming safety audits of Runnymede Park and the rail underpass.

To contact the Community Liaison Committee, contact: 731RunnymedeCLC@toronto.ca

The shelter is expected to open in summer 2017, and Council's June motion requires a review of operations after it has been open for at least 6 months.