The Annex is getting a new homeless shelter this February
Adrienne Clarkson and Margaret Atwood are supportive of the plan
The building at 348 Davenport Rd. is next door to the site of a new development by Peter Freed
The plan to open a homeless shelter on Davenport Road in the Annex was unveiled at a press conference held by local councillor Joe Cressy last week at city hall.
On Jan. 25, Coun. Cressy of Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina, informed residents the city had purchased the building at 348 Davenport Rd., which would accommodate up to 90 homeless people in 17,000 square feet of space. Beginning in February, it will serve temporarily as a respite site, providing drop-in support for those seeking shelter from the cold. Who the shelter will house after that —men, women, youths, families or refugees — is yet to be determined.
When the property was put on the market late last year, Cressy said city staff seized the opportunity.
“We’ve seen more than six private condo development sites on Davenport in recent years. And so when we realized that another property on Davenport was likely to be sold and converted into yet another condo, we moved quickly and we purchased it,” said Cressy.
The move was backed by former governor general and Annex resident Adrienne Clarkson, who stood alongside Cressy at the press conference. Margaret Atwood also threw her support behind the project by way of a letter, which was read aloud to the crowd.
“As residents of the Annex for 38 years, Graeme Gibson and I take pride in the fact that this is, and always has been, a welcoming and inclusive neighbourhood,” wrote Atwood, identifying herself as a local front-yard gardener. “We applaud this space-creation initiative by the city, it answers an urgent need.”
Not everyone in the community has been as receptive. The Davenport Triangle Residents Association Inc. (DATRA), which serves the area around Dupont Street, did not take kindly to the news.
“The Annex has more than its share of ‘social problem’ housing, and it is time for the rest of the city to share the burden,” read a statement signed by DATRA’s board of directors to Cressy. “This seems to be a particular interest of yours, more than other councillors, so it all ends up in our backyard, strangely without objection from ARA [the Annex Residents’ Association] or Annex residents.”
Cressy noted the city is going through a housing crisis, with 181,000 people on the waiting list for permanent affordable housing and a shelter system that is over capacity.
“These are people. They’re not problems. Everyone has a right to live in the Annex. That’s not a burden, it’s a responsibility. We are not an enclave of the private wealthy. We are a place that is supportive for all,” said Cressy in response.
Other local residents, such as the vice-chair of ARA, Albert Koehl, have welcomed the shelter with open arms.
“This winter, like so many communities, we have again seen people in our city who are unable to find a bed. Many people in our own community don’t have a safe place to spend the night. This is why we welcome this new shelter to the Annex,” said Koehl.
The area also has a women’s shelter, on Admiral Road, and Canada’s largest and Toronto’s first-ever LGBTQ transitional housing program for youth opened on Walmer Road in 2016.
However, Cressy stressed there is much more to be done.
“We have more than 6,000 people on the streets every night, including 2,000 youth, and we don’t have enough shelter beds for them,” he said.
The Davenport facility will be the first site to open as part of a larger plan to introduce more shelter beds in Toronto.
“The city has the money in the budget to establish 1,000 new permanent beds in the city. What we don’t have is the sites,” Cressy added.
The cost of the property will be made available to the public shortly. Cressy said the city purchased it for “fair market value,” with funding from the City of Toronto Shelter Support and Housing Administration’s capital budget.
The property was listed on the market for $7.999 million in December.