editorial: School House Shelter could be on the way out in Toronto, so then what
KJ Mullins-Toronto: Who helps the ones in Toronto who have no home, no money, and live their days dealing with addictions that have put them deep into the cracks? For some homeless men who deal with alcohol in Toronto the School House Shelter has been their safety net. That net could very well be a thing of the past soon.
Located off of Dundas Street East on George Street the School House Shelter has been serving street people since 1978. The 126 year old building is home to roughly 30 men and can serve up to 55. There’s no question that the building is in sad shape. It needs a serious reno that would cost about $300,000 to be up to snuff.
Also in danger of closing is Seaton House, one of the cities largest shelters, that sits next door to School House Shelter. Up to 434 homeless men stay at Seaton House on any given day. Many of those are sick and are able to receive health care services while they take part in job training and other programs. Seaton House is a dorm style shelter with bunk beds and three meals a day.
Toronto’s City Council is trying to decide what they should do about the old building where men pay a few dollars for a place to lay their heads. The shelter has been trying to place their residents in other facilities since last year when it became clear that the axe could be falling. More than 20 of those residents have moved on either to other shelters or into permanent housing. The ones that remain could see the cracks open up and shallow them whole.
Toronto has a huge street population with not enough beds to handle the load. Each time a shelter closes the cracks open wider for those battling it out for the fewer beds available. There are few ‘wet’ shelters in Toronto where alcoholics can drink on site and not in the local parks or on the street. When one closes another one does not open up making it even harder for those dealing with their personal demons to find a place to be safe at night.
Closing School House Shelter would save the city $747,000 in the short run. In the long run it’s unclear how much it would cost Toronto. While studies are often done for how much the city will save by closing a facility it is rare for ones to be done on what happens when harm reduction centres have been taken away.
Those who live on the street will tell you quickly why the shelters are going away and street people are being placed far from the downtown core. These building are in prime real estate areas for the condos. Toronto, they say is just for the ones who have and those with nothing don’t matter.
Perhaps it’s thought that if it’s a shelter is no longer there no one will miss it, that criminal activity will not raise and that those in need will go on a magic carpet ride to a better place.