The Chinatown Business Improvement Association is upset a Yonge Street youth centre is moving to their neighbourhood.
“What makes us so special that we need more grit? We don’t need more grit on Spadina Avenue,” Tonny Louie, the past chair of the BIA, said at a news conference Wednesday.
The Yonge Street Mission Evergreen Centre for Street Youth will close its doors at Yonge and Gerrard streets and move in to its new location on Spadina Avenue between College and Dundas streets by the end of 2017. It has operated on Yonge since 1896.
It is not a shelter, but instead a place where youth can come for lunch, dinner, and other services.
“We know that they do good work. However, Chinatown is not the place to do it,” Louie said.
“It’s hard, on one level, to hear the concerns [of the BIA], but it’s also understandable,” Angie Draskovic, president and CEO of the Yonge Street Mission, said Wednesday.
“We’re listening. Our new site is larger, so, for example, we can have youth be inside the building while they’re waiting for meals, rather than having increased traffic on the street.”
Loitering outside the building was one issue brought up by the Chinatown BIA, and Draskovic said it was an issue at their current location. However, not everyone waiting outside the Mission is a client, she said, and because the new space is bigger, there will hopefully be fewer people who need to stand outside while waiting to access their services.
And, Draskovic, if there are youth on the street, they were likely there before the Mission moved in. She said that the point of keeping the centre downtown is to be where youth already are, and not have them commute long distances to reach the Mission’s services.
“Our main criteria for looking for the site is for looking where youth already are. As part of [our search], this site is already where street youth our congregating throughout the day.
“We’re needed there.”
Draskovic said the Mission learned about the opposition fairly early on. After deciding on a site, the Mission contacted Coun. Joe Cressy, who represents the Spadina location. Cressy hosted meetings with the Chinatown BIA, she said.
In a statement, Cressy said “it is truly an honour to have [the Yonge Street Mission] integrate their much-needed services into our community.”
“Addressing poverty and inequality is a significant priority of our collective work in Ward 20. The Yonge Street Mission plays a critical role in working towards this in our downtown communities.”
The Yonge Street Mission has six different locations in Toronto’s downtown core. These sites serve more than 12,000 unique individuals each year, including children, youth, families, seniors, and those who experience chronic poverty.
The Mission sold its Yonge Street property to private equity real estate company. According to a sign posted outside the building, there will be least 1,000 residential units in its place.