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Toronto releases 'midtown school safety plan' following shelter criticism

Last Updated Sep 11, 2020 at 4:41 pm EDT

Protesters hold a rally outside Midtown shelters in August 2020. CITYNEWS/Douglas Boyd

The City of Toronto released a new plan on Friday in a bid to reassure critics of a Midtown shelter that the City takes the neighbourhood’s safety seriously.

Called the “Midtown School Safety Plan,” the city said the plan aims “to reduce the likelihood of any hazards or threats from happening and to minimize any impact on the safety of community members should they occur” as the new school year begins.

The City has leased the former Roehampton Hotel in order to house up to 174 people during the pandemic. But some people in the area have said the opening of this shelter has made their community feel unsafe.

Some residents have complained about an increase in the number of used needles lying around and an uptick in burglaries and thefts. Police said more area residents have been calling them since the facilities opened, but said there’s no evidence at this point connecting the reported crimes with those living in the buildings.

Advocates for people experiencing homelessness have said the area residents’ disdain is misdirected, and they should instead focus on bolstering mental health supports and understanding their new neighbours.

The City also leased two other empty buildings as temporary shelters in the spring but they have since been vacated because they are scheduled for demolition and redevelopment.

City officials say the new plan will have enhanced security around the Roehampton facility as well as a visible presence during school hours and during off-hours.

“Proactive safe removal and disposal of garbage and hazardous materials found in public spaces or on school property,” is also part of the plan, along with “rapid response to shelter-related issues that are reported from our school partners.”

“The safety plan is meant to be a living document and be flexible to feedback from the community and in response to any safety issues that may arise,” city officials said in a statement. “The City is committed to continue meeting with school representatives as the plan is implemented.”