St. Lawrence Rec Centre peaceful as an overnite drop-in

Things went smoothly the evening of Dec. 15 as needy people spent the night in the local rec centre. Councillor Pam McConnell has pressed for the St. Lawrence Community Recreation Centre on The Esplanade, attached to Market Lane Public School, to serve as a drop-in centre on this winter.

Councillor Pam McConnell has pressed for the St. Lawrence Community Recreation Centre on The Esplanade, attached to Market Lane Public School, tohomeless-cold-fi be used as an overnight cold-weather drop in for needy people in Toronto from Thur. Dec. 15 – Feb. 28, 2017.

They, including all ages and gender descriptions, would have access to all facilities of the rec centre.

Drop-ins would sleep on mats in 2 rooms on the second floor. The agency operating it is Margaret’s Housing and Community Support Services, which has much experience in such operations.

For more details, please consult the two Q & A sheets by clicking the link below:

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— Frank Touby

Below are more facts about out-of-the-cold efforts:

Overnight cold weather drop-in at St. Lawrence Community Recreation Centre

Q1: What is a drop-in?

A1: Drop-in programs work with people who are homeless, marginally housed or socially isolated, including men, women, transgender people, youth, seniors and families and provide a range of services that can include free or low cost meals, showers and laundry, social/recreational programs and housing support.

In 2014, the City started to operate overnight and 24-hour drop-in programs during the winter to provide additional options for people experiencing homelessness to seek respite from the cold, get a warm meal and rest. 

Q2: What kind of program will be opening at St. Lawrence Community Centre?

A2: A drop-in program will operate in two program rooms in the Community Centre from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m., 7 days a week from December 15, 2016 to February 28, 2017. Mats will be available for sleeping and participants may also choose not to sleep can engage in quiet activities such as working with staff to find housing, reading a book or newspaper or socializing with other participants. Snacks will be available throughout the night, but no formal meals will be served.

Drop-in participants will be referred to this location by two regular drop-in services that operate 24/7 throughout the winter season.

Q3:  Who will operate the drop-in?

A3:  The drop-in will be operated by Margaret’s Housing and Community Support Services (www.Margarets.ca) which is a longstanding, well respected agency with expertise in operating drop-in services and working with people experiencing homelessness. The agency has an agreement with the City of Toronto’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration Division. Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division will supervise the facility operation, while Margaret’s delivers the service.

Q4: Why does there need to be an overnight drop-in at St. Lawrence Community Centre?

A4: Over the 2015/2016 winter, the City funded two community agencies to provide 24-hour cold weather drop-in services. These services were well-utilized, demonstrating the need for an additional location for individuals seeking respite from the cold. The overnight drop-in at St. Lawrence Community Centre will operate overnight, from December 15, 2016 to February 28, 2017.

In September 2016, Toronto Public Health published the results of a study of cold weather related emergency department visits, such as frostbite, hypothermia and trenchfoot, indicating that the period from December 15 to February 28 each year is particularly dangerous for people who are experiencing homelessness. The report can be viewed at the following link: http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2016.HL14.4

Q5:  Should I be concerned about safety?

A5:  Individuals seeking respite at the drop-in program need safety from the cold and an opportunity to rest. The drop-in will not open until 9 p.m. when the facility is closed to the general public. In the morning, people will start leaving at 7 a.m. and agency staff will ensure all drop-in participants have left the site by 9 a.m. As no formal breakfast will be offered at this location, participants will receive transportation assistance go to the main drop-in locations for breakfast.

Q6:  What about line-ups outside the community centre while people wait for the drop-in to open?

A6:  People attending the drop-in will be referred by agencies in the evening, when the drop-in is about to open, so when they arrive at St. Lawrence Community Centre they will be welcomed right into the program with no need to line up.

Q7:  How many people will access the drop-in program at the community centre each night?

A7:  The City, with Margaret’s, is planning for 30 referrals each night.

Q8:  What about ensuring the cleanliness of the facility for daytime usage?

A8:  The City will have cleaning staff available all night to assist with cleaning duties. As full time staff arrive at 6 a.m. daily, both the overnight and daytime staff will be able to maintain existing standards of cleanliness.

Q9:  Why did the City choose this community centre and not another location?

A9:  The City has noted that a gap in service exists in the centre/east part of the city and that a location which is accessible and close to 24-hour transit services is needed.

Q10: Are there other overnight shelter or drop-in services located in close vicinity to schools and child care centres?

A10: Yes, the City funds or operates 59 shelters and 29 drop-ins across Toronto year-round and many are located in the vicinity of schools and child care centres. An example of a site in close proximity to a child care centre is Fort York Residence, which houses 98 men and is located beside City Kids, a child care facility for 72 children ranging in age from 0-5. Both programs operate safely for all participants.

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