It was supposed to be a safe, affordable home for Ontarians with nowhere else to go. But inside, it was horrifying.
Six months after the province’s homeless shelter system opened for business, reports of neglect and abuse are coming to light.
“It’s a good story of a government saying: ‘We’re going to spend billions of dollars in Toronto and the surrounding areas on homeless housing. Let’s get it right. Let’s run a system of care. And the best outcome we can hope for is the least amount of abuse and neglect that’s possible,’” says Mark Silverstein, the executive director of the Toronto Homeless Housing Network.
The shelter is one of the biggest in Toronto, housing about 2,000 people.
When the Star broke the story last month that the shelter had been overwhelmed with abuse of both mental health and substance abuse, the fallout was devastating.
Now, seven months later, the Star has learned that a shelter report card submitted to the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS) on May 15 is being considered by the ministry. It’s likely that a few new problems could be found and the shelter still doesn’t have enough money to fix them.
This story is about a shelter and the people who shelter there. It is about abuse, neglect and other problems that are affecting families and individuals who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. This is a story about the shelter’s management and about how money has allowed some employees to do things that aren’t in the community’s best interest.
The shelter, in its current form, has been a positive space for many. Among the people we spoke to were people who lost family members or friends, who lost their homes and who have had to learn about their new identities. One woman talked of losing everything of what she had because when she lost her job and her housing, her husband’s job and their home, her daughter’s father became her emergency contact.
The shelter we visited was called Haven House, or more commonly, Shelter Seven.
When the shelter was announced in 2013, then-Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Sylvia Jones pledged that she and her staff would be tough but fair when it came to keeping it a safe place for city residents who have no place else to go.