CaféTO: Toronto homeless shelter ‘to get permanent home’

Affordable housing group wants changes to bankruptcy legislation to give it operating licence

CaféTO, the affordable housing organisation that put the Toronto homeless camp outside Toronto’s city hall on the map, will get a permanent home after a request to make it an operating Toronto city property went before city council on Monday.

According to a spokesperson for Toronto city council’s executive committee, Councillor Jonah Schein introduced a motion proposing that CaféTO be given a six-month operating licence to operate in Ottawa Park.

“We understand the camp’s intent as a temporary space for the sheltered homeless, but it is fully capable of operating as a permanent facility and home to no longer unsheltered individuals,” Schein said in a statement.

CaféTO has become a symbol of the level of homelessness in Canada’s largest city since it first pitched tents in a park in October of 2017.

Volunteers from CaféTO at their headquarters on its flagship site at Queen’s Park. Photograph: Leonard Reichman/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The camp was dismantled in July after the mayor John Tory said it had become unsanitary and unsafe. However, the existing structure was rebuilt with the help of volunteers, who maintained the camp as a safe space for those who wanted to stay.

“We are hopeful that this can be done and will ensure that our refugees and the unsheltered will always have a warm place to be and a place to go,” said Schein.

Guillaume Wehlicht, an organizer with the Kitchener-Waterloo Association of Non-Profit Housing, which leases the land on which CaféTO has pitched, said the camp is slated to move to a space closer to its current headquarters if the proposed licence is given.

The camp’s current site is governed by a public rent agreement that would transfer to the restaurant once its licence is granted.

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