A minister at St. Aidan's Anglican Church says the church hopes to open an Out of the Cold facility that would give overnight shelter to the homeless as soon as this Monday, despite an outcry from some Beaches residents.
The program, which the Silver Birch Avenue church had intended to open Jan. 8, would feed and shelter 12 homeless people on a dozen of the year's more frigid winter Monday nights in the church's gymnasium, Reverend Stephen Kirkegaard said.
Mr. Kirkegaard assembled a meeting of Out of the Cold representatives, area police, and city and St. Aidan's staff at an open house at the church yesterday in the hopes of allaying local residents' concerns about possible risks posed by the shelter.
A resident opposed to the program said officials at the church were likely to expand capacity far beyond 12 people a night.
"Their arguments rest on a two-legged stool: 'It's only 12 people for 12 nights, so how can these NIMBYs be so uncaring?' " said the resident, who asked not to be identified due to fear of retaliation.
The resident has allegedly been the target of disruptive phone calls and said neighbours have also been victims of intimidation tactics. "If you look at the size of these Out of the Cold businesses, the optimum business model is for 40-50 clients."
Councillor Sandra Bussin (Beaches-East York) said church officials "have indicated they may wish to grow," while Mr. Kirkegaard said the church would reassess its plans after this year's trial run.
Another major concern for residents is the spread of disease, specifically tuberculosis, potentially caused by the congregation of many homeless people in the area, according to a flyer circulated throughout the neighbourhood.
Mr. Kirkegaard said the issue of tuberculosis had been "greatly exaggerated" but added the church's gym would be sanitized with bleach, and the "highest standards of cleanliness" would be maintained.
Elizabeth Rea, associate medical officer with Toronto Public Health, agreed that the community would not be at significant risk of catching the disease.
"The risk of tuberculosis in the neighbourhood is essentially nil," Dr. Rea said.
"It takes close, prolonged exposure to TB to be at any risk of catching it."
Dr. Rea, who works with the city's tuberculosis program, said that there are only about 10 reported cases a year among Toronto's homeless.