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Toronto Council OKs controversial Oakwood location for Cornerstone shelter

Toronto City Councillor Josh Colle says city staff failed to consult residents properly regarding the Cornerstone shelter. His colleague Gord Perks, however, says the failure rests with Mr. Colle, not with the public service.

Deborah Baic/Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

A men's emergency shelter will be moving to the Oakwood Village area after Toronto city council approved its relocation Wednesday – despite the opposition of local councillor Josh Colle, who accused staff of "botching" the process.

Residents in the area near Oakwood Avenue and Vaughan Road have been vocal about their concerns regarding the prospect of Cornerstone Shelter moving into their neighbourhood. But despite their objections and those of Mr. Colle, council voted overwhelmingly in favour of the move Wednesday.

Cornerstone, a shelter that serves about 50 single men, has operated out of a building on St. Clair Avenue West since 2001. But when the building was sold in 2012, the shelter was forced to find a new home, and the city recommended Oakwood Avenue.

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On Wednesday, Mr. Colle made an unsuccessful last-ditch attempt to defer the decision at council, accusing city staff of not following council's direction to conduct proper consultation. He said neighbourhood residents were not notified of a public meeting until three days before the meeting was to take place, and only after his office intervened.

"It's beyond dropping the ball," Mr. Colle told reporters Wednesday. "Council directed staff to hold outreach and consultation – three days before the meeting, no notice had been sent out…I don't know if it's staff disregarding it or incompetence, but something is seriously off the tracks."

He said because residents did not feel that they were properly consulted, many of them who might have otherwise been open to the idea of a shelter in their neighbourhood turned against the idea.

But Councillor Gord Perks placed the blame back on Mr. Colle's shoulders.

"Councillor Colle should have, if he wanted to be a responsible leader in his community, gone to the community and said 'you are getting a shelter bed, that's the law, my duty is to implement that law and make sure that people have a place to sleep,'" Mr. Perks said.

"He's failed here. Not the public service."

Meanwhile, Cornerstone executive director Reverend Patrick Reid said he was "overjoyed" that the shelter has a new home.

"Justice has certainly been served," he said.

He added that he and the shelter's staff will do everything they can to work together with the community.

"I believe that as they get to know the shelter, they will recognize that much of their conceptions of the shelter will change in about six months as they get to know us and we get to know them," he said. "We will do everything in our power to address their concerns."

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