The men’s shelter faced southern Aurora

Porter Place in East Gwillimbury has been the York area’s male emergency shelter for more than 40 years. But now that the building is nearing the end of its practical life, the region wants to lay the groundwork for a purpose-built animal shelter on the southern end of Aurora.

The region has considered 14452 Yonge Street, which is on the west side of the road south of the railroad bridge, as a possible location for the shelter, which is to be built in conjunction with a new regional pumping station.

Officials reached out to the Aurora Council last week, stating that if the facility realizes its full vision, it will not only be a shelter for men in need, but also a resource to help them get back on their feet.

“With the current facility, there is limited room for expansion and program improvement,” said Monica Bryce, acting general manager of social services in the York area. “The transit is also limited at the current location. To get to work or exercise, many walk on Highway 11 towards Green Lane. Since the beginning of 2012, we have switched our model in the region from the traditional shelter model to a more holistic one, encompassing a wider range of programs to meet a wider variety of needs, including temporary accommodation. It’s not just about shelters; It’s about helping people settle into apartments.

“Homelessness is a reality for only a very small fraction of the population in the York area, and there is not a single factor that contributes to homelessness.”

A “typical” Porter Place customer is “a Canadian citizen, roughly middle-aged, who has either had a flat break, illness, job loss, or is affected by rising housing costs in the York area,” she said.

The majority of customers have a one-time stay and during their time there can connect to resources that can help improve their living stability.

The new Aurora facility will be built on three pillars: preventing homelessness before it begins, providing inclusive, customer-centric programs to support recovery, and ending homelessness.

“There are no plans to move Porter Place. A new facility aims to help men find and keep housing, eradicate the cause of their homelessness, find stability in their lives, and maintain that stability by continuing to provide support once they have left the shelter. ”

This approach, she added, is similar to that of Belinda’s Place, the Newmarket-based women’s shelter – and is also operated by a third party.

“By finding someone who can support the men coming into the new facility, we can achieve the same level of success that we have seen at Belinda’s Place. Security and protection are important features of design and to ensure that people in the physical space feel safe both inside and outside the facility. We will hire a security professional to conduct a comprehensive security assessment of both the physical location and the surrounding community and make recommendations to promote security for all.

“Our goal is always to be not just a good neighbor, but an excellent one, and every concern of the community is always considered when planning our services.”

To this end, a public engagement will be carried out over the next 12 months.

“One of the key factors we bring to the Housing York Region (HYR) model is our functional design,” said Josh Scholten, director of housing and wealth strategy. “From a structural point of view, we want to make sure it works for the people who live there and also for the community. That also means an appropriate size that is the right size for the community. ”

The region has been reviewing options to replace Porter Place since 2018.

The York area provided US $ 15 million for the project.

The property in question was purchased in 2019 to build the Henderson Pumping Station, but it became clear that there was an option to place both the station and the shelter in the same location.

“We are confident that we can put it there,” said Mr Scholten. “It’s a centrally located location with access to transit. It is enough to house the facility here and also from a public point of view we have services on site, which is a good use of public funds for purchasing the site. ”

In response to the region’s proposal, Councilor Wendy Gaertner said that locating both facilities together on the property could potentially work, but that zoning issues would need to be resolved. Councilor Rachel Gilliland said it was also important to consider “connectivity” and ensure that active transportation is part of the plan.

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“Hearing feedback from local residents, I think this is a good opportunity for Aurora to help support those who need it and look forward to continuing this journey with you and seeing the results. ”

The region hopes the building permits will be completed by the end of July 2022, the pumping station by spring 2023 and the potential housing by the end of 2024.

For more information, visit York.ca/menshousing.

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