8:16 a.m., Dec. 21, 2017. Shelter, Support and Housing Administration staff look on as Mayor John Tory and and Poverty Reduction Advocate Joe Mihevc announce new emergency shelter beds that will open at Exhibition Place’s Better Living Centre. Pictured: Gordon Tanner, director of Homelessness Initiatives and Prevention Services (left); Paul Raftis, interim general manager of the city’s housing division.

Dec. 21, 2017

By Arianne Robinson

Mayor John Tory and Poverty Reduction Advocate Joe Mihevc announced the Better Living Centre at Exhibition Place will be home to a quarter of the city’s emergency shelter beds this winter.

Starting today, 20 cots will be available at the centre, with the number growing to 100 to be available in January, out of 400 emergency beds in the city in total.

Poverty Reduction Advocate Joe Mihevc said he is happy about the plan and commended the CEO of the board of governors at the Better Living Centre, Diane Yonge, for “stretching her resources to help facilitate the use of their building.” Mihevc said the centre has shower capabilities and the city won’t have to pay rent or empty the space during day.

“I believe that this strategy, with the mayor, is the right way to go and that we are doing it in the right way, expanding the winter respite part of the shelter system, in a thoughtful respectful and responsible way. One that makes a real difference in people’s lives,” Mihevc said.

Mihevc was one of 25 councillors that did not support a motion from Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam to open the armouries as emergency shelters at December’s council meeting, following several petitions from residents.

On Thursday, Tory said the Better Living Centre was a better decision for the city.  “We were told repeatedly that the armouries were the best answer and the only answer…  I believe we found a much better answer. We own the building.”

Tory said at the briefing that the centre will be accessible by transit with a TTC bus stopping at the front of the building.