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Toronto youth shelter could be forced to relocate

The residential units at Eva's Phoenix shelter. Eva's Phoenix is part of Eva's Initiatives, shelters for homeless and at-risk youth. The shelters provide residence .

Sami Siva/The Globe and Mail/Sami Siva/The Globe and Mail

The future of one of Toronto's most renowned youth homeless shelters hangs in limbo as a committee will consider its relocation plans Wednesday.

Eva's Phoenix has housed more than 1,200 of the GTA's most vulnerable young people at two city properties in the Bathurst and King streets area, renting the property for $2 annually.

But just four months after the shelter celebrated the grand opening of a $1-million new wing, the land it sits on was put on a list of properties the City of Toronto wants to sell. Now, the government management committee will consider a motion that recommends staff report directly to city council on Nov. 29 for the transfer of lands to Build Toronto, the city's arm's-length real estate and development corporation.

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Eva's Initiative, the organization that runs Eva's Phoenix, says the forced move should come with a contingency plan for the relocation costs.

"We know we can't stop the development, and we understand why the city wants to redevelop those lands," said Maria Crawford, executive director of Eva's Initiative. "But we're not happy about it. Unfortunately, there has not been adequate time to allow us to develop a financial compensation package that is viable for Eva's. All we're really asking is that the City or Build Toronto ensure that the funds are there to pay for that relocation."

Ms. Crawford plans to bring several youth, past and present, from the shelter to speak at Wednesday's committee meeting. The group follows a three-pronged approach to dealing with youth homelessness: providing housing for youth for up to a year, getting them a job and giving them an education.

A potential eviction remains a long way off, says John Macintyre, Build Toronto's senior vice-president of corporate affairs. Eva's Phoenix has a lease to September, 2014, and he said any transfer agreement that the city considers would "obviously" include plans for relocation.

"There will either be a solution [by Nov. 29]or the property won't get transferred," Mr. Macintyre said. "We have on the master plan that we're working on for the site that this site of the property would be the last to be developed and that would enable Eva's to stay right through the term of their contract."

Councillor Mike Layton, whose ward encompasses Eva's Phoenix, says both sides have been working to reach a solution by Nov. 29 as closing the facility "simply isn't an option."

"Will we be able to get there by council time? I'm not sure," Mr. Layton said. "I will certainly be working to make sure that whatever happens at council, we have some assurances that certain things will be taken into account, and some kind of protection will be given for the long-term future of Eva's."

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