The director of the Scott Mission location in east-end Toronto has reassured area residents that its family centre will not attract the homeless.
On Thursday, the Scott Mission foundation held a community-awareness meeting in its new family centre, the Scott Mission O’Connor Family Centre, located at 1550 O’Connor Dr. The facility will provide food, clothing and child care to people who can not afford basic needs.
Fifty area residents attended the meeting to express concern about the centre’s clientele. Jeff Johnson, 35, the director of Scott Mission’s family ministries, tried to put their concerns at ease.
“We’ll have no overnight programs here. And we’ll have no homeless at this centre,” he said.
Sylvia Gordan said she was nervous after looking at the Scott Mission website.
“I was just concerned with security and I was worried that this was attracting homeless people loitering around our streets,” Gordan said. “Because you know, I just live literally at the back of this building.”
Johnson reassured her about the difference between the mission’s downtown work and its family centre.
“In the downtown location, our priority focus is on the homeless. 200-400 people from off the street enjoy a hot meal everyday. Forty-five men sleep on our floor every night. Downtown we serve the masses,” Johnson said. “However, our family centre is on a different model.”
In addition, Johnson explained to ensure the safety of the staff and children security systems, cameras and controlled access to the building are all in place. As well, he said the child daycare centre is located in a different section of the building, away from the food bank, and has electronic key access.
Four Toronto Police Service officers from the 54 Division also attended the community event to show their support. Sgt. Anthony Paoletta, of 54 Division, offered residents reassurance.
“At this time there are no concerns that have been brought to our attention,” he said.
The family centre is scheduled to open on March 11, 2013, and will be open only once a week.
“Safety is a top priority for us at the Scott Mission. We are giving a lot of thought in order to operate safe in this community,” Johnson said.