I have an update to share regarding Dempsey Community Centre. With the recent lease of a former retirement residence on Corkstown Road, among other initiatives, the City’s Housing Services team has increased capacity within the shelter system to support women experiencing homelessness.

Plans are underway to transition women currently residing at Dempsey Community Centre to a new shelter on Carling Avenue supported by Cornerstone Housing for Women. If things continue to progress smoothly, the full transition out of Dempsey should be complete within the next week.

The timeline for the return of Dempsey Community Centre to regular operations and programming has not yet been fully defined. Once women have fully transitioned at the end of the month to their new residence, staff will begin assessing the building needs, as well as cleaning and making repairs to return the building to community use.

To re-engage with the community, Recreation, Cultural and Facility Services will be offering drop-in programs, rental space, and free child and youth programming. I am thrilled to see that there will be a return to recreational programming at this site. City staff are excited to welcome our partners back to the building! More information on the opening will be shared in the coming weeks. Staff are currently working towards a late Summer 2024 opening.

However, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has announced changes to the Building Code exemptions, which has over the past several years allowed the use of recreational facilities as emergency overflow centres. The changes to the exemptions informed that all existing facilities are grandfathered, with no new facility not intended for residential/ occupancy use that can be opened or operated under the legislation/exemption. This means that while it is the intention for Dempsey to be used for community programming this fall, should there be need for shelter use it does remain one of the grandfathered sites.  That said, Housing Services continues to work on many alternate options meant for residential and/or sheltering use to reduce reliance on recreational facilities. These strategies and options include transitioning office space to transitional housing with up to 130 beds, pursuing Sprung Structure(s) as directed by Council, and exploring the potential purchase or leasing of additional facilities to support the sector.

I will continue to provide updates on this as I receive information. I would like to thank the community for continuing to advocate for the reopening of the community centres while understanding the necessity of everyone having a safe place to sleep at night. I will continue to advocate for permanent housing solutions and transitional options that allow for recreational programming and support for those facing homelessness to operate simultaneously.