Chinatown business owners resist youth centre’s arrival..


For the last few weeks, it’s been hard for Eddy Chen to sleep.

The son of a Chinatown property owner has been waking up with nightmares of kids “destroying all the windows, destroying all the business, destroying all the buildings.”

It might seem extreme, but that’s what Chen and other business owners in the area fear could happen if the Yonge Street Mission (YSM) sticks to its plans and moves its Evergreen Centre for Street Youth to Spadina Ave., near Baldwin St.

The centre’s move from its Yonge and Gerrard Sts. digs isn’t scheduled to happen until fall 2017, but it’s been a point of contention for the community for months.

Locals have been plastering their storefront windows with “No YSM Here” signs and worrying the centre’s move will bring unwanted loiterers to the neighbourhood.

But Angie Draskovic, YSM’s CEO and president, said “Our youth don’t want to be hanging out on the street in front of us. They would prefer to be inside the building and they have told us that.”

She said the mission has done plenty of consulting with neighbours and stakeholders, giving ample opportunities for all concerns to be taken into account.

The centre will not be a shelter, but a spot for day programs that require youth to leave the premises by 6 p.m. and head back to the shelters for the night.

The Spadina Ave. location was purchased, she said, because the mission found its current location too small for its needs and unable to offer reprieve to youth before, after and between meals.

Chinatown was an ideal spot, she said, because it is in a neighbourhood where a lot of street youth were congregating and it would ensure them easy access to help.

However, Chinatown BIA member Tonny Louie said, “I would challenge anyone to come to Spadina Avenue 24/7 to walk with us to find anyone between the age of 16 and 24 that are in need of this service . . . We will not find 100+ youth.”

If there is a need, he and others at news conference called to fight the mission, said there are a handful of other community centres and facilities in the area offering help.

Louie admitted Chinatown has had its problems, but said “we don’t need any more grit.”

It was a sentiment Chen echoed, after he revealed that he had spent the weekend talking to friends about the potential move.

“Every one of them told me, ‘Eddy, if they are coming, you might as well pack up your luggage and go somewhere else,’ ” he said.

The mission isn’t trying to push anyone out and doesn’t have the power to do so, but Chen, who has lived in Toronto for at least 20 years, said “I don’t want to go somewhere else” so he vowed to continue fighting.

“We are not going to accept this,” he said, to a crowd of cheers. “I really hope this is going to come to a happy end.”

31/12/2015 20:31  By: TORONTO STAR