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Respite shelters — when they first came onstream three winters ago — were promoted as a temporary stopgap measure to ensure the homeless didn’t remain on the street during the frigid winter months.

Gord Tanner, a director in the city’s shelter, support and housing division, recently reiterated more than once at a series of consultation sessions that their goal is getting housing for their shelters users — that is where they want people to land.

The 21 Park Rd. shelter, operated by Margaret’s, is in a city-owned building. During COVID, capacity has dropped from 32 to 25 because of physical distancing.

A respite shelter at 21 Park Rd. in downtown Toronto, Ont. on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021. Photo by Ernest Doroszuk /Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

City spokesman Lyne Kyle said on average these respite shelters cost $220 per day per client as a result “of the increased response required to protect clients from COVID-19.”

Langabeer said he left in December because he felt money was being wasted and he was tired of taking verbal abuse from residents who “get away with it.”

He added that although the staff wear masks, the residents are not forced to do so even though there is a mandatory masking rule in city shelters.

“The residents feel that they call the shots even though management may differ,” he said. “I have been a witness to this one too many times.”

In an extensive interview Friday with members of the Margaret’s team, house manager Margaret Walker said they “do encourage” clients to wear masks daily.

“There are some clients because of underlying issues (including mental health and cognitive issues) who are not able to wear the masks,” she said.

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