Downtown Concerned Citizens Organization

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After delays due to COVID lockdowns, Shuresh Sarveswaran will open his Shoeless Joe’s patio for the first time Friday.

When he signed his lease last September, he had no idea the Novotel homeless shelter would be situated directly across the street.

In fact, he was hoping to accommodate staff and managers at the hotel and to get traffic from guests staying there.

“I didn’t know how to react … I was shocked,” he said Thursday.

Sarveswaran said he understands from a business standpoint why the hotel’s owners — the Silver Hotel Group — leased the hotel to the city for a shelter, even though he thinks it was a “selfish decision.”

He said he believes the city’s shelter operator (Homes First) is doing their best to keep things safe but there’s only “so much” they can do to control the 195 homeless residents living there.

He’s had no incidents to date but he is looking into security to keep clients safe — in fact, the whole strip (of restaurants on the Esplanade) is trying to do it as a group, he said.

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Shuresh Sarveswaran owns Shoeless Joe's on The Esplanade.
Shuresh Sarveswaran owns Shoeless Joe’s on The Esplanade. Photo by Sue-Ann Levy /Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

In the meantime, he says he’s going to have to stick around day and night to have peace of mind that his patrons and staff are safe.

Sarveswaran said someone from the shelter came and gave him an emergency contact list.

“I’m not too worried because we’re right across from the hotel and the safeguards are here (shelter security) … I’m more worried about the restaurants further away and out of sight,” he said.

Graham Hnatiw, director of operations for the Old Spaghetti Factory and Scotland Yard pub, said they’re “overjoyed” to be opening finally although frustrated it has taken so long.

He said it has been “devastating” for their restaurants.

Graham Hnatiw is the director of operations for the Old Spaghetti Factory and Scotland Yard pub located on The Esplanade.
Graham Hnatiw is the director of operations for the Old Spaghetti Factory and Scotland Yard pub located on The Esplanade. Photo by Sue-Ann Levy /Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

He added that they haven’t been open since the shelter came into being and although he doesn’t want to lay any specific blame on the shelter, they have had break-ins.

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Hnatiw said they are hiring security this summer but usually have it for the pub.

“It’s to be seen how much will have to be involved with outside influences,” he said. “It is obviously an expense we would love not to have to incur.”

Hnatiw said a lot of the anger about the shelter is put onto the city. But he’s most angry with the hotel officials who willingly entered into this lease “knowing they’d hurt their partners across the street.”

  1. Tawhid, the proprietor of this Gateway Newstands convenience store at One The Esplande and claims vagrants have recently been smashing his storefront windows and shoplifting right in front of him, is seen here on Friday, May 14, 2021.

    LEVY: No shelter for convenience store owner

  2. The Roehampton Hotel, which is being used as a homeless shelter, near Mt. Pleasant Rd. and Eglinton Ave. E. in Toronto, Ont. on Thursday, April 1, 2021.

    LEVY: Toronto Police stats show crime surged after Roehampton shelter opened

  3. An image of Novotel taken from the Silver Hotel Group website.

    LEVY: Novotel homeless hotel to cost $8.1 million over 10 months

I visited the area Thursday to talk to residents and business owners about the situation with the Novotel shelter.

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One resident said things have improved a “little bit” with fewer shelter residents congregating outside the actual building.

And Tawhid, the owner of the Esplanade Gateway Convenience store, said things have improved since the Toronto Sun story of May 15 about theft and vandalism at his store.

He said his windows haven’t been broken since the story appeared and the number of residents helping themselves to his merchandise has gone down but not stopped.

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

Tawhid said security checks in with him regularly and the petty theft has been reduced from almost daily to about once a week.

Still a resident continues to diarize crime in the area every month (she’s done so since the shelter opened in February), sending her diary to the mayor’s office.

May’s report — complete with pictures of front door and car windows broken, graffiti and planters vandalized — documents incidents of people with guns in the area, pedestrians being followed by the homeless, EMS and Toronto Fire regularly called to the Novotel shelter, fights outside on a daily basis, bike thefts, items stolen out of cars and a constant mess on the Esplanade.

SLevy@postmedia.com

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