In this photo from 1912, men line up for a meal at the Yonge Street Mission. Photo courtesy of Yonge Street Mission

Yonge Street Mission sold

  • October 11, 2013

TORONTO - After more than a century of serving the poor in the heart of the city, the Yonge Street Mission will be selling its flagship Toronto location in the hope of expanding its outreach and ministry to street- involved youth.

For the last three decades, 381 Yonge St., one of six YSM locations, has been known as Evergreen. The Evergreen programs focus on street youth and include employment services, educational completion, housing searches, drop-in meals and health care through an on-site medical clinic for youth typically age 16 to 24.

A private equity real estate company has purchased the property at an undisclosed price, but the sale does not close until September 2016, giving Yonge Street Mission three years to plan and find a new location. There is no word on what the plans are for the site, but with the demand for new condominiums in Toronto’s downtown core, it is not a stretch to see that being the site’s future.

“The building can come and go, but those programs are going to remain intact and those are the ones that will in fact find a new home in another location within three years,” said Paul Davidson, Mission Administrative Officer.

Davidson said Yonge Street Mission has received several offers to sell the location. A press release describes the pressure to sell from authorities with a planning agenda, local commercial interests and others over the years as “intense.”

“That location has been there for over 100 years, and we’re just out of space. It is just a chronic problem... The number of youth that we serve on an annual basis just simply hasn’t decreased,” said Davidson, adding that downtown Toronto is like a magnet, attracting youth from outside the city core and that some Evergreen programs had to be moved out of the building.

Last year, Davidson said the Evergreen location had 7,000 unique visitors. And the majority of Yonge Street Mission’s 3,400 volunteers served within its walls.

He expects the mission’s administration to spend the next year planning its community development model and refresh previous studies that looked at demographics and patterns of street-involved youth. In the past, planning decisions have included input from youth the mission serves.

“Our youth typically enjoy the convenience of the subway, so you don’t want to be too far from the subway,” Davidson said.

The Yonge Street Mission has served the poor since 1896 and the Evergreen location has been in service since 1904. In the 1930s, thousands of people lined up for blocks for soup and sandwiches. Over the years, the mission has been known to host evangelical services in its auditorium and out on Toronto’s streets.

The other five Yonge Street Mission locations house administration, training, a second-hand store, IT, computer labs, volunteer resources, transitional housing, a facility focussing on St. James Town and a Christian community centre catering to women, children, families, seniors and disadvantaged people typically from nearby Regent Park.

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