The basement apartments of a homeless shelter are empty

It was supposed to be a safe, affordable home for Ontarians with nowhere else to go. But inside, it was horrifying.

As many as 200 people are reported to be sleeping in tiny apartments. Others are crammed in the basements of private homes.

For years, they have been living in the building’s basement; some for as long as a decade.

The building, on a quiet street in one of Toronto’s wealthiest, most desirable neighbourhoods, has been empty since it was sold in 2014 and became the property of a local landlord.

The basement apartments have been filled with mostly young men. They are paid $700 a month to use the building’s internet, phone and showers, and $500 to rent the rest of the space, according to people living in the basement and in its abandoned upstairs apartments.

Ontarians with nowhere else to go were once housed in the building’s basement. The basement apartments have been filled with mostly young men. (Facebook)

The basement units are at the end of the hall in the east wing; at first, they were used by young men who lived next door, but now they are empty.

After years of neglect, the unit that was used as a homeless shelter is now a shelter for drug addicts, and is full of children who have been forced into the basement by their parents.

Most of the occupants of the basement apartments were recently diagnosed with mental illness and, as a result, have been forced to make life-changing decisions.

The basement’s former owner, who is now a tenant in a neighbouring building, was also forced to make life-changing decisions after selling the building to a landlord to make room for her rent-controlled apartment.

So she decided to take in as many of the basement tenants as possible, for their own safety.

“I am a human being, and I can’t say no to them,” she said.

“It’s a very lonely feeling. You’re completely alone. There’s nobody to talk to. People come over all the time.”

But the tenants said many people in the building have never asked for help.

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