Opening of Moss Park Armouries Necessary But Temporary Measure
More Permanent Shelter Beds Needed
Toronto – January 5, 2018 – Almost a month after officially refusing to request the opening of the armouries as emergency shelter, Mayor John Tory has caved under mounting pressure and requested the use of the Moss Park armoury. Communication from the federal government today indicates that the armoury will open tonight as a 24/7 winter respite center for two weeks.
“The immediate opening of the armoury and involvement of all three levels of government is a good step and an important victory for homeless people in this city,” says Gaetan Heroux, a longtime OCAP organizer. “Despite the opening of the armouries, it’s clear that the city continues to scramble. We still have questions about what the Provinces role will be and want to make sure the new space is adequate. Also, all winter respite programs end on April 15th but, homelessness doesn’t end on April 15th,” Heroux adds.
There were 630 people staying in the Out Of The Colds, 24/7 drop-ins and warming centres last night. “In order to meet the demand, at least 630 new permanent beds must added to the shelter system by April 15th to ensure that people currently forced to stay in winter respite sites and drop-ins have a safe place to go,” says OCAP organizer A.J. Withers. “While warming centres will save lives this winter, conditions within most are appalling and these facilities don’t necessarily meet the City’s own shelter or public health standards. The city is relying on these substandard survival spaces but we need permanent beds in the downtown core and we need them now.”
We are also calling on Mayor Tory to stop his racist and disablist scapegoating of refugees and people with mental health issues. He consistently names these groups as part of the cause of the crisis. The shelter crisis has been ongoing for over 2 decades and has intensified in recent years as a result of Council’s neglect, and the housing and income crisis. Social housing units are being boarded up, there isn’t enough low income rental housing, and social assistance rates are too low. Refugees and people with mental health issues are the casualties of policies enacted by all three levels of government.
The way to resolve the shelter crisis is to ensure the shelter system’s capacity levels are maintained at 90% – a City Council mandate that has never been met. Occupancy rates are consistently 95% or higher which means that it is often impossible to get a shelter bed and the shelters are overcrowded, unsafe and prone to disease outbreak and bedbugs. The city needs to ensure that the budget includes sufficient funds to make that happen. Like many improvements to the shelter system over the past decades, OCAP and our allies fought for and won the opening of the Moss Park Armoury. OCAP will continue to fight for sufficient beds and better conditions within the shelter system, and for social housing – and we fight to win.