The Mayor meets with his executive committee on the 24th. His preliminary budget puts grossly insufficient funds towards addressing the shelter crisis, meaning the horror will continue for homeless people.
We have all been witness to the shameful scramble that characterized the City’s response to homelessness as cold weather gripped the city. Despite being warned about the worsening crisis within Toronto’s homeless shelters innumerable times, Mayor John Tory and the majority of city Councillors voted to defeat motions that would have initiated the addition of 1000 permanent new shelter beds and opened of the federal armouries in early December.
Extreme cold and public outrage forced Tory to back-peddle and open the Moss Park armoury in January, but the underlying problem of the severe shortage of shelter beds remains unaddressed. This means, come April 15, when the winter respite centres close down, over 650 people currently crammed into overcrowded warming centres, drop-ins, and volunteer-run overnight programs will simply be dumped back on to the streets.
Homeless people in Toronto are in crisis. 8 homeless people are dying every month. Emergency shelters, whether they serve women, men, youth, refugees, or families, are all packed full every single night, winter and summer. Even the sub-standard backup drop-ins are full, despite conditions within most of them being appalling.
The current situation demands the addition of at least 1500 permanent new shelter beds to guarantee a spot for everyone in need. The City’s plan, at-best, might add about 400 beds over 2018; an expansion that will soon be undermined by the impending closure of Seaton House. This means the crisis will persist, along with its lethal consequences.
We cannot allow the City Council to feign surprise about the predictable consequences of their actions. We cannot allow the City’s callous neglect to keep jeopardizing the lives and safety of homeless people.
We demand that the City Council:
1. Add at least 650 permanent new beds to the shelter system by April 15 to create space for those currently forced to stay in the respite centres. These centres must not be closed until every single person staying there is guaranteed a shelter bed. Furthermore, conditions within the respite centres must afford basic human dignity to its occupants.
2. Add at least 1500 permanent new shelter beds this year, primarily within the downtown core, close to TTC and other services, and in facilities that accommodate the needs of homeless people, particularly women and non-binary people.
3. Stop the closure of the hundreds of social housing units that still remain on track to be boarded up.
4. Budget enough resources to accomplish the above within the 2018 city budget.
5. Stop racist and disablist scapegoating of shelter users. The shelter crisis wasn’t created by refugees or mental health issues. This crisis is a direct result of the failure of all three levels of government to address the housing and income crisis facing poor people.