Toronto City Hall Monday - Open Shelter Now - No Homeless Deaths
Monday March 18, 2013
Gathering outside the main doors at 9 AM with Coffee and snacks
The Call Out:
On Monday, March 18th we will be going back to City Hall to the Community Development and Recreation Committee. First on the agenda that day is the item ‘Update on Emergency Shelter Services’.
We are calling for everyone to join us on this day – pack the room, sign up for deputations, demand from the City that they open up space and deal with the crisis on the streets!
For the past few months, OCAP and allies have been raising the alarms around a series of homeless deaths and consistent overcrowding in the shelters. We have occupied space in front of Ford’s office and then again at Metro Hall to demand that additional shelter space be opened up. The response of Ford and his supporters has been to attack those speaking out, to blatantly make up numbers, and to dismiss deaths on the streets as ‘personal choice’.
By the City’s own admission, shelters are operating at 96% capacity. On top of this, the daily experiences of homeless people, advocates and front line workers lead to the inescapable conclusion that this City's shelter system is overloaded and in crisis.
When spaces are over 90% capacity the overcrowding creates tension, conditions worsen and for many are intolerable. This small 3 – 4% margin of availability does not account for beds for women, co-eds, families, or for people who are unable for reasons of safety to go to certain spaces. In the Shelter Support and Housing Administration’s own report, they admit to occupancy bed-checks being done at 4am –long after people have tried to seek out a space.
Fittingly, the second item on the agenda of the March 18th Committee meeting is ‘Review of the Centralized Waiting List for Social Housing’. The waiting list for Housing in Toronto has approximately 90 000 households on it and is an abysmal 10 years long.
This on top of skyrocketing private rents, the lack of sufficient income for those on welfare or disability, Provincial cuts to programs like Community Start-Up, and cuts to shelter beds and supports over the years, have created this crisis that we face right now.
NO MORE mis-leading reports, third party consultation or bureaucratic red-tape. We need immediate measures to respond to this crisis. Failure to act has cost lives and will be sure to cost many more. These are our demands to Committee on March 18th:
1. A hostel system operating at an acknowledged occupancy rate of 96% is one that can't provide shelter, safety and dignity. People are being turned away and others are sleeping on the floor in the Referral Centre. Unhealthy conditions of overcrowding are creating tensions that cause conflicts that force people onto the streets from fear or because they have been subjected to disciplinary barrings.
In 1999, City Council adopted a position that staff could open additional space if the system reached 90% capacity. This policy has never been revoked but it is not being implemented. We call on the Committee to recommend that Council instruct staff that they must ensure capacity levels do not exceed 90% and act as necessary to achieve this goal.
2. In the summer of 1999, Metro Hall was opened to provide emergency space for homeless people when shelter occupancy reached 90%. Your Committee must call upon Council to instruct that this building or an equivalent facility me opened immediately.
3. The economic situation and the general climate of social cutbacks we live in make it almost certain that pressure on the shelter system will increase in the period ahead.
The Committee must call for the restoration of all beds that have been lost in the system and, specifically, the return of the 41,172 bed nights eliminated in the last City Budget. – a decrease of 2.9% compared to 2012 (Despite what Ford and management have said publicly, here are the City’s own numbers: http://www.toronto.ca/budget2013/pdf/op13_an_ssha.pdf).
Since 2006, we have seen a loss of approximately 400 shelter beds (146 000 bed nights) in the systems with the closing of shelters such as Council Fire, 60 Richmond, 110 Edward, Riverdale Salvation Army, CNH Metropolitan Shelter. We call for the restoration of those shelter beds.
We are not prepared to sit by while social abandonment becomes the de-facto policy of the City of Toronto. Committee must act and Council must take the measures necessary to ensure the basic human right to shelter is there for all who need it.
SPEAK at COMMITTEE (Deputations):
• Talk about conditions in the shelters
• Talk about your experiences of trying to get a bed
• Talk about your experiences as a front-line worker
• Speak out as an ally on why this situation is unacceptable
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