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Press Conference addressing Crisis in Home Shelters in Toronto

Press Conference addressing Crisis in Home Shelters in Toronto

What: Press Conference by Toronto Frontline Agencies and Advocates demanding that Toronto City Council open 1500 beds in 2018 and take action to address the crisis in shelters

Where: City Hall, City of Toronto, 2nd Floor

When: February 6th, 2018 – 10am

On Tuesday, February 6th, 2018, agencies and advocates will hold a press conference to call on the City to open 1500 new emergency shelter beds in 2018.

Under pressure, the City has responded to the crisis of homelessness and the crisis in the shelter system by opening additional emergency respite spaces. These actions reproduce the same overcrowded, inadequate and substandard conditions that have been institutionalized by the City for years.

On February 6th, the 2018 City Budget will be presented to the Executive Committee. The current Shelter Support and Housing Administration budget proposal calls for the development of only 361 new beds this year.  81 of these beds (Youthlink – 51 beds and Egale 30 beds) are, in fact, transitional housing. Therefore, the City’s plan to address the homelessness and shelter crisis is to add only 280 emergency shelter beds in 2018. This is dangerous and unacceptable.

“HPAP’s report has made it clear that the City’s current response of opening temporary adhoc shelters is not an effective solution. These facilities suffer from overcrowding, poor hygiene facilities, lack of privacy, and inadequate supports for service users with a variety of medical concerns. This is why adding 1500 shelter beds to the current system is absolutely crucial for the physical and emotional well being of shelter users” says Drew Silverthorn from Health Providers Against Poverty.

In addition, “the recent release of numbers from the City on the deaths of people experiencing homeless showed that 23 of the 94 people who died, died from an overdose. This highlights the links between homelessness, lack of beds in the shelter system, and the overdose crisis, including the systematic neglect of the interconnected health and housing needs of our most vulnerable citizens. Not only do we need 1500 new beds immediately, we also need harm reduction services within shelters and warming centres that address the health needs of the people using them, as well as better conditions within the warming centres and existing services until these beds can open” (Gillian Kola, Volunteer and Coordinator of the Moss Park Overdose Prevention Society).

At the press conference, a letter signed by front line agencies and community groups will be presented, calling on the City to take real action to address the shelter crisis and to open 1500 new shelter beds in 2018. “Currently, every night more than 750 people are staying in respite centres while emergency shelters continue to operate at nearly 100% capacity across every sector” says Kapri Rabin, Executive Director of Street Health, “there is no way that the current plan to open only 280 beds in 2018 is an acceptable response to the crisis we are facing”.

Ultimately, we know that adequate, supportive and deeply affordable housing and increased income supports are what is required to address the crisis of homelessness in the City. In the meantime, City Council must act to open a minimum of 1500 emergency shelter beds in 2018 and ensure that those who need it, have access to safe and appropriate emergency shelter.

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