Policy and Political Action

Policy & Political Action

Save lives by opening 1,000 new shelter beds in 2018

Dangerous overcrowding in Toronto's permanent shelter system and in temporary sites is damaging health and human dignity. Being without a safe place to call home is literally a matter of life and death. Toronto Public Health reported that at least 94 people who were homeless died in 2017. That's about two deaths per week, and the median age of death was only 48 years.

Sleeping outdoors can be deadly. Between Dec. 12, 2017 and Feb. 8, 2018 Toronto had 29 days when an extreme cold weather alert was called. To make matters worse, the city's overcrowded shelter system is in crisis. On Feb. 5, 2018, for example, the permanent shelter system had 5,758 guests and a 95 per cent occupancy rate. That same night, there were another 768 people sleeping on mats, cots, or chairs at Out of the Cold, winter respite drop-ins, women's drop-ins, and warming centres. An investigation of these temporary sites by Health Providers Against Poverty found cramped, unsanitary conditions that did not meet the city's own shelter standards or those of the United Nations.

At its Dec. 2017 meeting, Toronto City Council voted to open some new respite and shelter spaces but voted against urgently adding 1,000 new shelter beds and against asking for federal assistance to open the armouries to shelter the homeless. Facing pressure from our members, activists, and the public, winter respite drop-ins and warming centres were later opened, as was the Moss Park armoury, from Jan. 6-28, 2017.

Despite initially voting against adding 1,000 beds in December, Mayor Tory and seven councillors asked that the debate about these permanent beds be reopened. Council's budget committee requested a briefing note from the Shelter, Support and Housing Administration (SSHA) on costs related to opening and operating 1,000 additional shelter beds as quickly as possible. Staff recommended that 1,000 new permanent shelter beds be implemented over three years, with the addition of 361 beds in 2018. Since 81 of these beds are actually transitional housing the city's plan would fund only 280 emergency shelter beds in 2018.

It is estimated that that city must open at least 1,500 new shelter beds to meet the city's target occupancy rate of 90 per cent. As a step towards that goal and to address the immediate crisis, it is imperative that Toronto City Council fund 1,000 new shelter beds in the 2018 budget, rather than spreading them out over three years.

Copies will be sent to:

  • Mayor John Tory
  • Councillor Paul Ainslie
  • Councillor Sarah Doucette
  • Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon
  • Councillor Maria Augimeri
  • Councillor John Filion
  • Councillor Joe Mihevc
  • Councillor Ana Bailão
  • Councillor Paula Fletcher
  • Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong
  • Councillor Jon Burnside
  • Councillor Michael Ford
  • Councillor Frances Nunziata
  • Councillor John Campbell
  • Councillor Mary Fragedakis
  • Councillor Cesar Palacio
  • Councillor Christin Carmichael Greb
  • Councillor Mark Grimes
  • Councillor James Pasternak
  • Councillor Shelley Carroll
  • Councillor Jim Hart
  • Councillor Gord Perks
  • Councillor Josh Colle
  • Councillor Michelle Holland
  • Councillor Anthony Perruzza
  • Councillor Gary Crawford
  • Councillor Stephen Holyday
  • Councillor Jaye Robinson
  • Councillor Joe Cressy
  • Councillor Jim Karygiannis
  • Councillor Neethan Shan
  • Councillor Vincent Crisanti
  • Councillor Norm Kelly
  • Councillor David Shiner
  • Councillor Janet Davis
  • Councillor Mike Layton
  • Councillor Michael Thompson
  • Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker
  • Councillor Chin Lee
  • Councillor Lucy Troisi
  • Councillor Justin Di Ciano
  • Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti
  • Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam
  • Councillor Frank Di Giorgio
  • Councillor Josh Matlow
  • Hon. Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario
  • Victor Fedeli, Leader of the Official Opposition
  • Hon. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long Term Care
  • Andrea Horwath, Leader of the New Democratic Party of Ontario
  • Jeff Yurek, P.C. Critic – Health and Long Term Care
  • France Gélinas, NDP Critic – Health and Long Term Care
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