Letter to Toronto City Council on Addressing Homelessness in the 2014 Budget

Wed Jan 22, 2014

To: City of Toronto Council Members
Cc: Shelter Support and Housing Administration

Re: Toronto Community Organizations and Agencies Demand Action on Homelessness in the 2014 City Budget

We, the undersigned represent community agencies and organizations in the City of Toronto who are concerned with the ongoing homelessness crisis in our city.  We are writing to you to urge you to take action now.

As you are aware, City Council voted to bring shelter occupancy rates down to 90% more than 9 months ago, but have failed to keep their promise.  Capacity for all shelters remains well over 90% in almost all sectors, even with the use of the flex beds, and the overall overcrowding or worsening conditions have not been adequately addressed.

We call on you as City Councilors to support the motions and directions set at the December 4, 2013 Community Development and Recreation Committee.

Everyone agrees that long term housing is preferable to shelter beds but it is necessary to recognize that we are operating in a context where social housing options are minimal and efforts to pit ‘housing allowance’ strategies against maintaining shelter spaces have only deepened the crisis of overcrowding within the hostel system.  Adequate shelter provision must be provided until real viable housing options reduce the need for it.

Therefore, we ask that City Council:

  • Ensure that the Housing Stabilization Fund (HSF) be maintained at 2013 funding levels in order to prevent homelessness and promote housing stability and restore the criteria around the provision of furniture and household items. As it stands right now, there is a proposed $4.3 million cut to HSF funding. This is unacceptable and must be voted against and full funding restored!
  • 
Include in the budget the necessary resources ($4.5 million according to Shelter Administration budget briefing note) to increase access to shelter beds so that shelter capacity does not exceed 90% in ANY category of shelter. New shelter space is needed immediately in order to decrease the capacity and crowding in the shelters.
  • Support the continued funding for the new women’s shelter that has been opened recently and to increase the capacity in this sector.  Support the development and opening of LGBTQ youth focused shelter and transitional housing.  Ensure a moratorium on the closing of any further shelter.
  • Provide new funding for and immediately open 24 hour or after hour safe space for women in the downtown east and west ends.  These spaces should consider the unique access needs for women in these areas, should be low barrier and operate with a harm reduction approach.  This issue has been referred over to further reports and consultations, but we need action now.
  • Open 24 hour warming centres during the extreme cold weather alerts that are:
    • Located in neighborhoods across the city where they are needed
    • Accessible, low barrier with a harm reduction approach, and pet friendly
    • Provide cots and blankets for people to rest with some sense of privacy
    • Provide healthy, hot food
    • Provide access to health care provision on site

Until the time that housing and adequate income is available and accessible to all, we require that the very basic need of safe space, shelter and food is met.  We call on the City of Toronto to implement the above recommendations in order to take the step towards this goal.  We hope to see your support for this critical issue at the next city council meeting.

Sincerely,

Central Toronto Community Health Centres
Bathurst United Church
Toronto Disaster Relief Committee
Greater Toronto Workers Assembly
Health Providers Against Poverty
Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto
ONA (Ontario Nurses Association) Local 054
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
Parkdale Community Legal Services
Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre (PARC)
Regent Park Community Health Centre
St. Clare’s Multifaith Housing Society
Sanctuary
Sistering
Social Planning Toronto
South Riverdale Community Health Centre
Street Health

Download a PDF version of the letter here

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