On February 17, HPAP members joined the OCAP for the public release of their recent report Out In The Cold: The Crisis in Toronto’s Shelter System.

Dr. Mike Benusic’s message:

“I’m representing Health Providers Against Poverty. We are a group of health care workers – nurses, doctors, social workers, occupational therapists, etc – who work directly with people facing homelessness.

We were invited by John to join OCAP in conducting this survey and it confirmed what we hear everyday from our patients – the shelter system is stretched to the limit. The City of Toronto is relying on well-meaning charities to catch those falling through the gaps – but it’s clear from this report that they are bursting at the seams.

Today, City Council is voting on the budget. Originally, this budget did not even include funding to keep warming shelters open throughout the winter. Last year, 3 people died on the streets from cold exposure. This is just the tip-of-the-iceberg of how health is impacted by being out in the cold. 99% of deaths caused by cold weather don’t occur immediately – instead, they occur up to a month after exposure by increasing the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and pneumonia. Medically, ethically, and economically – it makes sense to bring everyone out of the cold.

It wouldn’t be correct to say the city is merely ignoring the crisis in the shelter system. In reality, they are actively planning to make it worse. The redevelopment of Seaton House poses a net loss of beds – which is unfathomable for a system already consistently above the target of 90% capacity.

Health Providers Against Poverty commend OCAP on documenting what unfortunately those using the shelter system know all too well, and providing 5 key ways the city must act.”