The 2017 City of Toronto budget will be finalized in February and HPAP members are concerned about the negative health impacts of the proposed budget cuts.
Drs. Shaurya Taran and Naheed Dosani’s Toronto Star editorial highlights the disproportionate impact of city budget cuts on those who are most vulnerable.
On Thursday January 10, several HPAP members attended a budget committee meeting and provided written submissions with their concerns.
Deputation – Dr. Michaela Beder
“Particularly worrisome is the budget’s proposed $10M service cuts, which include cuts of $1.8M to Shelter, Support and Housing, including more than $1M in staffing cuts. As a doctor working in the shelters, it is clear to me that they are packed to capacity, and there is a dire need for a significant increase in funding for both TCHC housing and shelter beds. In addition, the $30,000 proposed budget cut to shut down emergency cooling stations around the city is shortsighted and will undoubtedly have detrimental effects on the most vulnerable members of our city – marginally housed young children and the elderly – who have no alternative during heat alerts. These cooling centers provide a lifesaving service to many of Toronto’s homeless and under-housed.”
Deputation – Dr. Samantha Green
“Supporting housing means supporting a healthy city. Research from Toronto has proven that access to housing leads to improved health, particularly for folks with mental illness and addiction. Providing accessible recreation and community services leads to improved physical and mental health for all our citizens. Moreover, Toronto’s reputation as a welcoming, world class city depends on our support for our most vulnerable.”
Make your voice heard by joining one of the Councillor Budget Town Halls!
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.”
The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty’s recent report Out In The Cold: The Crisis In Toronto’s Shelter System has revealed the City’s inadequate response to homelessness, particularly in the cold winter months. The report includes findings from interviews with over 100 service users at numerous Out of The Cold locations.
This report confirms HPAP member’s concerns that Toronto shelter’s are over-crowded and inaccessible, contributing to serious health risks for people who are homeless.
The Toronto Star published OCAP’s findings in an article that asserts that “Toronto is failing to meet the basic needs of its homeless population”.
HPAP supports OCAP in demanding that the City take the following measures to address this crisis:
- Ensure the shelter system’s 90% maximum occupancy policy
- Immediately open new spaces to shelter people, including the Federal Armouries
- End discriminatory practices within the shelter system
- No further loss of shelter beds
- Respect the right to housing
Join OCAP for a Public Release of the Report and March to City Hall on Wednesday, February 17 at 11:00 AM, starting at Queen and Sherbourne.