Tag Archives: Toronto

Toronto City Budget Cuts Harmful To Health

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!

HPAP Joins Release of Out of The Cold Report

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 Crisis in Toronto’s Shelter System

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:

  1. Ensure the shelter system’s 90% maximum occupancy policy
  2. Immediately open new spaces to shelter people, including the Federal Armouries
  3. End discriminatory practices within the shelter system
  4. No further loss of shelter beds
  5. 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.

 

Toronto Must Not Leave People Out In the Cold

Health care providers are advocating for the City of Toronto to provide adequate shelter space to keep people out of the cold and prevent unnecessary illness and deaths this winter.

HPAP’s Letter to Toronto City Councillors, by Drs. Michaela Beder and Michael Benusic, is listed on the Jan 18, 2016 Budget Committee meeting agenda.

Show your support for increased funding for shelters and warming centres in Toronto’s 2016 budget by signing this Petition to Mayor John Tory. 

Letter to Toronto Councillors on Warming Centres Jan 11 2016.jpg

Toronto Should Invest in Poverty Reduction in the 2016 Budget

Civic leaders including HPAP Founder, Dr. Gary Bloch, joined in signing a letter to the Toronto Mayor and Council urging them to act on recommendations to advance the City’s Poverty Reduction Strategy.

The goal is to achieve concrete outcomes in 2016, including:

  • Providing supportive housing for 1,000 individuals and families and making rent affordable for 7,000 households at risk of homelessness
  • Providing access to subsidized childcare for 1,500 families
  • Freezing adult fares until a low-income transit pass is introduced in 2017
  • Ensuring that people delivering city services, either directly or through contractors, have decent, stable jobs
  • Creating opportunity for people with lived experience to guide and work in city programs to ensure relevance and effectiveness

See the news release and Toronto Start article for more information.

Health Providers Take to the Street for Paid Sick Days

On Thursday, November 19th, members of Health Providers Against Poverty joined a public rally outside Queen’s Park subway station, in an effort to draw attention to a campaign calling for paid sick days for all workers.

15 & Fairness Nov 19 2015.jpg

Currently, employers in Ontario are not required to provide sick days by law. Consequently, too many workers are forced to go to work sick in order to avoid losing pay.

As the Ministry of Labour continues its review of employment legislation to change the Employment Standards Act, there is a unique opportunity to strengthen protections for all workers in Ontario. Health providers are calling for at least seven paid sick days, pro-rated for part-time workers, as well as removing the requirement for medical notes. The campaign is lead by 15 & Fairness.

“As doctors we provide care for our patients, and sometimes this also requires that we address the factors that affect health outcomes. Working while sick is a serious public health concern. The real solution here is to update the labour laws, so that no one has to choose between their pay and well-being.”

“Having patients with flu sit in a waiting room to get a sick note is neither a good use of their time nor our health providers’ time.”

– Dr. Kate Hayman, ER Physician

 

 

Press Release: Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy

June 23, 2015

Health Providers Concerned That Toronto’s Twenty-Year Poverty Reduction Strategy Fails To Help Those In Immediate Need

TORONTO – Health Providers Against Poverty (HPAP) applauds the City of Toronto’s release of an Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy, however we remain apprehensive that this report will lead to real, measurable changes for our patients. While the Strategy identifies several immediate needs, it outlines a vague twenty-year vision. As front-line providers, we see daily the detrimental impact that poverty and income inequality has on our patients’ health and we strongly encourage the addition of bold timelines with measurable targets to the final Strategy.

We commend Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell for prioritizing inequality as one of the biggest threats to Torontonians. We concur with her statement that “systemic change will require embedding poverty reduction into the (entire) culture of the city’s DNA.” The 48-page Strategy, built with input from those impacted by poverty, identifies important values and directions. The report calls for an “inclusive strategy” and acknowledges that “policy choices have made Toronto the most unequal city in Canada”.

The Report cites Toronto’s 2014 success in the construction of 140 affordable rental-housing units, with 655 affordable homes built to date. But, as the report admits, 90,000 households are on the social housing waitlist and over 16,000 people used shelters last year. While Toronto was indeed a pioneer in adopting Housing First, to date only a few hundred individuals have received housing through this project. HPAP encourages the City to provide immediate concrete financial support to those who need affordable housing.

“I have encountered several individuals, this month alone, who are having to choose between buying food, paying for medications, and accessing other basic needs, because they are having to spend the majority of their income on substandard housing,” said Katie Dorman, a physician in Toronto. “Their health is deteriorating while they languish on a ten-year waiting list for subsidized housing in a city as prosperous as Toronto.”

The current degree of income inequality in Toronto represents a crisis that is harming the wellbeing of many members of our communities. HPAP supports the vision set forth in the Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy, but calls for inclusion of the following in the Final Strategy:

1. Timelines for each priority set out in the report with specific implementation plans and measurable targets for immediate, short- and long-term goals.

2. A cost analysis for each priority and a plan to ensure ongoing funding.

3. A review process to ensure progress monitoring and accountability where targets are not met.

Last night, the Councillors of the City of Toronto and East York proved that in a 3-hour session they could change the face of their part of the city by limiting residential street speed limits. It was incredible to see the city band together to tackle this safety issue. We aspire to all city councillors replicating that fervor and execution on the Poverty Reduction Strategy.