Homelessness Crisis, Take Action Now, and COVID-19 Updates

There has been a lot of attention in the last week or two on the temporary shelters in midtown. 

Conditions that the residents in midtown are describing are very familiar to many residents in Ward 13, as we have been on the front lines of the housing and homelessness crisis for years. I have heard from neighbours who are rightfully unhappy that the very issues that we have been fighting for are now receiving some attention, in someone else’s neighbourhood. 

What the controversy in midtown reveals is that we can’t solve the problems we have been experiencing in Toronto’s downtown neighbourhoods by simply moving them to another part of the city. At the same time, it is grossly ineffective to locate the majority of services in downtown neighbourhoods, leaving many vulnerable people without adequate resources when they currently live outside of the core.

As downtown residents, we have known for years that Toronto is facing a homelessness crisis of massive proportion. During the pandemic, the crisis has become more visible and incredibly more acute. Estimates put the number of people in shelters, temporary respites and encampments at over 10,000. There has been a marked increase in people experiencing complex addiction and mental health challenges living on the streets. As I have stated often, the magnitude of this crisis requires a co-ordinated, intergovernmental, human-rights-based emergency response.

The safety and stability of our neighbourhoods are at risk. Advocates and frontline workers supporting the encampments continue to ring alarm bells about the inhumane conditions that people are living with. Residents who live adjacent to the encampments and shelters are demanding that the City do more to find more appropriate and permanent housing solutions for people who are underhoused. 

Against the backdrop of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the homelessness emergency in Toronto - and across cities in Canada - is a public health crisis that requires urgent action.

It has taken us years to get to this point, as successive governments have abdicated their responsibility to ensure that people have safe and affordable access to shelter, food, mental health and addictions support. The repercussions of decades of underinvestment from all three levels of government is not going to be fixed overnight, but there ARE things you can do now. 

Affordable and supportive housing, mental health and additional recovery services sit squarely in the purview of the Provincial and Federal Governments. Chronic underfunding and their failed policies have created the housing and homelessness crisis that is before us. No one city can end homelessness on their own without substantial financial support from both the Provincial and Federal Governments. 

To learn more about the housing and homelessness crisis, and what you can do to help, I have put together a resource you can use at https://www.kristynwongtam.ca/homelessness. 

On this page you will learn more about: 

  • Homelessness and how we got to this crisis point;
  • How the City of Toronto is addressing the current shelter and encampment crisis;
  • What different levels of government are responsible for;
  • What the City of Toronto is planning for the long term;
  • And actions I have taken to raise this issue at the municipal, provincial, and federal level, including directing over $20 million in Community Benefits funding towards new and existing affordable housing projects in Toronto Centre.

I’ve also made it easy to contact decision-makers at all levels of government by phone or email to demand that action be immediately taken to address and end the homelessness crisis that is impacting Toronto and cities across Canada. 

Lastly, I encourage you to sign the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness six-point plan campaign to end homelessness at a federal level.

Homelessness is a crisis within the COVID-19 crisis - it is time we all start treating it like one. 

Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you. 



Community Corner

Over the course of the summer, across the city, we have seen long-standing summer traditions and events be cancelled or postponed in response to COVID-19. In some cases, organizations and groups have restructured their programming to abide by current public health guidelines. The Regent Park Film Festival and CRC’s Taste of Regent Park did just that.

Every Wednesday through August, the Regent Park Film Festival has been presenting their Under the Stars series virtually. In addition, Taste of Regent Park has been serving free takeaway meals at 40 Oak Street, from 6:00pm-7:00pm highlighting local caterers. The film festival has also partnered with local community organizations to highlight important work and events taking place in the neighbourhood.  Festival-goers have been able to learn about localized initiatives and how to get involved.

This coming Wednesday, August 26th will be the final screening and Taste of Regent Park.

Learn more about the Taste of Regent Park.

Learn more about the ‘Under the Star’ series.

COVID-19: Ongoing Tips to Reduce Virus Spread

As we begin to ease our public health measures, we will all be living a new normal. Our commitment must be to continue minimizing the impact of COVID-19, especially on our most vulnerable residents, while reducing negative social, economic and broader health impacts on our community. In the coming months what this means for our residents is:

  • Continuing to work remotely, wherever possible;
  • Maintaining physical distance from people outside our household or social circle/bubble;
  • Avoiding crowds and congregations in closed indoor settings;
  • Wearing a cloth mask or face covering in any indoor, enclosed public spaces or where physical distancing is difficult to maintain; and 
  • Staying home whenever we are sick for any reason. 

When you are unable to keep a six feet/two-metre distance from others, wear a mask or face covering. This includes when you are:

  • In any indoor, enclosed public space;
  • In elevators, common areas, waiting rooms or shopping;
  • Using transit, taxi or rideshare services; and
  • Sick and going to a medical appointment.

Be respectful of others who choose not to wear a mask. Some health conditions make it hard to breathe when wearing a face covering.


How to Create a Safe Social Circles

As we continue our shared fight against COVID-19, you can now establish a family or social circle of no more than 10 people who can interact with one another without physical distancing. Social circles are a way to safely expand the number of people with whom you can come in close contact. Think of your social circle as the people you can hug and touch, or those who can become part of your daily and weekly routines.

social_circles_small.pngThank you for doing your part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and help protect our communities. For more tips on social distancing, please visit the City’s website or download this info sheet.


City of Toronto COVID-19 Updates 

Bike Share Toronto and CAA South Central Ontario bring back Free Ride Wednesdays in September

Bike Share Toronto riders will ride for free every Wednesday in the month of September. Riders can take out a bike for up to 30 minutes, return the bike to any station, and take out another bike for an additional free 30-minute ride.

City of Toronto Further Expands Digital Main Street Program to Help Local Businesses During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Mayor John Tory announced another expansion of the Digital Main Street program, as two new funding partners have joined the program and additional initiatives have been launched that will focus on helping businesses in Toronto and across Ontario embrace technology in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor John Tory Announces $1.7 Million in Property Tax Relief for 45 Live Music Venues Impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic

Mayor John Tory announced that 45 live music venues will receive a combined $1.7 million in property tax relief to support Toronto's live music industry and address the unprecedented challenges that are threatening live music venues across the city.

More information on affected City services & facilities.

More updates from the City of Toronto.

Province of Ontario Updates

Ontario Taking Steps to Improve Service Delivery at Provincial Agencies

The Ontario government is reviewing how provincial agencies deliver services with a focus on improving the customer experience, adopting service innovation, offering more services virtually and online, and eliminating redundancies. The evaluation will build on the advancements in digital service delivery made during the pandemic.

Ontario and Municipalities Work Towards a Strong Economic Recovery

The Ontario government joined hundreds of municipal officials for a successful virtual 2020 Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference this week. It demonstrated the critical partnership between the province and municipalities and the willingness to work towards a safe and strong economic recovery.

Ontario Extends Orders Under the Reopening Ontario Act, 2020

The Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, is extending orders currently in force under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 (ROA). The extensions provide the government with the necessary flexibility to address the ongoing risks and effects of the COVID-19 outbreak and ensure important measures remain in place to protect vulnerable populations, such as seniors, people with developmental disabilities and those with mental health and addiction issues. 

Ontario Helping Veterans Retrain for New Careers

The Ontario government is providing $500,000 to retrain veterans for jobs in the IT and technology sector. This funding is part of a $1.8 million investment in IT and technology training projects announced today by Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 258 in Scarborough.

More updates from the Province of Ontario.

Government of Canada Updates

Supporting Canadians Through the Next Phase of the Economy Re-Opening: Increased Access to EI and Recovery Benefits

The Government of Canada is continuing to take significant and decisive action to support Canadians and protect jobs during the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was an important and necessary temporary response to support Canadians, providing up to 24 weeks of income support to those who had to stop working due to the pandemic. As we safely restart Canada’s economy, the Government will be transitioning to a simplified and more accessible Employment Insurance (EI) program, effective August 30, 2020, to provide income support to those who remain unable to work and are eligible, and introducing a new suite of temporary and taxable recovery benefits to support workers who are not eligible for EI.

Government of Canada Begins Consultation to Better Ensure the Continuity of Supervised Consumption Sites and Services in Canada

On August 15, 2020, Health Canada launched a 60-day consultation process on supervised consumption sites and services to evaluate what is working and what can be improved. 

Government of Canada Supports a Safer Drug Supply Project in Toronto

The Government of Canada is taking action to ensure communities have the tools and support they need to keep people at risk of overdose safe during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Government of Canada Launches Public Consultations on Policies that Support Ending the Captivity of Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises

The Government of Canada understands that cetaceans, which includes whales, dolphins and porpoises should be enjoyed in the wild, not in captivity.

More updates from the Government of Canada.

COVID-19 Information and Resources

Now is the time to stay informed through credible sources, and to follow the advice of our public health professionals. Together we can limit the spread of COVID-19. 

Phone lines for telehealth, TPH and 311 continue to experience very high volumes. Please help keep the phones lines open for people who are sick by visiting  the Toronto Public Health COVID-19 website for up-to-date information and resources: toronto.ca/covid-19 

Telehealth Ontario
Call if you develop symptoms!
Telephone: 1-866-797-0000

Toronto Public Health Hotline
8:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Call if you have questions about COVID-19.
Telephone: 416-338-7600
TTY: 416-392-0658
Email: [email protected]

311 Toronto
Outside City limits: 416-392-2489
Call if you have questions about City services, or to report people
Telephone: 311
Email: [email protected]

Support for People Living with Homelessness
If you see someone living with homelessness and in need of support you can call Streets to Homes at 416-338-4766. For mental health support, the Gerstein Crisis Centre is a valuable 24-hours a day, seven days a week service in our community and they have crisis workers on standby at 416-929-5200. More resources, including additional how to report information, are available on my website at kristynwongtam.ca.

Toronto Police
If you or someone else is confronted with life-threatening danger, please call 911 immediately. Alternatively, the Toronto Police request that online reports be submitted at torontopolice.on.ca/core or to  torontopolice.on.ca/community-complaintsYou can also call their non-emergency line at 416-808-2222. In the past, by diligently reporting criminal activity, residents were able to see our community policing and other service levels increase. You can do your part: see it, report it.

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Phone: 416-392-7903
Constituency Office: 100 Queen St W, A5, Toronto, ON M5H 2N2