Winter Shelter Plan, Electrical Fire 96 Gerrard Street E, and COVID-19 Updates

With Halloween behind us, I want to thank you for your ingenuity in successfully adapting your celebrations this year. Yesterday, Dr. de Villa reported that while there was significantly less door-to-door trick-or-treating, many of you showed your creativity with safely distanced costume parades and elaborate decor. BlogTO even published this article featuring some of the most creative and elaborate decorations I’ve ever seen! 

As many Torontonians begin celebrating Diwali in the coming weeks, I urge you to continue making these safer choices. Diwali is known as the Festival of Lights and is celebrated over the coming weeks by our Hindu communities. The Indo Canada Arts Council describes Diwali as the “spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.” I believe this to be our greatest strength in stopping the spread of COVID-19. With greater knowledge, we shall overcome. 

Today, despite recording the highest number of cases in a single day, the Province announced another COVID-19 framework for re-opening Toronto and other hot spot areas in the province. I know that the constant changes in protocols are confusing, and I will provide a deeper review of the plan on Thursday once Dr. de Villa and I have each had a chance to review it carefully. I have full confidence that our Medical Officer of Health will provide the best advice on what Toronto needs to do to contain the virus and keep us safe. 

Unfortunately, this year continues to present innumerable challenges for our communities. It is heartbreaking to learn of an electrical fire at 96 Gerrard Street East, a student housing co-op, early this morning. Toronto Fire Services has been on site since midnight, and I have been personally assured by both the TFS Deputy Chief and the President of the Board of Neill-Wycik Co-operative College that everyone is safe and accounted for now. The Office of Emergency Management has been activated and they are working alongside the Red Cross and TFS to monitor the situation. I will continue to offer support to TFS, the co-op and community residents as they move forward in building repairs and re-establishing their homes. You can read my full statement here

I am grateful for your ongoing patience and messages of support for residents currently sleeping outdoors. Everyone has the right to housing and personal safety, and this includes all communities, including those impacted by the encampments. City staff are working hard to ensure that everyone staying outdoors is repeatedly offered support and indoor accommodations. COVID has exasperated an already dire homelessness situation, and it is incumbent on all of us to help those in need. 

My priority this winter is to get everyone inside. Last week, City Council passed the winter shelter plan, which includes the opening of additional indoor spaces, which will provide access to regular meals, sanitation facilities, health care and caseworkers to help connect them to long term housing. After regular attendance at encampments across the City, staff believe they have enough space to ensure everyone has an indoor space to sleep. If they do not, City Council has empowered City staff to use their best judgement and to do whatever it takes with the additional funding to ensure everyone single person staying outdoors has the offer of housing and shelter beds this winter. 

I have heard from support workers that shelter spaces are not always available, despite being told there is capacity in the system. To get an accurate account, I moved a motion asking staff to track and report the number of people in real-time seeking a shelter or respite bed, the number of people accommodated, and the number of people turned away.

I have also heard that some people dispute the total number of people currently living in tents, so I moved a motion that requires staff to develop plans to rapidly scale up available shelter beds should the number of people sleeping outside outstrip the numbers projected in the 2021 Shelter Infrastructure Plan. 

The dispute in the number of people living outside points to the larger challenge of trying to adequately support people who are sheltered in informal encampments across the City. Access to hot food, water, and sanitation facilities was challenging at sites across the city. Those challenges will get worse as the winter sets in.

To address this gap, we have now requested Shelter, Support and Housing Administration to review its existing policies to allow the provision of certain “survival” equipment and/or supplies to encampments as recommended in the Faulkner Report from the Verdict of Coroner’s Jury issued by the Office of the Chief Coroner.

To be clear, I do not believe that a tent is an adequate home and see this measure as an absolute last resort. Even if we could outfit everyone with sleeping bags, without a proper heating source, and shelter from the elements, it is too cold for people to stay outside safely. A tent is not an adequate home and generators are not a long-term solution as they can still present a very serious fire risk. 

In a historic moment, I was proud to support my friend and colleague Councillor Perks in a motion which directed the City Manager to find and use the necessary funds for emergency measures to provide housing, shelter, or respite in the event that Toronto’s Shelter system cannot meet demand. Finally, this is an enormous step forward in providing the authority to staff to do what it takes to address the homelessness crisis as it demonstrates the City’s commitment to sheltering and housing our most vulnerable. 

The City is facing the largest deficit in our history. We are facing devastating cuts to our existing services, which are already leaving so many people behind. Unlike the Provincial and Federal government, we cannot run a deficit on our yearly budget. I am terrified that we are going to lose what meagre supports we have now, let alone make the necessary new investments. 

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

Email your MP and MPP. Demand that they help to fully fund Toronto’s 10-year housing action plan. Demand that they adequately fund the necessary supportive housing - with robust mental health and addictions support. 

To learn more about housing and homelessness in Toronto, I encourage you to read and share this resource my office put together. I also hosted a panel last week with housing experts and advocates, which you can watch here

Lastly, tonight many of us will be anxiously watching the US Presidential Election results. For the past four years, we have seen how quickly democracy can deteriorate when we are not united against injustices. Canada is not immune. We must strengthen our resiliency against hate, inviting hope, love and unity to guide us. We must learn from each other and honour the knowledge we can cultivate to build a better future. This is our collective work.

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


Community Corner in Ward 13

On November 5, 2020, you’re invited to learn more about the improvements coming to three parks in the Yonge Street Linear Parks network including George Hislop Park, Norman Jewison Park and the Alexander Street Parkette. Parks, Forestry and Recreation staff will be providing a project update, presenting concept plans options and soliciting feedback. This is a great opportunity to identify community perspectives and priorities. 

When: Thursday, November 5, 2020

Time: 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Where: Please register here

This virtual meeting will be accessible online and by phone-in. The City of Toronto is following the most current advice provided by Public Health officials as a result of COVID-19. Learn more and get involved.

For more information, or if you require accessibility accommodations, please contact Nancy Chater, Senior Project Coordinator 416-338-5237 or [email protected].

Image description: a map of all the parks in the ward where residents are invited to learn more and consult about improvements to each park. 

Community Care in Ward 13

In response to rising positive cases of COVID-19, Health Access St James Town Partners through the St James Town Community Corner and Sherbourne Health are offering residents of the neighbourhood free testing. Over the past couple of weeks, through the release of neighbourhood data, we’ve seen a high test positivity rate. Together with preventative measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 as well as an increase in testing, hopefully, we can see a decrease in test positivity rate. While a neighbourhood positivity rate is only a piece of the puzzle, it is important to recognize in order to better support these neighbourhoods. I’m so proud to see these resilient residents come together to take care of each other. Today, testing has already begun from 12:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

Testing is available for residents of St. James Town who:

  • Are showing symptoms of COVID-19;
  • Have been exposed to a confirmed case within the last 10 days;
  • Live or work somewhere with a COVID-19 outbreak; 
  • Live or work in an at-risk setting, such as a long-term care home, homeless shelter or other congregate setting or; 
  • Are visiting a long-term care home

The testing centre is located at the Community Corner, 200 Wellesley Street East. If you have a Health/OHIP card, please bring the card to get tested. For more information, please call: 416-254-4006.

More available testing dates:

When: November 10, 2020

Time: 9:30 a.m. to  4:30 p.m.

When: November 17, 2020

Time: 12:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

When: November 24, 2020

Time: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

COVID-19: Ongoing Tips to Reduce Virus Spread

As we begin to again restrengthen our public health measures, we will all continue to live in this new normal. Wearing a mask or a face covering is mandatory in all public indoor spaces and on the TTC. 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 public indoor setting, including stores, transit, offices; and where
  • physical distancing is difficult to maintain.
  • Staying home whenever we are sick for any reason.

Face Masks and Coverings Offer Best Protection

Image description: Informational graphic from Toronto Public Health titled, "Face Masks & Coverings Offer Best Protection." Through visual examples, the graphic shows recommended and not recommended ways of wearing a mask. The recommended way for wearing a mask says, "should cover your nose, mouth, and chin without gaping." The following are not recommended: face shields, masks with exhalation valves, or clear plastic masks.

How to Safely Wear a Mask

Image description: Toronto Public Health infographic about how to safely wear a mask. Information on the infographic is listed below.

  • Do wash your hands before putting it on and taking it off
  • Do make sure it fits to cover your mouth and nose
  • Do wash your cloth mask in the laundry
  • Do clean surfaces that a dirty mask touches
  • Don’t touch your face or mask while using it
  • Don’t use masks on children under 2 or those who can’t breathe with them on
  • Don’t share your mask with others
  • Don’t wear medical masks, keep them for health care workers
  • The best protection is to stay home, keep a 6-foot distance, and wash hands often.

Thank 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

City of Toronto Facilities Supporting COVID-19 Response

City of Toronto libraries, recreation centres, parks and other facilities continue to be vital in the City’s response to COVID-19. These important places have been the frontline of supporting Torontonians, ensuring access to information, providing for food security and facilitating access to health care.

City Council Moves to Rapidly Build New Affordable and Supportive Homes for Toronto’s Most Vulnerable with $203 Million Federal Investment

Following this week’s announcement from the Government of Canada that the City of Toronto will receive $203.3 million through the Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI), on Friday City Council approved Mayor John Tory’s motion directing staff to take the next steps to plan and implement the work needed to move forward.

More information on affected City services & facilities.

More updates from the City of Toronto.

Province of Ontario Updates

Ontario Selling Surplus Properties to Build Three New Long-Term Care Homes

The Ontario government is taking the first step towards building three new long-term care homes by making land available in Oakville, Aurora and Vaughan. The government is selling three surplus provincial properties with the requirement that long-term care homes be built on portions of the following properties. 

Ontario Releases Report on COVID-19 Emergency Measures

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones tabled a report in the Legislature providing details of the emergency measures put in place by the province to stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep Ontarians safe. The report focuses on the 47 emergency orders made between March 17 and July 24, 2020 when the Declaration of a Provincial Emergency was in effect under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA).

Province Increasing Direct Care for Long-Term Care Residents to Four Hours per Day

The Ontario government is increasing the hours of direct care for each long-term care resident to an average of four hours per day. This commitment will make Ontario the leader among Canadian provinces in the provision of care for long-term care residents.

More updates from the Province of Ontario.

Government of Canada Updates

Minister Ng Announces New Measures to Help Canadian Small Businesses Access Global Markets Amid COVID-19

The Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, announced new actions to help Canadian businesses grow while navigating the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic in the global marketplace.

Government of Canada Announces New Mandatory Requirements for Travellers to Canada

As part of Canada’s efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, all travellers are required to provide specific information upon and after entry into Canada. This includes requirements to provide a quarantine plan and contact and travel information. The Government of Canada introduced ArriveCAN in April 2020 to create a secure and user-friendly way to help travellers comply with these border measures. ArriveCAN is available as a mobile app or by signing in online. Today, the Government of Canada announced new mandatory requirements for travellers to Canada.

Government Introduces Legislation for New, Targeted Support to Help Businesses Through Pandemic

The government is taking targeted action to support Canadians and Canadian businesses, non-profits and charities that continue to face uncertainty and economic challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, introduced Bill C-9, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy and Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy), which would implement new, targeted support to help hard-hit businesses. These measures are designed to help businesses get through the second wave of the virus so they can protect jobs, continue to serve their communities, and be positioned for a strong recovery.

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:

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 (The City is only accepting 311 requests through phone)

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

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 or to You can also call their non-emergency line at 416-808-2222. 

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