During the winter of 2017, Toronto's shelter system was in crisis due to years of under-investment. Each night we have over 6,000 individuals sleeping outside or in our shelter system, and the number is growing. Those working directly in the shelter system and on the streets have been telling City Council for years that we need more shelter beds. This crisis was real, as more people are dying on our streets in the cold of winter.
Through significant, on-going advocacy efforts from front-line workers, service users, faith leaders, and health care workers, we led the charge at City Hall to successfully pass a motion that would allow the funding for an immediate investment into 1,000 shelter beds to be made available in the 2018 Budget. This was an increase from the Budget Committee recommendations, which only approved the opening of 121 new shelter beds this year.
This small win did not come easy. Housing advocates and front-line service providers spent months fighting tooth and nail, after an earlier version of the motion failed on the floor of Council in December 2017. A deadly winter and mounting public pressure forced City Council and the Mayor to include an immediate investment into 1,000 shelter beds through the 2018 Budget process.
This was an important step as the City looks at expanding and improving its shelter system. Further work will need to be done over the next few months and years to ensure that we are building the foundation to create a system that adequately responds to the needs of our residents and looks toward a city where housing is accessible for everyone.
Beyond the improvement in shelter beds, the data also supports a chronic need for more permanent subsidized housing. Shelters are important but people also have the right to more stable living conditions. We call on the City and its partners to look at a breadth of potential solutions to increase access to the widest options of supportive, transitional and affordable housing.
- Toronto homeless advocates say city's plans not enough to address shelter crisis, CBC News, February 6, 2018
- John Tory's dangerous shelter shell game, NOW Magazine, December 13, 2017
- Calls for shelter standards intensify as 'shocking' conditions highlighted for city council, CBC News, January 17, 2018
- Toronto faith leaders urge city to call shelter emergency, open 400 beds, CBC News, November 28, 2017
- John Tory's fairy tale budget shortchanges the homeless, NOW Magazine, February 21, 2018