Archive for 'SPT News'
Posted on 02. Apr, 2013 by Beth.
To date, over 1,400 Toronto residents have signed a petition urging City Council to open emergency shelter space in response to overcrowding and homeless deaths in the city. Residents have added their voices to the forty community and labour organizations that signed an open letter to members of City Council asking for additional emergency shelter space to meet the need in the community. As well, results from a short survey of 13 organizations operating 16 homeless shelters in Toronto found similar support for the opening of emergency shelter space in response to a lack of available beds in the shelter system.
Toronto City Council will consider the issue at its April 3/4 meeting this week.
The petition was launched by Social Planning Toronto and partner organizations through the Together Toronto website at www.togethertoronto.ca.
The open letter can be found here.
Social Planning Toronto conducted the short survey. Preliminary results can be found here.
For more information: Beth Wilson, Senior Researcher, Social Planning Toronto at email@example.com or (416) 351-0095 x257.
Posted on 07. Mar, 2013 by Beth.
At the end of February 2013, Social Planning Toronto initiated a short survey to better understand the experiences and perspectives of Toronto shelter providers regarding access to shelter for people who are homeless. We have contacted 55 shelters from the City of Toronto’s website.
This bulletin provides preliminary results from 12 community organizations operating 15 shelters, including 10 emergency shelters, 3 violence against women (VAW) shelters, 1 transitional shelter, and 1 out of the cold program. Participating shelters included those operating in the downtown core and the inner suburbs.
Shelters serve single men (3), single women (3), singles and couples with pets (1), single women and youth (1), women and children (4), refugees (1), all adults (1), single youth (1).
On Saturday, February 9:
• 10 out of 15 shelters were full with no available beds
• 5 shelters had between 1-2 beds available each
On Saturday, February 16, the City of Toronto declared an extreme cold weather alert. During an extreme cold weather alert, an additional 172 beds are added to the shelter system.
On Saturday, February 16:
• regular beds in 11 out of 15 shelters were full
• 4 shelters had 1-2 regular beds available each
• 6 shelters opened extra beds in response to the extreme cold weather alert
• extra beds in 2 of these shelters were full
• extra beds in 4 of these shelters were available – 1-9 beds depending on shelter
In the past month, all shelters had to turn people away at least some of the time because they were full.
Shelter staff either found people another shelter with a free bed (or mat) or referred people to the Peter Street Assessment and Referral Centre. Six shelter providers mentioned referring people to the Peter Street location specifically. Most respondents mentioned providing a token for transportation. Some shelter providers also mentioned providing food, support, phone and facility access while people waited to access another shelter. One VAW shelter said that they never turn a woman away during extreme cold weather alerts regardless of whether she meets the criteria for admission.
Should the City of Toronto Open Emergency Shelter Space?
• 8 organizations said yes, additional emergency shelter space is needed
• 2 said what we really need is supportive and affordable housing, but additional emergency shelter space would alleviate immediate need
• 1 said if other shelters are as full as their shelter, then yes, additional emergency shelter space is needed
• 1 said no, what we need is to end homelessness
• All respondents identified the urgent need for affordable and supportive housing
Quotes from Shelter Providers
“If other shelters are not available, no special circumstances beds are available, then the person is sent to 129 Peter Street.”
“Ninety women were turned away [in the past month] due to lack of space, and referred to the Assessment and Referral Centre [Peter Street].”
“Generally we send people away every night … and refer out.”
“We run at 100% capacity, year round. If all shelters are in the same situation, more beds are needed in the system. I know that some of our ‘regulars’ move into the Out of the Cold in the winter, but it has no effect on our occupancy. It stays at 100%.”
“What the city needs to do is ensure that no Toronto resident is homeless. People are not choosing to be homeless. This city needs to take a more proactive response to homelessness. No one can afford housing in this city and they certainly cannot afford it on the funds [from] OW and/or ODSP…the working poor cannot afford the rents in this city.”
“Supportive housing would be a better option, but we would not say no to additional beds.”
“Our experience is that there is a need for single beds for women – particularly adult women.”
“Additional beds are needed in the youth sector due to the closing of one of the shelters in the Fall of 2012. There are days when there is no capacity at all and there are days when we are able to accommodate. I understand based on overall numbers, there is capacity in the youth sector to address demand but there are times when we wish more spaces were available.”
“Yes I agree that the City should open more emergency beds, particularly in the youth sector.”
“It appears that way [need for additional shelter space] since making referrals to other shelters is difficult. With the exception of [one men’s shelter], no one else has space available.”
“Except here, there is nowhere to refer people who have pets or people with physical disabilities, i.e. people who need a wheelchair.”
PDF Version here
Posted on 06. Mar, 2013 by Beth.
On Wednesday, March 6, thirty-four community groups, including shelter providers, drop-ins, faith-based groups, community, social service, labour, women’s, youth and seniors organizations from across Toronto, came together to urge Toronto City Council to open emergency shelter space in response to overcrowding in the shelter system and homeless deaths. (We’re up to 40 signing organizations since the release of the open letter.)
Open Letter Urging Toronto City Council to Take Immediate Action to Save the Lives of People Who are Homeless by Opening Emergency Shelter Space
Sadly, Luana Rizzo was the most recent person to have her name added to Toronto’s Homeless Memorial, marking more than 700 people that we know of to die in our city as a result of homelessness since 1985. Thirty-four homeless people died in Toronto in 2012, representing the highest number in five years. Another eight people have died this year alone. People are crowded into Toronto’s emergency shelter system with the City’s own statistics showing 96% average occupancy, and many reports of people being unable to find a shelter bed. As well, in recent years annual shelter occupancy rates for women’s, men’s and co-ed shelters have ranged from 92-99%. In February, at the Streets to Homes Assessment and Referral Centre on Peter Street, media photos show people sleeping in chairs. Beds are full in this facility that was never intended to be an emergency shelter.
Overcrowding in shelters presents serious health risks, including transfer of communicable diseases. It undermines safety and security, and contributes to stress and conflict. More people will inevitably opt for sleeping in parks, ravines and other hidden corners of the city rather than face the risks of overcrowded shelters.
Ultimately, we need all orders of government to invest in a national long-term affordable housing strategy that ensures access to safe, decent and affordable housing for all. But today we are far from that goal, and require urgent action to respond to the critical needs of people who are homeless in our city.
While some Councillors have expressed great concern and a desire to respond, City Council as a whole has yet to recognize an urgency to act.
It wasn’t always this way. In 1999, facing a crisis of overcrowding in the emergency shelter system, Toronto City Council unanimously adopted the “Status Report on Capacity of the Emergency Shelter System”. Through this report, Council established an objective of a monthly shelter occupancy level of no more than 90%, as recommended by City staff. City Council recognized that shelter users would be living in stressful, overcrowded conditions at occupancy levels above 90%, and that the emergency shelter system required a degree of flexibility to respond to critical need. In response to overcrowding, Council opened a temporary shelter in Metro Hall, and then in the Fort York Armoury.
In 2001, City Council “reaffirm(ed) its commitment to maintaining a maximum 90 percent occupancy rate in the emergency shelter system as established by City Council in June 1999″. In 2002, Council reiterated its 90% occupancy goal in the Multi-Year Shelter Strategy for the City of Toronto. Over a decade ago, City Council had the wisdom to set this direction so that the shelter system could be responsive to the critical needs of people who are homeless.
It is time for City Council to return to its commitment to maintaining shelter occupancy at 90%. There is an urgent need to open additional shelter space to reduce the pressure on the system, improve its responsiveness, and ensure that no one is left out in the cold. It will be important for Council to understand all populations that are in need, such as women, men, youth and families, and to recognize the unique needs of these groups in providing shelter. We urge City Council to call an emergency meeting and take action to provide this basic survival support for our neighbours in need.
Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO)
Agincourt Community Services Association
Alliance for a Poverty-Free Toronto
Canadian Pensioners Concerned
Central Neighbourhood House
Community Action Resource Centre
Eglinton St. George’s United Church
Elizabeth Fry Society
Housing Action Now
Human Rights Centre of Turkmenistan-Iran (Turkmen Sahra) in Canada
Jewish Child & Family
Kensington Bellwoods Community Legal Services
LAMP Community Health Centre
Lazarus Rising Ministry
Metropolitan United Church
MultiFaith Alliance to End Homelessness
Parkdale Community Legal Services
Social Planning Toronto
Society of Saint Vincent de Paul Toronto Central Council (Amelie House, Elisa House, Mary’s Home, St. Clare’s Residence)
St. Stephen’s Community House
Tenants for Social Housing
The Parkdale Activity – Recreation Centre (PARC)
Toronto HIV/AIDS Network
Toronto Drop-In Network
Toronto Raging Grannies
Universal Union of Canadian Turkmen Community Centre
VHA Home HealthCare
Warden Woods Community Centre
• Sarah Blackstock
Director of Advocacy and Communications
Tel: (416) 961-8101 x350
Cell: (416) 892-6845
• Linsey MacPhee
Toronto Drop-In Network
Cell: (416) 824-4172
• Mark Aston
Tel: (416) 364-8228 x310
• Beth Wilson
Social Planning Toronto
Tel: (416) 351-0095 x257
Posted on 22. Feb, 2013 by Mary.
Social Planning Toronto
2013 Frances Lankin
Community Services Award
Social Planning Toronto is pleased to announce that the Frances Lankin Community Service Awards for 2013 will be presented to Rob Howarth, and posthumously to Colin Hughes and Charlotte Maher…
Posted on 20. Feb, 2013 by Mary.