Joint letter from community-based orgs & workers: Toronto needs urgent investments in community-based supports to ensure a safer, livable, healthy, and equitable city

Social Planning Toronto drafted a joint letter calling on the Mayor and City Council to immediately invest in urgent community services in the 2023 City Budget. We reached out to community-based organizations and workers to sign on to the letter, as individuals and as organizations. On February 15th the signed letter was emailed to Council members and presented at the Have a Heart City Budget Rally outside of Toronto City Hall.

Mayor John Tory and City Councillors,

We, 53 organizations and 324 workers, working across multiple sectors and neighbourhoods in Toronto, urge you to listen to the tens of thousands of Toronto residents, doctors, community groups, and advocates who are calling for a better city for all and a better budget that will get us there. 

So many people are feeling a sense of desperation as they try to live out their lives in this city with dignity. So many have urged you to address the multiple and urgent crises facing us — homelessness, unaffordable housing, food insecurity and poverty, violence in all its forms, opioid poisoning, and a climate emergency. And so many have pleaded with you to prioritize those most impacted by the pandemic and inequitable systems, whose lives are at risk right now. Torontonians are feeling like you are not listening. 

What we see is a budget that prioritizes policing and security over the services, supports and good jobs that we know increase community safety, health, and wellbeing. It’s not too late to make better choices to build the city we desperately need.

Many of our community partners have been ringing the alarm bells on this year’s budget. We join them in their calls for increased funding for supports for unhoused individuals; the creation of new affordable housing; renter protections; expansion of community crisis response pilot projects; increased funding for and access to public transit (including a stop to TTC cuts). 

As community-based organizations, advocates, and workers, we also call on you to support funding for urgent community needs in this year’s budget:

  1. Increase investments in urgently needed community services.
  2. Take immediate action to prevent homeless deaths and invest in measures to reduce homelessness
  3. Take critical action to prevent and address poverty, inequality, and systemic injustice

1. Increase investments in urgently needed community services

Frontline agencies delivering community services, including those supported by the Community Partnership Investment Program (CPIP), are the City’s best resource for providing local solutions to critical challenges — increasing safety and well-being, preventing violence, keeping people housed, addressing poverty, increasing social cohesion, and enabling access to critical services and vaccines throughout the pandemic. CPIP funding supports organizations to deliver services that connect communities and make our neighbourhoods safer and more livable by supporting newcomers, youth, seniors, families, low-income individuals, racialized communities, and underhoused residents. In a time of crisis, we need to boost the resources of local community agencies, and the supports they provide, not diminish them.

The budget freeze for nonprofits is especially detrimental to a sector that has stepped up in the pandemic, but is dealing with increased service demands while also struggling with staff burnout, inflationary costs, and funding envelopes that aren’t enough to pay living wages to many of its workers. 

We call for:

  1. An inflationary increase of 6.6% for all community agencies that receive funding from the City of Toronto, including through CPIP, Toronto Arts Council, Shelter Support and Housing Administration, and others; 
  2. An overall increase to CPIP funding to address the chronic underfunding of community services and expand support for Indigenous-led and Black-mandated organizations and resident leadership initiatives; 
  3. An increase in funding for community groups focused on violence prevention and alternative, community-based solutions to address violence, including expanding the community crisis response pilots; and
  4. An increase in funding for harm reduction programs, including support for the outreach overdose team and mobile supervised consumption service.

2. Take immediate action to prevent homeless deaths and invest in measures to reduce homelessness

Hundreds of residents and organizations from across sectors including community organizations, faith leaders and health care professionals, are deeply concerned about the failure of this budget to respond to our most immediate and urgent crisis — the homelessness crisis. Our shelter system is over capacity and shelter workers must turn people away every night in the winter, while homeless deaths continue to increase at an alarming rate. This past week, Toronto City Council voted against opening warming centres 24/7 that would allow unhoused people a safe, warm place to stay through the winter, despite the Ontario Human Rights Commission reminding the City  of this basic responsibility. 

We must take significant steps to prevent further homelessness, protect renters, increase grants and RGI subsidies for low-income residents, and build upon initiatives that can rapidly create new affordable housing options.

We call for:

  1. 24/7 indoor warming locations open until April 2023, including warming centres provided by the City of Toronto and by community organizations and faith-based groups, that would provide low-barrier, walk-in access to people in need of a safe place to spend the night; 
  2. Increased funding for Toronto’s 50+ drop-in centres — operated by community organizations that are the backbone of the homelessness support and service sector;
  3. Protections for renters and prevention of homelessness by significantly increasing funds for the successful Eviction Prevention in the Community (EPIC) and Rent Bank grants to adequately match the level of need in communities (in 2023, EPIC will only help 1,200 households and the Rent Bank will only help 2,400); and
  4. Increased Rent-Geared-to-Income subsidies to make a significant reduction to the more-than 81,000 households that are on the social housing waiting list, with an average wait time from 8 to 15 years. The draft budget proposes less than a 1% increase to its RGI subsidy program over the 2022 target.

3. Take critical action to prevent and address poverty, inequality, and systemic injustice

Every level of government has a role to play in reducing poverty and addressing inequality and injustice. Toronto City Council took a significant step forward in 2016 when it approved the poverty reduction strategy. We have also seen other important equity strategies and priorities brought forward such as the Confronting Anti-Black Racism Strategy (CABR), Newcomer Strategy, Youth Equity Strategy, and this year we expect to see the City’s first Gender Equity Strategy. These strategies all require resources to ensure successful outcomes.

Last year, the City introduced its first Reconciliation Action Plan. This is an important step on the path to reconciliation, but without funding and appropriate staffing, Toronto will fall behind on its commitments.

We call for:

  1. Increased investments in the Poverty Reduction Strategy, including fully funding and implementing the Fair Pass program;
  2. Full funding and implementation of critical equity strategies, including CABR, newcomer, youth, seniors and other equity initiatives;
  3. Increased resources for the Gender Equity Office to finalize the City’s first Gender Equity Strategy and implementation plan; and
  4. Full funding and appropriate staffing to fully implement the City’s Reconciliation Action Plan.

We know that the City of Toronto is limited in its financial resources, and so we are pleased to see that there is an openness to create a sustainable long-term financial plan that will increase the options for revenue generation. While we await staff reports and consider the longer-term options, we urge you to maximize existing revenue tools in the short-term, including an increase to the Municipal Land Transfer Tax rates for luxury homes and increasing the Vacant Homes Tax to 5% as the City of Vancouver has done. 

Finally, we echo our calls from 2022 for a more transparent and democratic budget process. This year’s budget process involved the shortest timelines we have seen in recent years, making it challenging for the public to provide informed input for the City Council’s budget decisions. Given what is at stake, it is crucial for residents to meaningfully engage in the budget process.

We call for the Mayor and City Council to:

  1. Determine budget needs before setting the tax-supported budget;  
  2. Align budget documents with plans, strategies, and commitments for transparency;  
  3. Implement a renewed and improved equity-responsive budgeting process, strengthen the inclusion of community voices to inform equity analyses and budget decisions, and apply a strong intersectional gender equity approach
  4. Meaningfully assess the impacts of budget decisions on Indigenous communities and groups across all divisions; and
  5. Allow residents and communities to shape the budget from the planning stage to the final vote at Council, including those most impacted by inequitable systems and policies and those that work with them.

We can do better. We all need and deserve better. Lives are at stake. We are counting on you. Please listen to communities and make better choices that will work for all of us.



  1. Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services
  2. Agincourt Community Services Association
  3. Assaulted Women's Helpline
  4. Bangladeshi-Canadian Community Services
  5. BGC East Scarborough (formally:  Boys & Girls Club of East Scarborough)
  6. Birchmount Bluffs Neighbourhood Centre
  7. Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture
  8. Centre for Immigrant and Community Services
  9. Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter
  10. College-Montrose Children's Place
  11. Council of Agencies Serving South Asians
  12. Daily Bread Food Bank
  13. Davenport Perth Neighbourhood & Community Health Centre
  14. Dispossessed Disabled Artists Demanding Housing
  15. Elspeth Heyworth Centre for Women
  16. Engaged Communities
  17. Etobicoke Services for Seniors
  18. Family Service Toronto
  19. Findhelp | 211 Central
  20. Fontbonne Ministries
  21. For Youth Initiative
  22. Good Jobs For All Coalition
  23. Homeless Connect Toronto
  24. Homes First Society
  25. Jane/Finch Community and Family Centre
  26. John Howard Society of Toronto
  27. LAMP Community Health Centre
  28. Native Child and Family Services of Toronto
  29. North Etobicoke Resident Council (NERC)
  30. North York Harvest Food Bank
  31. North York Women's Centre
  32. Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre (PARC)
  33. Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre
  34. Plasticfree Toronto
  35. Progress Toronto
  36. Ralph Thornton Community Centre
  37. Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities
  38. Settlement Assistance and Family Support Services
  39. Social Planning Toronto
  40. South Asian Women's Rights Organization
  41. St. Felix Centre
  42. Strides Toronto
  43. Sunshine Centres for Seniors
  44. TNG Community Services
  45. Toronto & York Region Labour Council
  46. Toronto Community Benefits Network
  47. Toronto Drop in Network
  48. Toronto Neighbourhood Centres
  49. TTCriders
  50. Unison Health and Community Services
  51. Volunteer Toronto
  52. West Neighbourhood House
  53. YouthLink


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  174. Kevin Thomson
  175. Kevin Wong
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  206. Maira Botelho Perotto
  207. Manuela Correa Escobar 4
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  214. MaryAnne Boyle
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  216. Matthew Paul
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  242. Nicolette Felix
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  244. Olivia Sonnenberg
  245. Omar Khan
  246. Paige F. 
  247. Pallavi Suresan   
  248. Pamela Tabobondung-Washington
  249. Patricia Mueller
  250. Patrick Wong
  251. Paul Clifford
  252. Qazi Shafayetul Islam
  253. Rachel Kennedy
  254. Racquel Saunders
  255. Rahul Balasundaram
  256. Randi Ann Doll
  257. Randy Budd
  258. Rebecca Hall
  259. Rebecca Leenhouts
  260. Rebecca Wood
  261. Rejwan Karim
  262. Richard Fullerton
  263. Rob Howarth
  264. Rosary Spence
  265. Rose Bright
  266. Rosemary Powell
  267. Rozina Bhuiyan
  268. Ruka Watanabe
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  271. Sabine Saroyan
  272. Safia Abbadi
  273. Samah Nimir
  274. Samantha Fawns-Thistle
  275. Samya Hasan
  276. Sara Rocha
  277. Sara Wilson
  278. Sarah Di Stefano
  279. Sarah Hea
  280. Sarah James
  281. Sarah Munro
  282. Scott Leone
  283. Serena Nudel
  284. Shaneeza Nazseer Ally
  285. Shannon Wooller
  286. Sharmishta Anand 
  287. Sharon Kelly       
  288. Sharon Zeiler
  289. Sheila Masters
  290. Shelagh Pizey-Allen
  291. Sherrie Casey
  292. Sherry Clemens
  293. Simran Kaur
  294. Siobhan Mccarthy
  295. Skarlet Martinez
  296. Sofia Francisco
  297. Sofiya Chorniy
  298. Sree D. Nallamothu
  299. Sudip Minhas
  300. Sultana Jahangir
  301. Sunder Singh
  302. Susan Bender
  303. Susan McMurray
  304. Susy Glass
  305. Suzan Tahair
  306. Tanya Rintoul
  307. Teiya Kasahara
  308. Terry Ellis
  309. Thandy Younge
  310. Tim Trant
  311. Tricia Williams
  312. Trisha Rolfe
  313. Troy Budhu
  314. Tysa Harris
  315. Utcha Sawyers
  316. Valerie Kerr
  317. Vanessa Sears
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  322. Wesley Fung
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  324. Zoe Collins


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