Toronto's shelter system appears to be under heavy pressure as total occupancy for single individuals passed 98% for men and 99% for women, according to the City of Toronto's daily updated shelter tracker.
Interestingly, while single spaces for single men and women remained unanimously packed across the board, family spaces in motels had over 300 free spaces.
The overall occupancy levels along with videos highlighting deteriorating services in the city's shelters have led some housing advocates to openly state Toronto is facing a growing housing and shelter crisis for the city’s homeless population.
Since 2015, the average nightly number of people served in Toronto increased from 4095 to 6702. In that time frame, the city's worst off have been hammered by increasing rents, stagnating wages, and service competition with thousands of asylum seekers who have entered the system and now take up roughly 40% of shelter spaces.
This lack of space is rather horrific when you factor in that on cold nights in February, the temperature in Canada can drop below -30, where a person could have frostbite within minutes. In fact, eight individuals died outside in Toronto during 2017, with hundreds brought in to the emergency room.
With shelter spaces extremely limited and conditions deteriorating many are calling for all levels of government to get involved.
Jody Steinhauer, executive director of Project Winter Survival, says this year has seen the largest number of requests for survival kits since the last 20 years ago.
She says more than 21,000 kits have been requested. representing a 60 per cent increase from last year.
Jody is not alone in noticing the serious problems facing Toronto's homeless.
In January 2018, Health Providers Against Poverty (HPAP) released an investigative report exposing the appalling conditions within Toronto shelter spaces. The group visited 10 centres, and not a single one met Toronto’s official shelter standards
Governments though, for the most part, appear to be applying band-aid solutions.
The federal government, for example, has only provided a small portion of the aid requested by provincial governments to deal with the spiking need for social services as a result of the Quebec border crossings.
For example, while the PM has provided $140 million of the $300 million requested to Quebec, Ontario has only received $50 million to share with two other provinces.
While it is fair to point out that a unanimous majority of those coming into Canada are doing so through Quebec, in the long term most will move out to provinces such as Ontario.
Ontario requested nearly $200 million.
This clear lack of funding in contrast to Quebec has now led to a serious shelter crunch, forcing some advocates to call on Toronto city council to declare a homelessness state of emergency.
"We are experiencing a housing crisis and homelessness crisis that requires immediate emergency attention," Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam said at a press conference at city hall Tuesday morning.
"We have people living under The Gardiner, living in the ravines, living in the parks."
While this petition is interesting, Mayor Tory has already rejected it, and with good reason.
The lion's share of decision making for this file lies with the provincial and federal governments.
The municipalities are already being pushed to the brink, and in some bizarre mix-up, it appears the federal and provincial governments are willing to abdicate their responsibility instead of openly negotiating a deal which can both address the border crisis adding pressure to our system, and the lack of funds directly harming those already here.
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