Activist protests potential cuts to Bellwoods shelter

An anti-poverty activist believes Toronto’s budget cuts will hurt homeless and poor women most.

Bellwoods House is a transitional house located near Bathurst and Queen streets. As a long-term shelter for women over the age 50, it accommodates up to 10 residents at a time. It assists women who are victims of violence, those dealing with long-term homelessness or a history of trauma and mental health issues.

Lindsay Winthager is a member of Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP). She has expressed frustration over the news that Toronto may cut its assistance to agencies such as Bellwoods.

“The budget (cuts) will worsen homelessness and poverty,” Winthager said. “There is in the City of Toronto a severe lack of affordable, safe and supportive housing. Those who are already marginalized due to mental health issues have less access and often spend years within the shelter system without proper access to appropriate housing.”

Winthager encouraged city budget officials to review the issue and recognize that Bellwoods is unique because it has staff on site 24 hours a day.

According to the City of Toronto website, there are only two other women residences in Toronto.

Harmy Mendoza is executive director of the Woman Abuse Council of Toronto. She said Bellwoods’ services help women recover from abuse.

“I can’t stress enough on how important it is for woman to be able to receive that particular support because usually it provides a comprehensive service,” Mendoza said.

Bellwoods costs the city approximately $250,000 in the current budget. The Province of Ontario also supports the facility with a current grant of $80,000.

If proposed budget cuts go through, the house could close in the next three to four months, but Toronto Coun. Mike Layton has a plan to save the house.

“I’ll send a request to the other councillors at City Hall, recommending or offering to host a meeting with some of the folks that live at Bellwoods,” he said. “Then we’ll just encourage people to reach out to the mayor and … other councillors and try to change their minds.”

Layton said he will also look for alternative sources of funding.