Homeless debate sparks City Council outburst

It started out as just another Toronto City Council meeting this morning and with the mercury outside well below freezing tempers were running hot over the struggles of Toronto’s homeless population.

Tempers flared after councillor Adam Vaughan (Ward 20) challenged recent public statements by Mayor Rob Ford, who said recently that Toronto had enough shelter spaces for its homeless population.

In a motion to have City Council debate the need for more emergency shelter beds, Vaughan urged council that, with the biting winds of February, now was the time to act.

“We have a situation emerging on city streets which is extraordinarily serious… in some cases it is tragic beyond belief. As you know the shelter system in this city is packed,” Vaughan said.

Vaughan cited one shelter on Peter Street that is presently running at twice its capacity. The shelter which is only supposed to house approximately 30 people was faced with 70.

“They were actually evicting people in the midst of one of the coldest winters we have had in a long time and sending them to fellow churches to be fed,” Vaughan said.

Vaughn’s motion however met with mixed reviews from some of his fellow councillors, and the motion eventually went down to defeat by a vote of 24-20.

Following council’s decision, a delegation from OCAP (Ontario Collation Against Poverty), who had earlier gathered in the public gallery, exploded in anger, shouting out “no more homeless deaths.”

Richard Dalton, a supporter of OCAP, joined in the loud protest, challenging city councillors to venture out and see for themselves the harsh world of Toronto’s street population.

“We are actually down there (on Peter Street),” he said.

“Seriously, take five minutes out of your day and go down there, don’t wait for a goddamn envelope to hit your desk,” said Dalton.

“I doubt (councillors) are getting the message or not,”said another protestor pointing down to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. “Look he’s smiling,” the protestor said.

Other protestors yelled out to council: “You are refusing to house people, you are refusing to open up shelters.

“We are going to do it;  we won’t let more of our people die.”

OCAP  has said if nothing is done to alleviate the misery of the homeless before March 7 the group  will turn Metro Hall into temporary shelter.

Councillors who voted against the motion, such as Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, replied: “There are more beds then ever before. This crying wolf isn’t the thing to do it will be dealt with in the proper way.”