homeless shelters press conference

Anti-poverty group calls on government to fix shelter issues

Press conference at City Hall reports on visits to winter respite centres

An anti-poverty activist group is calling on the city, province and federal government to solve the crisis in Toronto’s homeless shelters.

The existing sites are overcrowded, have no privacy and safety, and are impacted by violence, said psychiatrist Michaela Beder, a member of Health Providers Against Poverty (HPAP), at a press conference on Jan. 31 at city hall.

Also the people who live there don’t get enough sleep, she said.

HPAP released a report on the state of the winter respite centres after visiting eight sites.

“There are people living in these environments who are vulnerable, who can’t look after their mental health and physical health and can’t cope in a situation where they have to look after their basic hygiene,” Beder said.

“We call on the city, we call on the province, we call on the Federal Government to act immediately, thank you,” she said.

Beder said there should have been a minimum of two sheets, one blanket, one towel, pillow and one pillow case for each bed. None of the locations had this. Centres were also missing lockers for people to store their medication.

Also expressing concern was singer-songwriter Feist who said she felt very bad and didn’t want to see her hometown suffer. She said she’s there to do whatever she can to support the homeless.

Among other speakers was Ward 27 councillor Kristyn-Wong Tam, who said she was a huge advocate for the shelter system in which she is trying to improve services throughout the winter. She said the meeting was mainly  to support the work of the Health Providers Against Poverty and their findings.

The HPAP made a visit starting in mid December to eight of Toronto’s winter respite centres and two 24-hour drop-in centres for women and transgenders. The visits went on for a month.

The HPAP has asked the city to assure that 1,000 beds and cots with mattresses would be open all year to meet the basic standards. They also expect for shelters to have 1,500 beds by 2019.

To see the rest of the findings and recommendations go to HPAP’s website.