Toronto’s latest hotel program, Pathway Inside, is moving many of its homeless residents into hotel spaces provided and run by the city.
In a press release on March 16, officials promoted the program which primarily focuses on people living in four of the city’s largest encampments. Those currently residing in Lamport Stadium, Alexander Park, Moss Park and Trinity Bellwoods will be offered temporary indoor living spaces in hotels while they search for permanent housing.
Officials say there are now enough rooms to move every resident away from these encampments and into safer indoor housing.
“It is an essential building block in our efforts to ensure that everyone in our City has a warm and secure place to live,” Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson said.
Although the program is set to help many transition into permanent housing, residents are pointing out that many homeless people were left without assistance during far colder, more desperate times.
Earlier this year, the city came under media scrutiny for legal actions taken against Khaleel Seivwright, a carpenter who built insulated “tiny shelters” for the homeless.
People migrated to Toronto parks because of the lack of safety they felt in homeless shelters since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Seivwright was celebrated for his efforts but the government issued a legal injunction after previous warnings for him to stop building on park grounds.
“The money the city is spending to attack me could be put into safe housing for those that need it,” Seivwright said.
Officials might have taken note of Seivwright’s suggestions as they now plan to address Toronto’s growing homeless situation.
Pathway Inside launched in february with 250 rooms available. People who have shown interest in receiving assistance will be transitioned to 45 The Esplanade and other hotel programs by April, but many are skeptical because of the failures of similar programs.
According to a press release, the new program focuses not only on housing and securing employment, but on the mental well-being of residents as well. City officials say they’ve worked on understanding the homeless community’s needs.
“The greatness of a city depends largely on its commitment to the long-term well-being of its least fortunate residents,” Thompson said. “Pathway Inside is designed to provide comfortable spaces for people experiencing homelessness along with the extensive supports they need to remain safe and healthy.”
On the other hand, many encampment residents believe this is just another empty promise from the city. A familiar face of Trinity Bellwoods known as J The Letter, along with many others are fighting to stay in the parks.
“They give us three options: shelter, a respite and a hotel program,” he said. “All those options are not good enough. We deserve better options. We deserve affordable housing.”
Encampment residents and ESN (Encampment Support Network) held a press conference on Apr. 21 to address recent trespass notices issued by the government.
In the past year, Toronto opened 220 affordable homes for people who are homeless but thousands more are left without help. The city’s Action Plan promises to create 40,000 affordable homes by 2030.