Toronto’s winter plan to increase spaces for homeless

Additional beds to be added in shelters to help people who have no place to stay this winter

Space for the homeless
The city is planning to increase spaces for the homeless during the winter months. Photo courtesy Colin Perkel

In response to the pandemic, the city has launched part of its Interim Shelter Recovery and Infrastructure Implementation Plan to protect people in need during the cold season.

“We are doing everything we can as a city government to help our most vulnerable residents,” Mayor John Tory said in a statement released by the city. “The winter services plan will start earlier this year to ensure we have the space and resources we need to act quickly once the cold weather hits.”

The city will be adding and setting up more than 560 new spaces and shelters, and all warming centres will be provided with space during extreme cold weather alerts.

Spaces to be added during this year include 100 24-hour respite site space in the Better Living Centre at Exhibition Place, 150 beds in hotel programs and 90 hotel beds as a replacement for the Out of the Cold program.

However, despite the effort the city is making, several organizations and shelters charge these measures are not enough.

“Shelters are not seeing a robust response to a sudden but not entirely unexpected surge of refugee claimants coming to Canada as of early September,” said Rufat Alaskarov, program manager at Adam Houses. “I hope there is a serious plan to deal with these numbers if people continue to arrive.”

Demand is high

Although Toronto is the city with the largest shelter system in Canada, this does not compensate for the number of refugees coming to the city each year. According to Macrotrends, Canada refugee statistics for 2020 was 109,264, a 7.38 per cent increase from 2019.

“The demand currently is very high, we are getting phone calls every day but are full and unable to accommodate everyone,” Alaskarov said. “The situation is similar at other refugee shelters.”

Some refugees centres claim new affordable and supportive housing is urgently needed to ensure everyone has a warm place.

“In order for the city to tackle the issue of homelessness, we need to have more social housing” said Tsering Lhamo, housing progam coordinator at FCJ Refugee Centre. “Currently, there is roughly around 80,000 household on the waiting list for subsidized housing.”

The city also plans to implement about 220 new supportive housing units.

“Housing Now is a key component of the City’s HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan and is central to enabling the City to meet its target of creating 40,000 new affordable rental homes, including 18,000 supportive homes, by 2030,” according to a city press release.

“We work to make sure Toronto comes back stronger than ever in the wake of the pandemic,” Tory said. “Addressing the supply of affordable housing will top of my priority list as mayor.”

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Posted: Nov 2 2021 7:14 pm
Filed under: News