Canada Toronto considers opening armoury to house homeless

03:35  04 january  2018
03:35  04 january  2018 Source:

Toronto’s homeless are in crisis, open the armouries now and save lives

  Toronto’s homeless are in crisis, open the armouries now and save lives Toronto’s homeless are in crisis, open the armouries now and save livesIt is freezing in here. She closes her eyes, trying to shut out the noise, the cold, and the horror of having to be here. A man tries to make his way through the mats, (there are no aisles between them). He stumbles and kicks her as he passes. It looks as though he may fall upon the other people, huddled where his feet are trying to walk.

(Steve Russell / Toronto Star). “It is clear that it is going to be a long time until we see new housing allocated and built,” or for more city shelters to open , Crowe told the Cathy Crowe wants the city to open up the armouries to provide emergency shelter to the homeless during the frigid winter months.

The executive director of Covenant House Toronto , an agency for homeless youth, said more shelter space isn’t the solution for getting people off the street. Mayor Tory says shelter system can accommodate homeless without opening armouries .

Toronto is revisiting a shelved proposal to use a federal armoury to cope with unprecedented demand on its homeless shelter system, the city's mayor said Wednesday.

John Tory and members of council had rejected a motion to open the Moss Park Armoury to the homeless last month, weeks before an extended cold snap gripped the city and dramatically increased demand for shelter spaces.

As temperatures dropped to around -20 C for several nights and thousands of residents signed a petition calling on Tory to revisit the armoury proposal, the mayor initially said other city-owned properties presented better options.

Convicted TTC officers deserve jail time, says Crown

  Convicted TTC officers deserve jail time, says Crown The Crown is seeking jail time for three former TTC enforcement officers convicted of writing fraudulent tickets to homeless people as part of a scheme to skip out on work. At an Ontario Court of Justice hearing at the College Park courthouse Tuesday, Crown Attorney Derek Ishak asked the judge to sentence the three men to time behind bars for their “repeated, flagrant, and knowing breach of trust.”He argued jail time was necessary to send a message to the public and other similar officers that the former transit cops’ behaviour wouldn’t be tolerated. He said TTC officers were akin to police and therefore their violation of public trust was particularly serious.

Toronto is scrambling to open more homeless shelter spots including at the previously-rejected Moss Park Armoury . The city is also pointing to a crisis in mental health supports and affordable housing , and also to an influx of refugees, for the spiking demand in shelter space.

Ottawa has given the city permission to use the Moss Park Armoury as a winter respite centre for the next two weeks. But the temporary homeless shelter won’t be ready to open until next week — after the weather warms up.

Tory reversed course on Wednesday. He said the city was in talks with Ottawa to turn the Moss Park Armoury into a seventh winter respite site, a temporary shelter opened up during cold months.

Much rests on whether the facility can be available 24 hours a day, said the mayor, who noted that when the armoury sheltered the homeless in past years, it could only be used overnight as the facility was used by the Canadian Forces during the day.

Tory said he personally planned to reinforce the city's request, which he said would add about 100 beds to the overtaxed system that has seen demand surge by 30 per cent over the same time last year.

"Demand continues to increase and the system is undoubtedly under strain," Tory told reporters. "Even with increased capacity, this leaves us too close to the edge in these unprecedented weather and social conditions."

With shelters packed and people at risk of freezing to death, why can’t we do more?

  With shelters packed and people at risk of freezing to death, why can’t we do more? It’s been cold out there. Cold enough that the annual Polar Bear Dip at Sunnyside Beach, an event specifically designed to show defiance against the frigid winter weather, was cancelled due to frozen conditions. Cold enough to cause havoc at Pearson airport, where hundreds of flights have been cancelled due to the deep freeze.Cold enough that the annual New Year’s Eve celebration at City Hall was shortened to just a half-hour long, with planned concerts and skating events cancelled. “The city is taking all measures to protect the health and safety of the public, artists, volunteers and event staff,” the city government said in a press release announcing the scaling back of festivities. And understandably so.

Officials say a downtown armoury will open to Toronto 's homeless Saturday evening as the city faces a 13th day with an extreme cold alert in effect. Tory called the cold conditions "relentless" and said the increased demand for additional homelessness supports is "unprecedented."

The recent cold weather has highlighted the plight of Toronto 's homeless residents. (Carlos Osorio / Toronto Star). 6 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam motion to ask Ottawa to open sites including the armouries to homeless people.

Tory said the frigid weather was not the only cause of the spike in demand on the shelter system. He said an influx of refugees in the past two years, coupled with what he described as a mental-health crisis and rising housing costs, are also critical factors.

He said mental-health supports will be key for any long-term solution for the city's homeless.

"We pride ourselves on our health-care system, and yet a majority of people in our shelter systems and on our streets are not getting the health care they need — in this case, mental-health care — and this must be addressed," Tory said.

  Toronto considers opening armoury to house homeless © Provided by

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins said in a statement Wednesday that his office will be scheduling a meeting with Tory to discuss mental health and homelessness in Toronto.

"I remain whole-heartedly committed to continuing to work with Toronto, as well as communities in all corners of Ontario, as we continue to build a mental health system that can be there for all of us when we need it," Hoskins said.

Toronto ombudsman probing ‘confusion’ over homeless services

  Toronto ombudsman probing ‘confusion’ over homeless services Toronto ombudsman probing ‘confusion’ over homeless services Toronto’s ombudsman is probing city services for homeless people and the city is launching a review following controversy over available shelter space as a potentially deadly cold snap stretches into the new year.Ombudsman Susan Opler announced her inquiry Tuesday in a news release citing “recent confusion” over whether the crowded shelter system has room for homeless Torontonians who want out of the cold.“We are concerned about reports that some people were mistakenly told there wasn’t any space for them on Dec. 30,” Opler said.

A downtown armoury opened to Toronto 's homeless on Saturday evening as the city faced a 13th day with an extreme cold-weather alert in effect. Mr. Tory called the cold conditions "relentless" and said the increased demand for additional homelessness supports is "unprecedented."

Weeks after homeless activists demanded it, Moss Park Armoury will open as temporary shelter for Toronto ’s most vulnerable citizens. Toronto Liberal MP Adam Vaughan told reporters at city hall Friday that Ottawa is giving the City of Toronto

Public Safety Canada said in a statement that it has not received an official request for assistance, but added that Ottawa, the Ontario government and the city are "working closely to identify and evaluate options."

In the short term, however, the city said efforts are focused on providing more shelter spaces. Toronto has added 30 new beds at one major downtown centre and 10 more are coming in the next few weeks, Tory said.

The city is following through on its commitment to increase shelter capacity by 400 beds in the coming months and to build new facilities in 2018, the mayor added. Those measures will go ahead regardless of whether the Moss Park Armoury becomes a respite centre, he said. If it is approved, it will offer 24-hour support until mid-April, he added.

Kapri Rabin, executive director of the not-for-profit agency Street Health, applauded the city's proposal to use the armoury.

"What's particularly positive about the armoury in the downtown east is it's located in an area where there is a huge community of folks who have no place to go and are in temporary 24-hour facilities that are not suitable for people to actually live in," she said, noting that some of those centres do not have amenities like showers.

How other cities help the homeless during extreme cold

  How other cities help the homeless during extreme cold How other cities help the homeless during extreme coldNew York City

As freezing temperatures lingered, and the number of homeless seeking shelter mounted, the city was forced to accept an offer from the federal government to open its east-end Moss Park Armoury to the homeless

With temperatures plunging, a deal to open the armoury is expected but just when the space will be available is still being sorted out, MP says. The extended cold snap has put pressure on Toronto 's homeless shelter system.

But Rabin said the move does not address the growing long-term need for more shelter space and affordable housing.

"I think there needs to be a much larger discussion around the crisis that actually exists in the shelter system, which isn't a new crisis," she said. "The city is always in this position of having to respond to things at the last minute."

The executive director of Covenant House Toronto, an agency for homeless youth, said more shelter space isn't the solution for getting people off the street.

"Shelter beds are critical and I think there is a particular number that will be required on an ongoing basis to sustain the emergencies that people experience ... but the longer-term solutions are those more affordable housing options that will get people out of the shelter system more quickly," Bruce Rivers said.

He said dealing with homelessness should not just the city's responsibility, but that of all levels of government, as well as the real-estate industry.

The city's ability to address the needs of the homeless is now the subject of two inquiries following confusion over the availability of spaces during the prolonged cold snap.

Advocates have said in recent days that they tried to find spots for homeless people only to be told that they were completely full. The city has said there are still beds available and blamed miscommunication for the confusion.

Calling the miscommunication "indefensible," Tory said he welcomes the inquiries recently announced by the city's general manager of shelter support as well as Toronto's ombudsman.

The latest data from the city indicates Toronto's shelters operated at between 94 and 95 per cent capacity on the weekend with 5,460 people staying in the shelter system on Jan. 1. Another 445 people used winter respite centres.

— With files from Daniela Germano

Women struggle to find affordable homes in Fraser Valley .
It’s the kind of day where you have to move to stay warm. Rain has been falling steadily since the early morning, and Jess Dowe is both cold and sleep-deprived. Leaving a meeting with an outreach worker, the 25-year-old pulls a hood over her dark hair, slings two backpacks over her shoulders and runs into […]It’s the kind of day where you have to move to stay warm.

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