Toronto is finally adding more shelter beds as cold spell continues
The City of Toronto is scrambling this week to protect its growing homeless population as deadly cold temperatures persist throughout the region.
"I am deeply concerned for the health and safety of residents experiencing homelessness," said Mayor John Tory at City Hall this morning in response to the mounting situation.
"It is important that we increase the capacity to provide low-barrier services to ensure that people have safe, warm places to go."
In an effort to respond to what has become a crisis, the city is adding 40 more shelter beds to its new winter respite centre at The Better Living Centre. This brings the total number of beds within the the Exhibition Place facility to 150
The city said in a press release today that another 60 shelter beds will become available within 10 days at the new Salvation Army Hope shelter.
These spaces, as well as the Better Living Centre spaces, are part of 291 additional beds Toronto plans to open for vulnerable residents this year.
Last night 535 people slept at Out of the Cold and overnight drop-ins. Not real shelter. I hope @ombudsmanTO will visit each site because it will look very different than last year. pic.twitter.com/e0KgAocK6I— CathyCrowe (@cathyacrowe) January 3, 2018
But even with all of the extra beds, more needs to be done in order to solve the problem.
Demand for permanent shelter services has risen more than 30 per cent in just a year, according to city officials. This demand, coupled with a long and bitter stretch of winter weather, has resulted in local shelters reaching a reported capacity rate of 95 per cent.
The situation is bad. Eighty homeless people died last year alone.
last night in this deadly cold, every shelter bed in toronto was occupied and people were being turned away. meanwhile, the moss park and fort york armouries, which we've used in emergencies before, sit empty.— here for dafonte (@DesmondCole) December 31, 2017
mayor @JohnTory, OPEN THESE SPACES IMMEDIATELY #OpenTheArmouries
Advocates, citizens and politicians have become increasingly vocal about the need for more shelter space in recent weeks, with many calling upon the city to let the federal government open up Toronto's armouries.
Tory had initially maintained that the armouries, like Fort York and Moss Park, "would not be safe or an adequate option for shelter space."
The City of Toronto confirmed in its Tuesday press release that this has changed, as did Tory himself on Twitter.
Almost a month after my motion asking to open the federal armouries to shelter the homeless was defeated, I'm happy to know Mayor Tory has reconsidered his position on the Moss Park Armoury. We've lost time and now need to work fast to get this done. #OpenTheArmouries https://t.co/s9HAmJ8wqS— Kristyn Wong-Tam (@kristynwongtam) January 3, 2018
"We have been in touch with armed forces personnel since December," wrote the mayor on Twitter.
"Based on City staff advice yesterday," he continued, "We will be requesting from the Government of Canada confirmation that the Moss Park Armoury be made available as a 24-hour respite centre for up to 100 beds until April 15."
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