homeless toronto

Toronto is exploring the idea of giving homeless shelter residents one year of free rent

Between a real estate market pricing people out of contention and job losses resulting from lockdowns, an already crisis-level of homelessness in Toronto is only growing worse.

One councillor made a successful push Friday morning to have the city look into an extreme measure that would get people out of the nightmarish shelter system and into actual homes.

Surprisingly, the motion was met with rare unanimous support from what is often an ideologically split council.

Ward 13 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, an outspoken advocate for persons experiencing homelessness, successfully rallied city council to approve penning a report looking into what it would cost to house every single shelter resident with a full year in rental subsidies.

Acknowledging that there would always be a need for emergency shelters even if supplanted by rental subsidies, Wong-Tam told council members that it's "time for us to move away from using shelters as de facto housing."

And if you're wondering how she got some of the more conservative councillors and Mayor Tory on board, Wong-Tam doesn't expect the city to foot the bill — her motion instead calls for the provincial and federal governments to pony up whatever sum the report finds is needed to house the homeless.

Council voted a rare 25-0 in favour of the motion.

While there were no naysayers, Councillor Michael Ford was absent for the vote, so it wasn't entirely unanimous, but close enough.

It seems — though their motivations may differ — councillors of all political leanings can agree that the homeless population requires a safer alternative to the shelter system.

Today's approved motion gets the ball rolling, with a report expected in January that will give city staff a detailed breakdown of the cost required "to ensure everyone living in shelter, hotel shelter and 24-hour respite centre could receive a one-year rental subsidy to enable independent living," with a goal of "affirming housing as a human right and providing a housing-first approach to end homelessness."

The city will then make a formal request to higher levels of government seeking the amount determined in the upcoming report.

Lead photo by

Jeremy Gilbert


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