Winter Plan to address growing shelter and housing crisis

Shelter Housing Justice Network releases evidence-based Winter Plan to address growing homelessness crisis

Press Release
October 12
What: Press Conference
When: Tuesday, October 12, 12:30 (following the Homeless Memorial)
Where: 19 Trinity Sq, (by the south steps in front of the Homeless Memorial)
Important: Please wear a mask and physically distance

A group of experts including scholars, front-line workers, people with lived experience, and community advocates have thoroughly examined the City of Toronto’s homelessness policy and shelter system. They have documented their findings in a, roughly, 60-page report – published by SHJN. Based on their assessment, they have arrived at a Winter Plan for the City of Toronto to enact immediately. Each Winter Shelter, Support and Housing Administration puts forward an inadequate Winter Plan. The City has scrambled to add unplanned spaces because of this poor planning. To avoid the repeated planning failure, address the ongoing crisis and systemic inadequacies and injustices SHJN is calling for the Winter Plan and the plan for the spring and beyond to be fully implemented.

The rate at which people without housing are dying keeps increasing each year. Shelter residents deaths are 78% higher in the first 8 months of 2021 over 2019. This injustice disproportionately impacts Indigenous and Black people in Toronto. 63% of all unhoused people in Toronto are BIPOC. The number of people in Toronto that die of an overdose who don’t have housing keeps rising. In 2019 the number of people who died of an overdose was 10, in 2020 it was 46. As a result of sky-high rents, gentrification, lack of RGI housing and an overflowing shelter system thousands of people suffer and many die preventable deaths. In addition, our city is still in the midst of a global pandemic. Shelter outbreaks are ongoing. Many services are still suspended and indoor space isn’t accessible for hundreds who live in encampments.

If all the demands in this winter plan are not met, the community will organize and agitate until the basic needs of unhoused people are met.

Key Demands

  1. Immediately incorporate 2,250 permanent, non-congregate shelter beds into the system.
  2. Repeal the ‘no camping’ bylaw.
  3. Extend shelter-hotel leases.
  4. Increase the target of newly attributed housing allowances in 2021 from 1,440 to 3,000.
  5. Freeze all evictions with the emergency powers of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.
  6. Issue an inclement weather alert when necessary and open inclement weather sites during alerts.
  7. Implement COVID-19 indoor air quality safety measures and ensure full transparency at every shelter system site

Speakers will include:

Zachary Grant, Community Director Holy Trinity

Greg Cook, SHJN, Outreach Worker at Sanctuary

Livestream: Will be at the same link as the Toronto Homeless Memorial


Media Contacts:

A.J. Withers:

Greg Cook:

I went to protest Toronto’s violent encampment removals. I was profiled, frisked and wrongfully arrested

Sep 29, 2021.

This year, I have been supporting anti-homelessness actions virtually, but after COVID-19 restrictions loosened and cases fell, I felt like it was important to show up in person to support encampment residents and the extreme show of force from officials in our city.

What I didn’t expect was that I’d end up profiled, frisked and wrongfully arrested by the Toronto police.

The morning of Sept. 16, protesters gathered outside Mayor John Tory’s residence to share their message. Organizers asked for volunteers to hold up signs with images of those who had been brutalized by the cops at an encampment clearing earlier this summer. I raised my hand, a small, but important gesture to show my solidarity and shed light on the city’s actions. As speakers stepped to the mic to share their statements, each of us took our place behind them. The crowd who had gathered was calm, receptive and supportive.

(click here to read more)

They were charged over a Toronto homeless clearance. They say police asked them to sign away their right to protest

Sept 30, 2021

Sam Nithiananthan and Jazzy Kieser had two options: sign a piece of paper agreeing “not to attend an unlawful assembly or protest” and walk out of the police station shortly after, or wait for a bail hearing and fight the conditions in court.

To Nithiananthan and Kieser, both charged over the protests that followed the recent city-ordered clearing of an encampment at Lamport Stadium, the conditions Toronto police were asking them to agree to were unacceptable and unconstitutional: they could make it a crime for them to protest and would prevent them from supporting people living in encampments

“There was no way in hell I was going to sign that thing,” said Nithiananthan, who objected especially to the condition on “unlawful” assembly. “Who gets to dictate what unlawful is?”

(click here to read more)

March 2, 2021: Toronto Star TTC drivers want support for homeless riding transit

TTC drivers want support for homeless riding transit during COVID-19 crisis

“As public transit workers we are compassionate individuals, but at the end of the day, we are not social workers,” the petition reads. “We demand that all levels of government mobilize the resources to solve this crisis immediately.”

Roxie Danielson of the Street Nurse Network said many of those in Toronto experiencing homelessness have been forced outside during the pandemic because places where they normally take refuge like libraries or coffee shops are no longer open.

The shelter system houses 6,000 people a night but is at capacity—in recent weeks occupancy at men’s facilities was at 99.9 per cent—and many won’t stay in city shelters out of fear of catching COVID-19, especially now that variants of concern have been identified at some sites.

“As it stands right now it’s so difficult to get somebody a safe place to stay, so the TTC really is the next best option (for many),” Danielson said.

She acknowledged people experiencing homelessness can pose challenges for TTC employees, especially if they aren’t trained to deal with someone who is in crisis or using drugs. But she said homeless residents shouldn’t be blamed for seeking out one of the few remaining safe spaces in the city.

“I place the blame squarely on our government. Had we had enough funding for more housing, for more mental health and addiction supports then this wouldn’t be happening,” she said.

“Nobody should have to sleep on the TTC because they can’t get a bed somewhere.”