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.”