No Private Security In Public Parks

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Dear Mayor Tory and Members of Council,

We are writing to denounce the City’s decision to source a private security firm to “patrol and monitor ” public parks with expanded responsibility including “physically removing” and legally arresting people. While the City spends millions of dollars to fund the policing of people who are homeless, major funding cuts to outreach drop ins and meal services have been announced and shelter hotel closures are in progress. The act of enhancing enforcement while cutting services is both cruel and ineffective. Policing people who stay in parks is a violent intervention that criminalizes homelessness, increases stigma and leads to trauma, stress and poor health. For these reasons forced displacement has been condemned by the Centers for Disease Control and United Nations. The City must end policies that perpetuate physical and structural violence towards people who are poor and immediately devote adequate resources to ending homelessness in our City.

People are sleeping outside and in encampments because they have nowhere else to go. There is a massive shortage of shelter and housing. According to City of Toronto statistics an average of 113 people searching for a shelter bed are turned away each night because no beds are available. Based on City data at least 2000 more shelter beds are required to meet the need. Closing shelter hotels and meal and drop-in programming will worsen this situation.

For many people existing shelters are not safe. This past January fifty sites- over half of all shelters- had an active COVID 19 outbreak. People must choose between sleeping outside or risking exposure to an infectious disease by staying in a crowded congregate shelter. In 2021 an average of six people per month died in Toronto shetlers from an opioid overdose. Most shelters have inadequate harm reduction measures and are not safe for people who use drugs.

People who are homeless frequently face violence and harassment from police and security services. They are kicked out of stores, parks and alleyways often based on appearance alone. Increasing policing within parks will only cause more trauma and hardship-  when shelter is not available people have no choice but to be outside. Forced displacement simply pushes people into other encampments or hidden places like ravines leading to isolation, poor health outcomes, and death.

The housing and shelter crisis was created by negligence and poor policy. The City is now brutalizing those impacted by bad housing policy by violently displacing those who have no option but to stay in an encampment. The City must end this harmful and futile practice and devote all resources to creating safe housing and shelter. Addressing the housing and shelter crisis is ultimately the only way to reduce the amount of people who must stay outside.

We call on the City of Toronto to:

1.  Immediately stop the eviction of encampment residents and the policing of public spaces. Devote the resources spent on private security to keeping drop-in and meal programs open.

2.  End the planned closure of shelter hotels. Closing shelters will force more people to spend the winter outside.

3.  Immediately add an additional 2,000 non-congregate spaces to the
shelter system to ensure everyone can access shelter.

4. Collaborate with Provincial and Federal governments to immediately build at least 10,000 rent geared to income units in Toronto and ensure the Rapid Housing Initiative is adequately funded on an ongoing basis.

5. Purchase and/or expropriate property to build social and supportive housing.

6. Immediately collaborate with people who use drugs to implement harm reduction measures into shelters. This may include creating supervised consumption sites, safety checks by request and permitting guests.

Sincerely,

Danielle Koyama, Frontline Worker
Cathy Crowe, Street Nurse
Greg Cook, Outreach Worker
Jessica Hales, Nurse Practitioner
Shelter and Housing Justice Network Steering Committee

 

For more information contact:

Shelter and Housing Justice Network
SHJToronto@gmail.com
https://twitter.com/SHJNetwork
https://www.facebook.com/ShelterHousingJusticeNetwork

 

 

 

 

 

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August – September 2022 Update

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Shelter and Housing Justice Network (SHJN)

August – September 2022 Update

Hello folks!

Update from SHJN:

Call to Action for Housing!

Every day the housing crisis across Canada escalates. In Iqaluit elders and youth are forced to sleep outside because there is nowhere else to go. In Kingston, as people struggle with the increased cost of living, more people are losing their housing and shelters are at capacity. In Vancouver, Halifax, Montreal, and in places across the country, people are forced to live in tents, bus shelters, ravines, because there is no where else to go.

In Toronto a state of emergency ensues. More and more people are priced out and pushed out of rental stock and shelters are at capacity. On average 113 people a day are denied access to basic shelter because no beds are available. Despite the dangerous shortage of shelter space the City is planning to close shelter hotels and continues to attack and displace encampment residents.

As winter approaches and temperatures drop the need for safe shelter is even more critical. Lives will be lost as a result of inadequate government action – we must Fight Back! November 22 is National Housing Day. The Shelter and Housing Justice Network (SHJN) is calling for a mass rally to send a loud message to all levels of government—leaving people to suffer and die from lack of shelter and housing can not be allowed to continue. They must build Social Housing Now!

We would like to invite all members of SHJN and concerned parties to help organize and build a November 22 National Housing Day action. To participate join our general members meetings on:

· Wednesday, September 21, 2022 @ 7:00-8:30pm

· Tuesday, October 18, 2022 @ 7:00-8:30pm

Link to join meetings: click here

For more information please email SHJToronto@gmail.com

What is the City hiding?

Shelter system in collapse, City refuses to release information on extent of crisis

As the City of Toronto continues to turn people out into the cold during a deadly pandemic, it is also withholding information about the severity of the crisis. Advocates have requested specific data about how many people are denied access to shelter, and the City of Toronto has refused to provide it.

“The City says it wants to be partners with the community, it says that there are beds available, it says it doesn’t need help – I don’t see why they won’t provide information about how many people they are turning away unless these things aren’t true,” says Street Nurse and member of the Shelter and Housing Justice Network (SHJN) Steering Committee Cathy Crowe who contacted Shelter, Support and Housing Administration General Manager Gord Tanner requesting the data on Friday January 21th, 2022 and followed-up on Monday January 31st, 2022. She adds, “We know staff are very busy, but we are just talking about emailing an Excel sheet – it is far from onerous. It has been thirteen days and we still don’t have it; we have learned about several deaths outside of the shelter system since then.”

Continue reading

Rally and Press Conference: The Shelter System is in Collapse, We Demand Action!

Thursday, January 20th
11:00 AM
129 Peter Street (at Richmond)
All welcome

Shelters are full. The City has stopped answering the phone or keeps people on hold for long periods when people try to call to access a shelter spot. COVID is sweeping through the system. Meanwhile, the City has cut recovery beds down to 60. COVID positive people who are sick and want a bed have been forced to sleep out in the cold. Multiple people die due to overdose each month. Encampment residents are criminalized.

We commend the City of Toronto for announcing its plan to distribute N95 masks to shelter residents and make rapid tests available. We are also glad to see emergency space opened in community centres. However, it will only be a small percentage of the more than 2,300 beds that are urgently needed. Further, congregate must only be an emergency measure on the way to opening more non-congregate beds – mats or cots on the floor are not real beds and COVID is airborne. Unfortunately, the shelter system is in such crisis that these measures are nowhere near enough.

Come out on Thursday and tell the City:

✓ Provide residents N95 masks – not just workers.
✓ Access to Rapid Tests.

  1. Increase capacity of the COVID recovery program to at least 200 beds.
  2. Immediately incorporate 2,250 permanent, non-congregate shelter beds into the system.
  3. Repeal the ‘no camping’ bylaw.
  4. Extend shelter-hotel leases.
  5. Distribute at least 3,000 new housing allowances to unhoused people in 2022 and make them available to all unhoused people.
  6. Freeze all evictions with the powers of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.
  7. Broaden the emergency weather system to respond to real world conditions (as per the Winter Plan).
  8. Expand overdose prevention, education, training, and response and implement the recommendations of the Toronto Shelter-Hotel Overdose Preparedness Assessment Project.
  9. Implement COVID-19 indoor air quality safety measures and ensure full transparency & public reporting about each shelter site.
  10. Implement all of the recommendations from the SHJN Winter Plan.

We are meeting at 129 Peter Street the Streets to Homes Assessment and Referral Centre – because it the manifestation of the collapsed system. It used to be open 24 hours a day to for people to stay at as they waited for a bed. It is now closed to in person intake and referrals and open only in extreme cold weather.

Come listen to a panel of speakers talk about the crisis in the system and what needs to be done about it.

Please bring survival supplies if you can. These include: warm winter clothing, camping gear (tents, tarps, insulated sleeping pads, hunting pillows/seats), cell phones/phone cards, rapid COVID-19 test kits, aerosol protective masks (N95, KN95), coffee/food/grocery gift cards. Make sure all items are clean and in good condition.

Wear a mask, please socially distance, be COVID responsible, and dress warmly.

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