Toronto expands number of beds for the homeless, critics say it’s not enough
The city of Toronto is adding beds for homeless people this winter as the number of those without a consistent roof over their head continues to grow.
The city is planning to add another 400 beds this winter and six temporary respite centres as a way of combatting the issue of overcrowding in shelters.
Cece Cohen, a homeless person who’s been living on the Toronto streets off and on for six years, has seen the need for more places to stay up close.
"(The shelters are) packed to capacity and nobody wants to move and there are people getting sick and even passing away in these shelters and nobody’s even actually stopping to change anything,” Cohen told CTV News.
Gaetan Heroux, an anti-poverty activist with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, says Toronto’s expanding beds are not enough, He wants to see 1,000 beds made available immediately.
"We're going to have -13, -14 (degrees) over the next few days,” he said. “You can't play with people's lives like that."
The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness says an increase in affordable housing can be a solution to the homelessness crisis. In the organization’s 2016 report, retaining and expanding affordable housing strategies across Canada is one it’s eight recommendations for helping the estimated 35,000 people in Canada who are homeless on any given night.
Heroux agrees that more affordable housing would help, but says there is no easy solution.
“I don't see an end to this other than you have to make sure people's most basic needs are met,” he said. “You can't allow your people to die on the streets. That's a clear message.”
Other recommendations from the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness include setting a federal goal of ending homelessness, implementing a national housing benefit and a tax credit for affordable housing investors.
While it can be hard to pin point how many homeless deaths have been a result of overcrowded shelters, one prominent street nurse told CTV News 70 people have died in Toronto so far this year.
Toronto is not an isolated city when it comes to the homelessness crisis. Many of the same issues the city faces are reflected onto Vancouver’s homeless situation.
According to a report from Metro Vancouver conducted in March, 3,605 people in the Vancouver-area are without a consistent roof over their head-- a roughly 30 per cent increase from 2014.
“Significant investments in new affordable housing, maintenance of the existing housing stock and coordination of support services for people who are homeless is needed at all levels immediately to address this crisis,” said Kishone Roy, CEO of the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association, said in a news release following the Metro Vancouver report.
This year in Vancouver, some shelters are taking steps to protect those who are choosing to stay out in the elements.
The Union Gospel Mission’s Jeremy Hunka said the shelter has been giving out survival gear to help people get through the winter.
"We know that people have died in the cold in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley in the previous years. We know it's dangerous,” he said.
With a report from CTV News’ Travis Dhanraj