Interfaith leaders call on Toronto City Council to fix the Shelter Crisis as they gather to mark the Chanukah Holiday
DECEMBER 14, 2017
(TORONTO) Spadina-Fort York MP Adam Vaughan and Councillor Joe Cressy, Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina joined the First Interfaith Out of the Cold Shelter for a solidarity candle lighting ceremony this evening at St. Matthews's Church (729 St. Clair W) near Christie and St. Clair. Rabbi Shalom Schachter led the ceremony and was joined by volunteers and representatives from the Interfaith Coalition to Fight Homelessness.Read more →
1. Closing the Service Gap in the Downtown East
My motion "Closing the Service Gap in the Downtown East Revitalization Area" was successfully adopted by City Council. The motion calls for increased investments in social services in the downtown east and for Staff to develop a 5-year plan, in consultation with the appropriate City divisions and agencies including stakeholders and the Ward Councillors, to coordinate City services and programs and develop a comprehensive plan to holistically address the long-term community needs in establishing a healthy sustainable neighbourhood. Read the full motion here.
2. Call for Immediate Action to End Women's Homelessness
December 6th marked the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. As women face higher rates of violence, they often live with precarious housing and homeless. Moreover, homeless women face higher rates of violence and sexual assault. On Wednesday, front-line workers, advocates & faith leaders called on City Council to take immediate action to address women’s homelessness.
3. Council Asked to Open Armouries to Address Shelter Crisis
With advocates and front-line service providers, I urged City Council to approve a motion to open the Canadian military armouries in the city to the homeless. On December 6, amidst heated debate, we heard from the Federal Government that they are ready to support Toronto's Shelter Crisis. Toronto city council has endorsed a plan to boost the number of beds in its already jammed shelter system, but declined calls to open the Fort York and Moss Park military's armouries to the homeless. The vote in favour of more shelter beds is a good step, but I believe it does not go far enough to address the immediate urgency.
4. Call for Small Business Tax Reform
I successfully introduced the motion small business tax reform motion passes at Council. Next stop is getting a resolution passed in February when staff report back. Great advocacy from Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area, Toronto Alliance of Business Improvement Areas, and John Anderson, representing a coalition of Yonge street business owners. Read the full motion here.
5. Formal Endorsement of the Dynamic Symbol of Access
As chair of the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee (TAAC), I am pleased to endorse the great work by The Forward Movement request the Province and City use the Dynamic Symbol of Access in Ontario Building Code, Highway Traffic Act and for city-owned properties.
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Recent missing persons cases and the deaths of Tess Richey and Alloura Wells have hit our community hard. The Church-Wellesley Village, a neighbourhood that has been a symbol of inclusion, safety, and compassion, is looking for answers and a way forward. Planning is already underway in my office to bring the community together with Toronto's Community Crisis Response team and we know there are major service gaps that must be closed. The Community Crisis Response Program works across Toronto to provide support and resources to communities impacted by violent and traumatic incidents.
We will be reaching out to additional community groups to assist in arranging the public meeting before the holidays to bring the neighbourhood together for a conversation about recent cases and concerns for safety. Ensuring that the Village and downtown are healthy and safe communities has been a priority this year and the focus of 8 safety walks, 5 community safety meetings, and our Healthy Neighbourhoods Summit in November. The ongoing meetings between community partners and City staff remain a top priority going into the 2018 Budget process – we must expand core services the growing downtown community.
For more information on the work that has been done in the Village in 2017, please visit http://www.ward27news.ca/cwsafetyupdates2017.
As City Council debates the Shelter Crisis and whether to open the armouries, we have heard from the Federal Government confirming and clarifying that if City Council formally requests and submits a proposal to the Canadian Armed Forces and Department of Defence, they will consider the request, in consideration of their role to support civilian authorities during any crisis in Canada. Clearly, the federal government is ready to act, will the Mayor and City Council?
The following information is the official position of the Minister of Defense:
On the Armouries:
• The Canadian Armed Forces stand ready to offer assistance in support of civilian authorities during any crisis in Canada, including the use of our armouries as shelters for the homeless, wherever and whenever required.
• If called upon by the Government, the Canadian Armed Forces complements and enhances provincial and local resources with unique capabilities, including military personnel and equipment.
• The Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have significant infrastructure across Canada, including buildings and armouries that allow us to rapidly respond to the needs of Canadians. Should the request be made to use our armouries to shelter vulnerable Canadians, each request will be looked at and determined based on each specific situation.
• Commanders at every level within the CAF build and maintain relationships with their respective municipal and provincial partners so that they understand how their military serve Canadians at home and abroad.
• Strong relationships with our provincial partners are what enable the CAF to rapidly respond to provincial requests for assistance to situations such as the Northern Ontario Kashechewan (Kah-sheh-sha-wan) First Nation flood, the British Columbia forest fires, or the ice storm in New Brunswick. All of which, and more, happened in 2017 alone.
• The DND/CAF cherish the relationships that we have built with our community partners. They give us a place to call home and they enable everything we do.
Front-Line Workers, Advocates & Faith Leaders Call on City Council to take Immediate Action to Address Women’s Homelessness
Women’s Services & Faith Leaders call on Toronto City Council to act immediately to ensure adequate and safe shelter space for vulnerable women
On the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, front-line service workers from shelters and homeless drop-in centres serving women were joined by faith leaders to call attention to the realities facing homeless women and trans people.
“Many women, for very good reasons, do not want to go to co-ed shelters or drop-ins, and most avoid the Out of the Cold programs. There's not enough shelter space for everyone, but safe shelter space for women is especially scarce. This space can't be created unless there is a very major expansion of the shelter system overall.” said Reverend Maggie Helwig, Priest of the St. Stephens in the Fields.
It is widely known in the violence against women sector that homeless women face much higher rates of violence than women that are housed. This is confirmed in a 2007 report by Sistering and Street Health on the impacts of homelessness on women’s health and well-being revealed that 37% of the homeless women interviewed reported being physically assaulted in the past year, and 21% reported being sexually assaulted.
"We must remember that Black, Indigenous and racialized trans women and gender diverse folks like Alloura Wells are particularly vulnerable to violence of all kinds - at the hands of individual perpetrators and by institutions that are supposed to serve and protect them. These communities need trans positive and affirming spaces and services, prompt and caring responses when people go missing no matter what their work or housing status, and we need City Council to make sure that these individuals are not forgotten as new shelter space is created." said Anna Willats, Social Justice Activist and Educator
Leila Sarangi, Program Manager Women’s Habitat of Etobicoke, a Violence Against Women’s Shelter, shared stories of the realities of women facing violence and the struggle to find beds for clients, “It is becoming harder and harder to find safe emergency shelter...It is unacceptable that in a city such as ours, women who are experiencing violence, who are struggling with poverty, cannot find safe shelter.”
“We need adequate shelter beds for all homeless women and hope to never add another woman's name to the growing list of homeless deaths.”, said Sistering front-line worker, Myriam Frausto.
Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam who hosted the news conference spoke about the responsibilities of City Council, “We have an obligation to our most vulnerable and marginalized shelter users. Women and trans people face incredible risks on our streets and we cannot ignore the role we play in ensuring they have a safe place to sleep at night. It was these front-line workers, not city staff, who pushed Council to establish a 90% occupancy standard and to open the 24-hour women’s drop-ins. These are the additional experts that we need to listen to who experience the realities of our shelter system daily”.
City Council will vote on the motion at today’s meeting.
Media Contacts: Melissa Wong, Office of Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam; 416-873-4372; email@example.com