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; melissa.wong@toronto.ca


Small Businesses Call on City Council To Support Intelligent Commercial Tax Reform and Help Save Small Business

December 5, 2017, Toronto, ON. – Following a successful campaign to have MPAC review assessment of Yonge Street commercial property taxes, members of Toronto’s small business community are urging Toronto City Council to take the next step and support a review of tax reform tools that can save small businesses and iconic commercial streets in the city.

"Yonge Street small businesses are reeling from the City of Toronto’s grossly unfair and unprecedented business property tax increases," says John Anderson, President of the Yonge Street Small Business Association. "Increases levied earlier this year – were 100% per year and 400% over four years – have been scaled back to 50% per year and 200% over four years, after much protest. This does not solve the problem. Most businesses will still find it impossible to pay such huge increases, particularly at a time of great economic uncertainty and when other expenses like the minimum wage are about to go up very steeply."

“Small, independent businesses are a vital part of a truly vibrant community," said Mark Garner, Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director of the Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area. "‘Mom-and-pop’ shops bring real character to neighbourhoods, and we need property tax policies that allow them to thrive alongside the big retail chains."

At this week’s meeting, City Council will have an opportunity to support a motion by Councillor Wong-Tam and Economic Development and Culture Committee Chair Councillor Michael Thompson that will direct staff to analyze specific tax reforms tools that the City and Province can undertake with a report-back in early 2018 for integration into the budget process.

"This week City Council will make a choice to either support intelligent tax reforms that will save small businesses or ignore their call for action, said Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam. "Development and land speculation is pricing small businesses out of the very communities they have helped build. With a willing partner in the Province, we have a unique window of opportunity to correct this policy failure. I am calling on my colleagues on City Council to support our motion to preserve our iconic commercial neighbourhoods."


Five Things Friday: A Weekly Round-Up

Five Things Friday a new weekly series from Councillor Wong-Tam and the Ward 27 team that provides updates on new and on-going initiatives from City Council and across the ward. Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest news.

1. No More Homeless Deaths 

On Monday, I stood with faith leaders and front-line workers in a call to City Council to declare emergency and open 400 beds by the end of 2017 and 1000 beds through the 2018 budget cycle. Emergency shelters are seeing record numbers and have exceed the 90% occupancy standards set by City Council.This is a crisis and we have a responsible to do more to help. Read more.


2. Sidewalks For All 

Fantastic turn out at #SidewalksForAll press conference and 1.5m vs 2.1m sidewalks obstacle course! If Toronto is going to walk the walk, we need sidewalks that serve all pedestrians, regardless of age or ability. Thank you to the accessibility and active transportation community for their advocacy on this important issue. Read more about Sidewalks For All!


3. 552 Church St. Development Application Community Meeting

On Wednesday, we held a community meeting for a 43-storey tower application at the north-west corner of Church and  Wellesley. City Planners have written a refusal report. I will be supporting the staff report to refuse this application. City Council votes on it next week.


4. Toronto Needs Increased Funding For Social Services

On Thursday, Community members qued up for city services outside of City Hall before Toronto Budget launch. Toronto is growing and long waitlists for services are leaving families behind. Proud to stand beside fierce advocates in the call for increased investment in social services. Toronto can do better. 


5. Glen Road Pedestrian Bridge Environmental Assessment 

More Glen Road Pedestrian Bridge Environmental Assessment presentation was very well received by the Toronto Preservation Board. An extraordinary city asset with deep cultural heritage value. I'm proud to have been a project champion since the beginning. 




Sidewalks For All Coalition Calls On Committee To Support Clear, Wide, and Walkable Sidewalks

A coalition of active transportation and accessibility advocates are calling on City Council to vote in favor of Staff recommendations for wide, clear, and essentially straight sidewalks. The City of Toronto Licensing and Standards and Public Works and Infrastructure Committees are meeting on December 4, 2017 to vote on proposed changes to Patio and Marketing Bylaws that would require implementation of Pedestrian Clearways, city-wide by 2025.  This vote will have a substantial impact on the walkability of Toronto's city sidewalks, with the biggest impact for people who face accessibility challenges. 


"I care passionately about walkable, safe and comfortable sidewalks because I use them on a daily basis," said Yin Brown, Co-Chair of the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee and President of Alliance for Blind Canadians, Toronto Chapter. "But I smash into patio fences, trip over café chairs, get stuck in bicycle racks, walk into trees and even knock down seniors in my walkabouts. Many blind people such as myself have self-imposed our own isolation, because our sidewalks are cluttered and unfriendly to pedestrians."


"The human impact of this decision is immense. With an aging population and a city growing at an exponential rate, sidewalk accessibility is paramount," said Adina Lebo of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons. "Seniors should not feel scared while walking on a City sidewalk."

Read more →

Rohingya in Peril: Crisis in Myanmar

For Immediate Release: Dr. Maung Zarni, Long-Time Burmese Human Rights Activist And Rohingya Campaigner At Toronto City Hall To Speak About Crisis In Myanmar

TORONTO, November 22, 2017 – For the first time ever, democracy activist and Rohingya campaigner Dr. Maung Zarni will be joined by the Honourable Bob Rae, Ahmed Ramadan, Burma Task Force, Ahmed Ullah, The Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative, and Toronto City Councillors Kristyn Wong-Tam and Neethan Shan at Toronto City Hall on Thursday, November 23rd at 6:00pm for a rare and essential conversation about the crisis in Myanmar.

The event is free and open to public.


In recent months, Myanmar’s persecution of Rohingya Muslims has been condemned by the United Nations as ethnic cleansing. Over 620,000 people have been uprooted and accounts of violent atrocities have been heavily documented. As the situation on the ground worsens, there is an urgent need for Canada to act.

What​: Rohingya in Peril: Crisis in Myanmar
When​: Thursday, November 23, 2017 at 6:00pm
Where​: Council Chambers, Toronto City Hall, 100 Queen St. West

Keynote: Dr. Maung Zarni, Democracy Activist & Rohingya Campaigner
Special Guest: The Honorable Bob Rae, Canada’s Special Envoy to Myanmar
Speakers: Ahmed Ramadan, Burma Task Force and Ahmed Ullah, The Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative
Hosts: Toronto City Councillors Kristyn Wong-Tam and Neethan Shan

Interviews available upon request.

Read more →