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Interfaith leaders call on Toronto City Council to fix the Shelter Crisis as they gather to mark the Chanukah Holiday

IMG_1528.JPGPRESS RELEASE                            

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.

“It’s always an honour to be included in religious and cultural cermenonies from the various communities that make up our diverse and multicultural City. There is however added signignifcance to this event tonight due to the crisis in our shelter system”, Cressy stated. “At times like this it’s necessary to be with those who use our shelters and can’t find beds.  We need to open our ears and hearts and listen to them, and let them know we are doing all we can to help them,” Cressy added.

Last week, City Council voted against a motion from Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam that would add 1,000 permanent beds to the shelter system and make a request to the federal government to open the Moss Park and Fort York armouries to provide additional emergency shelter space, despite offers of support from federal officials "We were shocked that City Council refused to recognize the crisis we are facing in our shelter system.", said Rafi Aaron, Spokesperson for the Interfaith Coalition to Fight Homelessness. "Last year, for the first time ever, the Out of the Cold Shelters routinely turned people away to sleep in the streets, parks and ravines of our City. Front-line workers are now facing the same issue as there are no beds in shelters for their clients. The Moss Park and Fort York Armouries must be opened immediately to resolve this crisis.”

MP Adam Vaughan added, "The Federal government stands ready to offer assistance to the City of Toronto during any crisis, including the use of the armouries as shelters for the homeless, wherever and whenever required. Should a formal request be made to use our armouries, we will work with the City to determine each specific situation."

"As we light candles to mark Chanukah, we must not be afraid to do what is right and necessary to support our most vulnerable. I urge City Council to listen to the faith community and to our homeless guests and act with love and urgency to stem this crisis,", said Rabbi Shalom Schachter, member of the Toronto Board of Rabbis and the Board's representative on the Steering Committee of the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition, the Toronto Christian Jewish Dialogue group and the Canadian Interfaith Conversation. 

Councillor Cressy acknowledged the volunteers of The First Interfaith Out of the Cold, and made special mention of three who had been helping to run the program for over 20 years. The First Interfaith Out of the Cold program was inaugurated in 1996. The program is volunteer-run and is funded by individual, group and congregational donations, with security costs provided by the City of Toronto.

CONTACT:  Rafi Aaron, TEL: 416-617-9202, rafiaaron@rogers.com