Facts & Figures
- The City of Toronto, because of COVID, has chosen to concentrate around 450 homeless individuals within a very small footprint at the Victoria Hotel (56 homeless individuals), the Strathcona Hotel (194 homeless individuals) and the Bond Place Hotel (200 homeless individuals) (which are all owned by the Silver Group, and begs the question of how these particular hotels were selected). In addition to these hotels, the City of Toronto has also leased the building located at 98 The Esplanade to serve as a temporary homeless shelter.
- This decision was done with “temporary” contracts, concerningly with only one vendor: the Silver Group. The Community most impacted was not informed why only this one vendor with multiple premises in a concentrated location was chosen above all others. The City of Toronto lease agreements signed with the hotel owner—which were only made public during the week of September 14 following requests for information being made under the Freedom of Information Act—show not only a commitment by the City of Toronto to refurbish these premises at the end of the lease agreements at taxpayers’ cost, but also provides the City of Toronto the right to purchase these hotels in order to repurpose them to permanent homeless shelters (please see snapshot below of restoration clause and purchase clause in contracts).
- The sheer waste of money driven by the “temporary” solution is bad enough. Using expensive downtown real estate for this purpose has resulted in a cost to taxpayers of $6,000 per month per individual housed. The fact that they are considering purchasing such expensive real estate for this purpose would indicate that perhaps the wrong people are in charge of such decisions if they think this is how taxpayers funds can be best put to use. Logic and common sense would dictate that taxpayers’ hard earned money would stretch further by finding locations that are less expensive and at the same time are capable of providing the much-needed wrap-around services that are required by a large portion of this population and which are not being provided at the moment.
- The overcrowding of the homeless population in a small area has overwhelmed the downtown core, and has brought an increase in crime (theft, vandalism, drug trafficking and public drug shooting in broad daylight), as well as a major risk to the safety of both the homeless population and the host community given the violent nature of some of the homeless individuals who are inflicted with severe mental illnesses and substance abuse issues and the fact that they do not social distance or wear masks. Figure 1 presents the concentration of homeless shelter by wards.
Figure 1: GTA’s Shelter System by Ward, 2020
- Although lumped in under “homeless”, the crisis in individual communities that house the homeless arises primarily from drug abuse by some of these individuals, who will resort to crime to feed their habit if necessary. The severity of the directed overcrowding of the homeless population by City of Toronto officials is already evidenced by comparing the maps of suspected opioid overdose calls received by Toronto Paramedic Services in November 2020 against April 2020 below (Figures 2 and 3).
Figure 2: Heatmap of Overdoses as Reported by Toronto Paramedic Services, April 2020
Figure 3: Heatmap of Overdoses as Reported by Toronto Paramedic Services, November 2020
Source: Toronto Overdose Information System, which can be accessed at: https://www.toronto.ca/community-people/health-wellness-care/health-inspections-monitoring/toronto-overdose-information-system/.
Any Plan Requires Thought and Compassion for the Homeless Rather than What is Easy to Service
The residents and businesses of the downtown core believe it is time the City of Toronto stopped putting a band-aid on a problem that requires a major surgery. With the high taxes we are paying, there should not be a single homeless individual within our city, and it is time the citizens of this city demand accountability from the municipal government on how public resources being allocated to the homelessness program is being used, and the real cost-effectiveness and outcome of this program. Furthermore, City of Toronto officials need to be accountable for the poor decisions that have led us to where we are today, with the city of Toronto today considered as one of the worst performers with regards to homelessness in North America. The fact that civil servants appear to remain unaccountable to their voters, in spite of the deterioration in public finances and the weaker economic backdrop, while the homeless population continue to lack the wrap-around services to address the root causes of their mental health and drug addictions, is completely unacceptable.
Voters are now questioning whether Mayor Tory and Councillors Cressy and Wong-Tam really want to resolve this issue, or whether sheer incompetence and lack of accountability actually gives them a political tool to use during elections when they can pretend they are advocates for this problem. Being an advocate is not enough. Having cost-effective solutions with positive outcomes is all that matters. While they talk “compassion”, a vulnerable population that needs housing gets thrown in with those that also need medical help and wrap around services thereby ensuring none of them get what they need. Then by concentrating them in small areas, where they overwhelm the rest of the community, they bring fear and resentment of those around them, when their neighborhood becomes unsafe and unstable. This is not compassion. This is putting a bad quality band-aid on a problem that requires major surgery.
Adam Vaughan—the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development (Housing)—defined what is a true advocate for the homeless at a recent town hall meeting. Adam Vaughn understands that all of the homeless population cannot be concentrated in one small area in order to expect them to reintegrate society. His idea of ensuring that the homeless population is equally distributed across all of the 25 wards in the GTA is an excellent idea so that some neighborhoods are not overwhelmed by the homeless population, which would not allow these individuals to be embraced by and helped by their own neighbors.
Likewise, it is important that that true thought be given to where each individual is placed. If one is truly interested in compassion, you do not place a single mother escaping an abusive relationship on the same premises as drug addicts for example. How is this compassion? Individuals with mental health problems and drug addiction must be placed in shelters with the appropriate wrap-around services they require. Those that are in need of a job to get back on their feet should be placed in areas where they will have a community that will support them in doing so, but they must be spread out enough across the wards such that they will be able to find such employment and not overwhelm one community which has a limited number of employment opportunities.
New Formation of the Condo Residences and Small Businesses of Downtown Toronto Association
- The DCCO is supportive of permanent housing for the homeless. A city like Toronto should not have tourists and residents alike be accosted by people begging and sleeping on the sidewalks or under bridges and in parks. It is a clear picture of failure of our humanity and the politicians in charge who should be ensuring that nobody is left without a home.
- The DCCO has been extremely frustrated by how the City, to date, has chosen to serve the homeless population: they have spent a lot of our tax dollars to house them in fancy hotels during a pandemic, yet it is hard to find a street where one is still not sprawled on the floor. It appears that the homeless themselves are not happy with the locations and services (or lack thereof) that they have been provided with at the tax payer expense.
- This community is not confident that the right people are currently at the helm of the Shelter Programmes to treat this population with the humanity and compassion they deserve, while taking into account the impact on the surrounding areas. The Peter and Richmond permanent location for the homeless, for example, is considered a complete and utter failure.