[Hpn] Toronto Councils Bickering Thwarts Solutions
William Charles Tinker
Tue, 2 Nov 2004 11:42:28 -0500
Nov. 1, 2004
Council bickering thwarts solutions
After fruitless debate, homeless off the agenda
On the same day I attended a thoughtful conference titled "Mental Health in
the City: Urban Innovations" at George Brown College, a thoughtless debate
at Toronto City Council on what to do with the city's homeless demonstrated
archaic and prejudicial attitudes. Homeless people were repeatedly referred
to as embarrassing, frustrating, bad for tourism and lazy. Numerous punitive
solutions were proposed including banning them from public spaces, forcing
them into shelters and directing police to enforce these measures.
Well, on a wet Friday night at 10:30 p.m., I called the Street Helpline, the
city agency that tracks shelter availability. There were only 17 shelter
beds left vacant in the entire city for women, only one bed for a woman with
a child, 24 for single men (with a serious bedbug warning attached to 10 of
those beds) and no beds left for couples. The crowded conditions, serious
bedbug threat, and lack of spaces in a city that sees approximately 1,000
people sleeping outside speak for themselves.
Our cold reality in Toronto is that until the Dalton McGuinty government
decides to roll out its election promise to fund 35,000 new rent supplements
in the province, city council will need to step up to the plate and provide
what they provide for homeless animals - adequate shelter.
Council's bickering does not lead to innovative solutions. Instead, it
leaves us with a "non-winter plan" for people who are homeless and little
hope for a November opening of a long promised emergency shelter.