[Hpn] A New York state of mind for Toronto?
Thu, 27 Jan 2005 07:47:15 -0500
Now that they're rid of 'Ghoul'iani, NYC appears to be on the right
track. - Graeme
Jan. 27, 2005. 06:42 AM
A New York state of mind for Toronto?
Activist sees cure for homelessness
She urges housing, not more hostels
Housing and support — not more hostels — are the solution to
homelessness, says a New York City activist whose ideas have spurred
Mayor David Miller's recent commitment to end street homelessness.
"The challenge isn't what to do, but how to do more of what we know
works," said Rosanne Haggerty, founder of the innovative and highly
successful Common Ground Community supportive housing company in New York.
"We're no longer groping around in the dark on this issue," she said
yesterday as she toured one of Toronto's newest supportive housing
projects in the Annex, which was inspired by Common Ground's work in New
"The question is, do we have the political will to implement what we
know works and then make sure the people who need it get it," she said.
Haggerty and New York City housing commissioner Linda Gibbs were in
Toronto yesterday to share their insights at a forum on supportive
housing sponsored by the Homes First Foundation.
More than 37,000 people, including 15,000 children, sleep in New York
homeless shelters every night, many for months on end. Another 2,700
remain on the streets, Gibbs told the forum.
But last year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg vowed to end homelessness in New
York within five years through a multifaceted plan to prevent people
from losing their homes, and provide long-term housing options and
support for those who end up on the street.
As a result, the city expects to cut its $720 million annual shelter
budget by two-thirds by 2010, Gibbs said.
"Solving homelessness is big and it's complex, but it's not rocket
science," Gibbs told the forum. "But if you don't say it's solvable and
you don't hold yourself accountable for it, then you won't get there."
Toronto, which operates almost 4,600 emergency hostel beds and has an
annual shelter budget of about $114 million, can't set targets like New
York because there's not enough funding from Ottawa and Queen's Park,
Miller's housing adviser, Sean Goetz-Gadon, said in an interview.
However, Miller's $18.4 million homelessness strategy, which goes to
city council next month, is a first step, he said. The strategy includes
hiring six new outreach workers to provide one-on-one service to people
on the street and encourage them to move from public space into
emergency shelters; building 1,000 new affordable housing units every
year; and lobbying senior governments to build more supportive housing,
issue more rent supplements, and increase the number of mental health
and addiction-treatment beds for homeless people.
Provincial Infrastructure Minister David Caplan and federal Housing
Minister Joe Fontana wrote Miller last week to say the two levels of
government are close to signing an agreement that will provide up to
$600 million for new affordable housing projects in Ontario. Toronto's
share would be between $30 million and $50 million per year, Goetz-Gadon
Meanwhile, provincial Health Minister George Smitherman told the
gathering Queen's Park will provide 500 new rent supplements for people
in Toronto with mental health problems who might otherwise end up in jail.
"The effort is to keep people from being on the street, in jails or in
the shelter system but actually have them housed within supportive
environments," Goetz-Gadon said. "It's a terrific step that indicates
(the province) actually gets the fact that there needs to be help in
Haggerty, who before the forum toured a former 97-unit hotel on Pears
Ave., near Davenport Ave. and Avenue Rd., that is now permanent housing
for the homeless, was impressed. "To be able to find a hotel you can
occupy right away is so exciting," she said.
Haggerty was the inspiration behind Common Ground's 1994 transformation
of the derelict Times Square Hotel into a beautifully restored home for
652 street people, low-income workers and psychiatric survivors. The
project has on-site mental health and social services, employment and
substance abuse counselling, and residents are employed as security
guards, maintenance workers and administrative staff.
Key to Common Ground's success at propelling homeless people back into
productive society is its partnership with Ben and Jerry's, a popular
American ice cream company, Haggerty said. Common Ground runs a
franchise on the main floor of its Times Square building to provide job
training and paid employment for residents.
"When it comes to ending homelessness, supportive housing is at the top
of the list," Haggerty said. "It already exists. It's less expensive
than shelters and it works well in neighbourhoods. Its purpose is
invisible and if it's well thought out, it can be an asset in the
This message is certified virus-free..
Checked by AVG Anti-Virus.
Version: 7.0.300 / Virus Database: 265.7.6 - Release Date: 1/27/2005