Toronto Council proposal would end sheltering families in motels

Tom Boland (
Fri, 23 Apr 1999 17:27:21 -0700 (PDT)

Would phasing out "welfare hotels" in Toronto or elsewhere leave homeless
families better off?  If so, under what conditions?

See related article below:
FWD  Toronto Star - April 23, 1999


     Proposal would phase out placing families in motels
     Proposal includes spreading housing throughout city

     By  Jack Lakey - Toronto Star  City Hall Bureau

 Toronto City Council will consider a five-year plan to phase out placing
homeless families in motels along Kingston Rd. in Scarborough.

 But council's community and neighbourhood services committee was told
yesterday that the proposal will never work unless the provincial and
federal governments help pay for more affordable housing.

 ``You can't phase out the motels without something to replace them,'' said
Councillor Gordon Chong (Don Parkway), a member of the committee.

 ``Until the federal and provincial governments get their heads on
straight, we need the motels,'' said Councillor Michael Prue (East York),
who also sits on the committee.

 As the city's hostel system filled up in the 1980s, the community services
department began moving homeless families into the strip of run-down motels
along Kingston Rd. as a short-term measure.

 But the crisis didn't ease up during the 1990s and more than half of the
families seeking aid were eventually housed on Kingston Rd.

 Now, more than 900 people on social assistance are living in the motels,
while another 150 have been sent to motels outside the city.

 A report to the committee from city staff notes that area residents are
growing impatient with the strain placed on schools and community services
by the transient families.

 Homelessness is a national disaster and senior levels of government have
to help pay for the solutions, Mayor Mel Lastman said yesterday in a speech
to the Salvation Army.

 The federal government ``helped create the problem when they got out of
the housing business nine years ago, and they still haven't owned up to
their share of the responsibilities,'' Lastman said.

 The committee approved a staff recommendation for a five-year plan to
phase out the use of the motels, but also voted to spread out the necessary
social housing across the city.

 It also conceded that without significant resources from senior levels of
government, it is unlikely the city will be able to develop alternatives.

 The committee's recommendations are to go to city council for approval.

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