Fw: Toronto Homeless 19 Dec, 1997

H. C. Covington (ach1@sprynet.com)
Sat, 20 Dec 1997 18:01:10 -0600

-----Original Message-----
From: Bob Olsen <bobolsen@arcos.org>
To: HOMELESS DISCUSSION LIST <homeless@csf.colorado.edu>
Date: Saturday, December 20, 1997 11:40 AM
Subject: Toronto Homeless 19 Dec, 1997

  December 19, 1997  The Toronto Star  By Ellie Tesher

                   Let's end this outrage of city's

                   THE 20 young adults living in a condemned,
                   squalid Lake Shore Blvd. building soon to
                   be demolished, are one part of the story.

                   The 36 Metro individuals or families
                   evicted from their homes one day last week
                   alone - in 11 months of this year, the
                   Sherriff's office attended 2,926 evictions
                   - are another sorry chapter.

                   Add an appalling count of 1,100 children
                   living transiently in
                   motels-turned-shelters and crowded
                   hostels, their lives topsy-turvy with
                   dislocation. Homeless children are nudging
                   close to the numbers of single homeless
                   men - 1,300 in hostels today - who are
                   more usually associated with cramped,
                   last-ditch barracks of refuge.

                   This is a Christmas story without the
                   miracle happy ending.

                   It is an ongoing tragic saga of urban
                   refugees scrambling with their diminishing
                   possessions from apartments they can no
                   longer afford to bleak motel-strip units,
                   to tension-filled, noisy shelters, to
                   uninhabitable makeshift hovels.

                   Unless action is taken soon - joint action
                   by city, provincial and federal officials
                   - this story will trouble and define the
                   new Toronto emerging on Jan. 2.

                   People with homes may try to ignore the
                   shadowy figures sleeping on grates,
                   claiming they're beyond help because of
                   their chronic addictions or years of

                   But there's a growing, less visible,
                   nevertheless shocking sub-city of homeless
                   here that may soon explode in our
                   collective face.

                   This morning1 at Metro Hall, Councillor
                   Jack Layton, co-chair of the advisory
                   committee on homelessness, plans to
                   propose erecting a communal tent on public
                   land with portable washrooms and kitchen,
                   to solve the instant homelessness that
                   will follow the Jan. 15 wrecking crew who
                   dislodge the kids in the squat.

                   A tent city in Toronto?

                   ``The unthinkable is happening,'' Layton
                   told me after discussing the tent idea
                   with activists for the homeless.

                   ``The situation is significantly worse
                   than it's ever been.''

                   More emergency hostel and shelter beds are
                   in use than ever before - over 6,000, with
                   780 of them added this year and 300 more
                   coming for mentally ill homeless people.
                   Two ``warming centres'' - unused office
                   quarters - are opening, a third one just
                   for youth launched last night at Yonge and

                   Hostels for singles are bursting. When
                   family shelters fill, parents and kids are
                   shifted to isolated motels as far away as
                   St. Catharines.

                   Even previously far-flung locales have
                   homeless people hanging about, such as the
                   Pearson International Airport. Visitors
                   may not look away as easily as some
                   hardened city dwellers.

                   Most worrisome are reports by front-line
                   workers of a death rate related to
                   homelessness, estimated at one person a
                   week. According to Diane Patychuk, city
                   public health social epidemiologist, a
                   look back at deaths of people with no
                   fixed address or from hostels and
                   drop-ins, revealed some 40 a year from
                   1979 to 1993. ``That's an underestimate,''
                   she says.

                   From Patychuk's study and the homeless
                   population increase of an astounding 67
                   per cent over last year, activists have
                   come up with an estimated 52 deaths, or
                   one a week, as the current death rate.
                   Layton has 12 names of people whom street
                   workers identify as having died since
                   August from causes related to having no
                   home: unsanitary conditions, no health
                   card, no easy access to treatment and

                   Recently, the Ontario Coalition Against
                   Poverty called for deaths on the street to
                   be tracked and investigated. At today's
                   Metro committee meeting on homelessness,
                   the group will demand that alternative
                   housing be found immediately for people
                   turfed out of their squats.

                   Even if emergency measures and added beds
                   get the homeless population through this
                   winter, John Jagt, director of hostel
                   services, warns of a crisis looming if
                   more rooming houses are lost through
                   downtown conversions to condos and lofts.
                   ``They are the main alternatives to
                   hostels. Without them, we'll be in deep

                   A United Way report last month spoke of
                   both short-term and long-term solutions.
                   People at risk need intervention, others
                   helped to survive on the streets. But ways
                   must be found for the uprooted majority to
                   have a home again.

                   The causes of homelessness - including
                   lack of affordable housing and supports -
                   are not insurmountable if all three levels
                   of government summon the political will.

                   It's a moral outrage for any Canadian city
                   to allow more and more of its people and
                   children to fall into deprivation and be
                   left in despair.

Contents copyright  1996, 1997,   The Toronto Star

Bob Olsen Toronto bobolsen@arcos.org   (:-)