C4LD report on Armouries (fwd)

Paul York (stephen.york@utoronto.ca)
Fri, 26 Feb 1999 18:43:40 PST


*** C4LD  report  on  Armouries (fwd) ***

          Toronto, Ontario, Canada

[with a short commentary on TACT and
  school gymnasiums at the end]

Note: The following exchange by Toronto
City councillors, as reported by C4LD,
appears to be a repeat of their meeting two
weeks ago, which I reported on, in which
they voted to not open the Moss Park and
Fort York Armouries to the homeless. In other
words, they are stonewalling on the issue of
the Armouries based on a narrow-minded
staff report which states there are enough
bed.

This is contrary to what the National Disaster
Relief Committee and hostels are saying. Why
did Council declare To. a disaster area if they
weren't willing to take immediate action on
the issue? A classic case of lip service.

Yesterday, while homeless advocates
occupied Lastman's office in an act of non-
violent civil disobedience, demanding the
Armouries be opened and the Mayor call
an Emergency Planning Committee session,
Mayor Mel was speaking to a roomful of
well-heeled business types, claiming Toronto
was in "wonderful" shape.

Sounded a lot like his municipal election
gaffe when he said there were no homeless
in North York and a homeless woman died
in N. York that day. He has still not taken up
Jack Layton's suggestion to visit the hostels
and see for himself.  - p.y.

-----------------------------------------------------------

>From :   Citizens for Local Democracy
          "Eyes on the Council Observer's Report"

Meeting:  Community and Neighbourhood
Services Committee

Date:  Thursday, Feb. 11, 1999
Time:  9:30 am - 12:45 pm; 2:15 pm - 3:30 pm
Place:  Committee Room 1, Toronto City Hall
C4LD Observer:  Margaret Vandenbroucke

Members Present: Chris Korwin-Kuczyski
(Chair), Elizabeth Brown, Raymond Cho,
Gordon Chong, Olivia Chow, Robert Davis,
Michael Feldman, John Filion, Joan King,
George Mammoliti,  Michael Prue
 
Members Absent: none, though some were
not there for the whole meeting

Other Councillors: Jack Layton

Staff: Rosalind Dyers, Committee secretary;
Shirley Hoy, commissioner, Community and
Neighbourhood Services Committee; Joanne
Campbell, general manager, Shelter,
Housing and Support; John Jagt, manager,
Hostel Services 

Hostel System Capacity

Deputants spoke in favour of reopening the
Armouries on a regular basis for the rest of
the winter.

Kira Heineck of the Toronto Disaster
Relief Committee said that the City's claim
that there are sufficient hostel spaces for
homeless people is "on paper" only. Spaces
fluctuate rapidly and are not all appropriate
as regards location, gender, disability, etc.
for those that need them. Seaton House,
when more than 80% full, is not safe
physically or psychologically, and demands
on staff are too great.

In answer to councillor Davis' question about
adequate ratio of staff to residents, she
believed existing ratios are below United
Nations standards.

Cathy Crowe, street nurse, said that 150
people used the Moss Park Armouries when
it was opened during the snow storms for 2
nights. Some of these won't use City hostels 
because of the crowded conditions there.

Denise Toulouse of Street Patrol agreed that
this opening saved lives. She estimated that
one half of the 150 people in contact with
Street Patrol who don't use City hostels 
would take shelter in the Armouries. In
addition there are many living outdoors
whom the Patrol hasn't made contact 
with.

Asked by councillor Feldman why people
would feel less threatened in the
Armouries, she explained that they are a 
somewhat different population. They
have difficulty with the crowding and the
rules and regulations in hostels, many
have addictions and mental health problems
and a few are banned from hostels.

Councillor Cho was concerned that the
freedom and space in the Armouries would
attract many from hostels and the same
problems would develop.

[N.B. - Chong is also a Harris supporter,
which to my mind discredits him entirely]

Gaetan Heroux, anti-poverty activist, said
the overcrowding and understaffing in
hostels is untenable. He predicted a crisis
in April when Out of the Cold ends and many
hostel places are closed. He supported the
staff's emphasis on providing more spaces
for single men and harm reduction facilities.

[N.B. - it is said that Seaton House will undergo
renovations, which will deprive Toronto of
150 beds for a time. At least 300 more beds
are currently needed.]

John Jagt of the Hostel Division reported
that the main shortfall in hostel spaces is
for single men; therefore 30 additional
spaces would be opened at the Salvation
Army hostel at Dundas and Victoria. To
reopen the Armouries would be to return
to earlier conditions: large spaces without 
services. Newer, smaller hostels were
better.

Other problems are that the Armouries
need their facilities part of the time
and that there is too great a concentration
of hostels in the area of Moss Park.

[For whom? Not the homeless. This
comment is very NIMBY]

Councillor Layton supported the immediate
reopening of the Armouries as a short-term
response to the crisis and recounted his
recent visits to Seaton House and Council
Fire where overcrowding was unacceptable.
He challenged Mr. Jagt's figures on those
"living rough" (ie without shelter) as too
low and said the increase in people
sheltered on weekends when more Out of
the Cold locations and the University
Settlement are open indicates that many
are not being reached by City shelters. He
wanted to know where displaced residents
will go when Seaton House renovations 
begin in April and what the criteria of "full
standard" hostels are.

Councillor Prue was concerned  that come
April other City hostels are going to be
needed to make up for the closing of 
beds at Seaton House and other facilities.
Contingency facilities should be opened
right away, probably the FortYork Armouries.
Councillors Chong and K.K. maintained
that the agreement with the Dept. of
National Defence was that the Armouries 
were to be used only as a fall-back for
major emergencies, such as the snow
storms. K.K. said DOD might not make
them available for emergency opening
next year if this request were made now.

The Committee decided as follows:

 to recommend the opening of 30
  additional beds for single men at the
  Salvation Army shelter at Dundas and
  Victoria;

 to recommend expanding  hostel services
  by adding smaller full-standard facilities
  and developing harm reduction shelters;

 to request that the Medical Officer of
   Health look into health problems in hostels
   resulting from overcrowded conditions;

 to refer to the commissioner councillor
   Layton's motions to reconvene the state
   of emergency and open the Armouries, 
   and to request that the mayor ask the
   Emergency Planning Committee to plan
   permanent shelters in the east and west 
   ends of the City; 

 staff will report back at the next meeting
   on their plan to replace shelter beds being
   lost in the spring, on standardized rules
   for hostels as requested previously by 
   the Committee and on the meaning of
   "full standard" facilities.
                             
Allocations from $1 mi Homelessness
Initiatives Fund This is a provincial fund
announced in the fall to be spent on
programs which get homeless people
off the street, get them out of hostels
and into housing, and prevent people 
from losing housing. An agenda item
distributed to councillors only at the
time of the meeting detailed allocations
from the fund for 1998.

Councillor Feldman objected to not having
this item prior to the meeting. Commissioner
Hoy assured him that allocations for 1999 will 
follow the normal proposal call and budget
process. 

Councillors King and Mammoliti wanted
evaluation of various proposals and
discussion between agencies making
proposals and councillors. It was
agreed that 1999 funding would be 
discussed at the next meeting.

-----------------------------------------------------------

Other Items:

 . . .

Harold Snow, a resident of the former
City Home, challenged the appointment
of Mary Crowe as a tenant representative
to  the Board of the new Toronto Housing
Company. He thought that she  had a conflict
of interest since she had received income
indirectly from the former Metro Toronto
Housing Company. When satisfied that the 3
tenant representatives had been selected
through a democratic process, councillors 
recommended the proposed appointments
with staff asked to verify that there is no
conflict of interest involved.     

[N.B. - This is a very interesting item. The
Tenant Association Council of Toronto is a
coalition of 16 tenant associations in former
Cityhome and MTHCL buildings --now called
the "Housing Company." TACT is a great
success story still unfolding. They have
managed to bend management's ear on major
issues, including the new budget. Being
organized can make a difference! Snow is a
volunteer tenant organizer for TACT--which
makes him a hero in my books.]

The Children and Youth Action Committee
recommended that the Ministry of Education
and Toronto school boards negotiating 
school closings be asked for answers to
questions concerning the non-curricular
and non-classroom uses of schools during 
and outside school hours.The commissioner
agreed to forward these questions to the
committee negotiating between school 
boards and the Province.

[N.B. - This is also very interesting, since
school gyms are an important resource for
tenants who cannot meet in their lobbies
because of landlord harassment or because
the lobbies are too small. There has been
talk of charging people for such meetings.
This would be a very bad development. I
recall a library administrator who told me
"we don't charge ratepayer groups, but we
charge tenant groups." She did not seem
to realize that tenants are also ratepayers
inasmuch as they pay property taxes
through their rent.]