(FWD) it is a disaster

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@arcos.org)
Mon, 11 May 1998 16:31:52 -0400


---------forwarded message---------
Subject:  it is a disaster
Date: 11 May 98 16:18:24 -0500
From:  crowe@pop.web.net
To:  Gbacque

FYI: This is the text of a deputation I did today to the first meeting
of
the Council Strategy Committee for people without homes. If you support
my
recommendations please consider emailing Frank Baldassini, committee
Secretary at fr_balda@city.north-york.on.ca or Councillor Layton, who
chairs
the committee at jlayton@idirect.com

Council Strategy Committee
On People Without Homes
City of Toronto
c/o Metro Hall
50 John Street
Toronto, Ontario

May 11, 1998

Dear Committee members:

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today at your first
meeting.
I'm here today to outline why I believe that you should consider
Toronto's
crisis of homelessness a disaster for the purpose of receiving emergency

federal relief.

In April I brought this concept to the Advisory Committee on Homeless
and
Socially Isolated Persons for several reasons.

First, our committee was formed in what I now, in retrospect, consider
to
have been the early stage of an acute disaster. Disasters, natural or
man-made, are not restricted to countries in the tropics, but their
consequences are similar. In late1995-early 1996 our committee heard
evidence on the following warning signs of impending crisis: serious
overcrowding of our day and overnight shelter system, a 38% tuberculosis

infection rate among the homeless, clusters of freezing deaths of
homeless
people, a rise in overall morbidity including  malnutrition and the
spread
of infectious diseases and a rise in the number of homeless deaths.

Second, after 26 years of nursing in the inner city of Toronto, I now
turn
to disaster and relief effort literature to inform my nursing practice.
For
example, the most common health problems I see are related to trauma,
tuberculosis transmission, spread of acute respiratory infection,
hunger,
malnutrition, diarrhoea and lice and more serious than any of the above,

deprivation of the human spirit.  Similar to a refugee camp.

Third, displaced persons suffer physically and emotionally - witness the

impact of the emergency shelters on people in Eastern Canada during the
ice
storm. Although I considered offering assistance during the ice storm I
faced a heart wrenching reality, in fact a shocking reminder - that
people
homeless in this city have been hit by a disaster, and many have been
living
a disaster for up to ten years. New victims of the disaster, whether it
be
due to eviction, unemployment or family violence, face dismantled health
and
social supports, an emergency shelter system that is full and a society
that
blames them for even being there.

Finally, Council will eventually receive a report from the Golden Task
Force. I must ask - does the City have the budgetary capacity to deal
with
any Task Force recommendations that have a significant cost associated
with
them?  I suspect not. We need external financial relief now.

I believe I speak for many when I say that in early 1998 we have reached
a
point as a City and as front-line workers where we have to realize that
we
are failing miserably responding to this disaster. The homeless numbers
are
growing exponentially. As recently as Friday our committee heard of the
expected shortfall of 2000 emergency hostel beds. As of last week, the
system is full to capacity and in overflow mode for women and children.
The
reality is we are not in a position to solve this crisis on our own.
Around
the world, forced economic migration to large metropolises has led to
similar crises around homelessness. In Europe and in the United States,
federal funding has been put in place to respond to a national issue
that
has local ramifications.  In Canada, Toronto is clearly in the most
serious
position with respect to homelessness.  I believe that the City should
seek
emergency federal relief specifically to create low-cost housing and to
develop emergency shelter that can adequately meet demands.

I would like to suggest the following recommendations to you.

1. That the committee begin its deliberations from the premise that
homelessness has reached crisis proportions in the City of Toronto and
is
unsolvable without emergency federal or provincial relief.

2. That the committee request a staff report which would include: a) the

various pieces of provincial and federal legislation which deal with
emergency planning and or disaster relief; b) Canadian precedents
whereby
government relief was provided for shelter or housing such as the post
World
War II housing creation; c) analysis of the new City of Toronto
Emergency
by-law as to whether it provides the means to respond to the emergency
needs
(food, safety, shelter and health care) that face a significant
proportion
of the Toronto public who are homeless.

3. That the committee report to Council with recommendations on how to
proceed with discussions with the federal and provincial governments on
this
matter.

Cathy Crowe, RN

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