**Toronto Star: Homeless not `emerg

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@idirect.com)
Fri, 08 Oct 1999 17:43:19 -0400


Toronto Star   -   October 8, 1999

Homeless not `emergency'

Councillor's bid for disaster relief turned down

By Bruce DeMara Toronto Star

Toronto council's community services committee has rejected a plan to invoke an
emergency bylaw to deal with homeless people and the shortage of shelter beds.

Councillor Jack Layton (Don River) wanted the committee to invoke the bylaw
yesterday under the provincial Emergency Plans Act, which would allow the city
to seek emergency assistance from the province.

But staff argued the measure is rarely used and only to deal with natural
disasters and other serious emergencies.

Layton said he's ``very disappointed'' by the committee's decision.

``Some of our council colleagues haven't spent enough time yet . . . with the
people on the street. If they were to do that, they would come back with a very
different point of view,'' Layton said.

``I hope that they take the time . . . to spend some time out on the street
late, late at night when it's dark and cold with people that know what's going
on out there.''

During the debate, Layton said some estimates suggest three homeless people a
week will die on city streets over the winter.

``What does that number have to be before we say we've got an emergency on our
hands, we've got a major threat to life on our hands?'' he said.

But committee chair Brad Duguid (Scarborough City Centre) said he feared
invoking such a bylaw would be akin to ``crying wolf'' to the province.

Hostel services staff say they expect to have enough beds to handle the
increase in homeless people this winter, Duguid said. ``For us to suggest that
we're in a shelter crisis would be less than honest,'' he said.

The committee did recommend that staff prepare a plan to invoke the bylaw if
the 2,900 shelter beds for single people go beyond capacity.