City hostel hotline is ringing off the hook

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@idirect.com)
Thu, 03 Sep 1998 05:55:52 -0700


September 3, 1998

City hostel hotline is ringing off the hook=20

Hours of waiting prove demand for family shelters=20

By Jack Lakey=20
Toronto Star City Hall Bureau

A new phone line set up by the City of Toronto to help families in need of
a hostel has been so swamped by calls that people can't get through,
poverty activists say.=20

Last month, the city set up a special phone line that families in unstable
housing or without a home could call to get into a hostel or one of the
motels used when the family hostels are full.=20

GAVE UP

Gaetan Heroux, who works at a downtown hostel, said he started calling the
number yesterday to get some information, and spent nearly an hour on the
phone trying to get through before giving up.=20

``The hostels we have now are full, and there are waiting lists for
families who need to get into a shelter. This is actually dangerous when
they can't even get through to the number they've been told to call,'' he
said.=20

Heroux said he called several other numbers in the city's hostel services
division before he finally reached a manager who told him that the new
system has been overloaded with calls in the past week.=20

``I was phoning to find out about the family assistance protocol,'' Heroux
explained. ``(The manager) confirmed that they have been overwhelmed with
calls.''=20

He also reached Joe Brinkos, manager of the Greenfield family hostel in the
former North York, who said the new phone system was insufficient for the
volume of calls that have been flooding in.=20

Brinkos told him ``that they were not expecting as many calls as they've
been getting,'' Heroux said. ``He was very aware of the fact that people
were phoning but were not able to get through.''=20

However, the phone system won't be upgraded for at least another two weeks,
Heroux added.=20

John Jagt, manager of the city's hostel services, could not be reached for
comment yesterday, but Brinkos later said in an interview that, ``it's not
a proper system for the usage that it is getting.''=20

NEW SYSTEM

``It's a sequencially bouncing system of six lines, and we have found that
it is too disruptive to a. . . worker who is actually on a line, dealing
with someone in need, having another line ringing.=20

``It's not very good for the people who have been calling in, so (we're)
getting another system to serve them better,'' Brinkos said.=20

He added he didn't have figures on just how many people have called since
the new hotline opened Aug. 26, but conceded that ``there have been a lot
of calls.=20

``It indicates to me that certainly there's a lot of demand. But it has
quieted down substantially in the last couple of days,'' he said.=20


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