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Hamilton chapter joins anti-poverty protest to demand Toronto mayor opens the armouries, adds shelter beds

The Council of Canadians Hamilton chapter joined with the Ontario Coalition against Poverty (OCAP) and others who camped outside Toronto Mayor John Tory’s $2.4 million luxury condominium on Saturday night to highlight their demand that he do more to help the more than 5,000 people who are homeless in Toronto.

David Cherkewski, the chair of the chapter’s Poverty and Inequality group, was among the 42 people who slept on the street outside the building on Saturday night.

The outreach for the action stated, “Toronto Mayor John Tory refuses to open enough shelter space to prevent homeless people from sleeping on the streets. If that’s what people are forced to do, we have picked the best possible spot to do it – right in front of Tory’s multi-million dollar condo. Join us if you can for all or part of the night.”

An OCAP media release issued on Saturday night noted, “We will demand that the city immediately open up the armouries to provide much needed respite to the homeless and add at least 1,000 beds to the shelter system to bring occupancy levels down to 90 per cent as mandated by city council.”

In mid-March the Toronto shelter system was at 97 per cent overall occupancy, with some centres for women at close to 99 per cent occupancy.

NOW Magazine adds, “The city’s Housing Stabilization Fund (HSF) is supposed to focus on preventing homelessness. It’s a lifeline for many poor people who need the emergency money it provides to prevent evictions, replace furniture lost to bedbugs, pay utility arrears or rent deposits and relocate due to domestic violence, flooding or fire. …[But] the city has under-spent the amount budgeted for the HSF by an average $3.5 million a year since 2013. …[The] money transferred out of homelessness prevention [was clumped into a number of different reserves where it] can now be used, for instance, to build highways at some undetermined point in the future, despite the current crisis in homelessness.”

Furthermore, CityTV reports, “In February, Toronto City Council voted to cut 10 staff members from the municipal shelter system to save $1 million. At the time, Tory told council there was no evidence to suggest the cut would impact the quality of shelter operations.”

OCAP has also attended City Council meetings, talked with city councillors, written letters and reports, signed petitions and organized rallies on this issue.

At The Council of Canadians annual conference in St. John’s this past October, members passed a resolution put forward by the Peterborough-Kawarthas chapter that stated, “Whereas it is morally reprehensible to deprive people of the right to a home and force them to live in degrading conditions because they are poor; Therefore be it resolved that the Council of Canadians undertake a nation-wide campaign advocating an end to homelessness.”

As many as 90 people have died in Toronto as a result of homelessness over the last two years.