Council officially declares homelessness an emergency

Toronto City Council declared Homelessness an emergency on May 12, 2023.

Holy Trinity has been engaged in this work for years, in part with others through the Shelter and Housing Justice Network. Here is the statement released by that network in response to Council’s declaration.

SHJN Statement on Council Vote to
Declare Homelessness an Emergency

Meaningful Intervention in the
Housing & Homelessness Emergency Must Follow

On Friday, May 12, 2023, Toronto City Council voted to declare homelessness an emergency. Council
must recognize that increasing unaffordability and the major shortage of RGI housing also constitutes a
housing emergency and must ensure this declaration mobilizes resources and compels action from all
levels of government. This emergency declaration follows a decades-long push by community groups,
advocates, and unhoused people to ensure people’s right to housing and safe shelter. Many have called
for the City to declare a housing and homelessness emergency since as far back as 2018.

With the lack of meaningful intervention by our elected officials for years, the crisis has worsened
dramatically since 2018 and hundreds of people have died. According to the City’s own records at least
720 people died while unhoused in Toronto between 2018 and 2022. In 2023 so far, 12 more names were
added to the Toronto Homeless Memorial. While City Council debates how often homeless deaths should
be reported
, people are in a constant state of grief. Since 2018, the number of people experiencing
homelessness increased by 2,085 people to at least 10,800. This emergency is a direct result of reckless
and murderous social policies. This is state-sanctioned violence: the abandonment and displacement of
poor, disabled, Black, Indigenous, racialized and marginalized communities on stolen land.

With this declaration, the City must prioritize the well-being of people over generating profits for developers
and real estate speculators and compel other levels of government to respond with the urgency required.
We demand that City Council:

  1. Ensure this declaration translates into immediate and meaningful action to address the emergency of housing and homelessness in this city.
  2. Advocate for the provincial and federal governments to build rent geared-to-income social housing in Toronto: 10,000 units immediately to address homelessness and 90,000 units to address the growing waitlist.
  3. Advocate for the provincial government to enact a rent freeze, apply rent controls to all rental units and enact vacancy rent control.
  4. Advocate for the provincial and federal governments to increase social assistance rates to respond to the worsening homelessness and housing emergency, ongoing global pandemic and increasingly unaffordable costs of living, as has been implemented in other emergency situations (i.e. CERB, which was $2000).
  5. Implement a moratorium on encampment clearings and stop the harassment of residents and destruction of survival gear. Divest from policing and harassing marginalized communities and invest in providing access to safe shelter and housing options.
  6. Stop shelter-hotel closures and open at least 2,700 additional non-congregate shelter spaces now. Residents must be provided with individualized housing plans. SSHA must stop displacing people to congregate shelters or outside.
  7. Reinstate low-barrier year round 24-hour respites with surge capacity for extreme weather.

The City has the power and responsibility to ensure all residents have access to safe, accessible and truly affordable housing and must act immediately. We will be paying attention. Stay tuned for our next steps!

Shelter Housing Justice Network

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