I’m not the only person who sees cities like Toronto forcibly removing homeless people from areas within the city and thinking about how the city can do something about this very serious issue. After all, city officials are responsible for the people within that city.
Homelessness affects over 10 000 people in Toronto alone and with only 10 shelters that the city directly operates. The remaining 53 are majority non-profits, organized by locals and with hundreds of volunteers who devote much of their own time to helping those who are homeless.
Shelters in Toronto
Cities often throw money at shelters, pat themselves on the back, and call that problem solved. The issue with this is that shelters have obviously not solved the problem of homelessness, nor will they ever. They are not designed in a way to end homelessness. Shelters are great at providing short-term relief, but homelessness is a very real and very long-term issue. Homeless people choose not to go to shelters for a multitude of reasons; for starters, they cannot choose which shelter they end up at, and not all shelters are the same or offer the same services. There are good and bad shelters, and safety is a huge factor as to why many homeless people prefer being on their own.
Being in a shelter also limits their freedoms since they have curfews and limits on visitors. Many homeless people do not wish to give up their limited freedoms to stay at the shelters and prefer to stay in an area of the city that they feel comfortable in.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also posed major health risks to homeless people, considering the City of Toronto’s own shelters does not adhere to the 6 feet of physical distance between beds. Most homeless people do not have access to the proper facilities to protect themselves against COVID, let alone are able to find a place to sleep at night knowing they are protected. The city continues to displace those who have chosen to set up tents in various areas of the city, as well as handing out fines for violating outdoor COVID gathering restrictions. These things do not solve the problem of homelessness, it just adds to the stress of living on the streets of Toronto.
How do people become homeless?
In a city like Toronto, a huge factor has to do with the lack of affordable housing. A few other reasons have to do with systemic and societal barriers, mental or physical challenges within their home, and even racism. According to Fred Victor, “the key driver of homelessness in Toronto is the economy and the housing market.”
Homelessness can affect anyone, no one chooses to be homeless.
One of the leading causes of homelessness around the globe points to the lack of affordable housing, and we are currently heading in the direction of a housing crisis in some parts of Canada, especially in Toronto. There needs to be a shift, a big change in order to really make a mark in ending homelessness. There is no reason for anyone in this country, let alone anywhere in the world, to be homeless.
Residents taking matters into their own hands
You may remember hearing about a man who was served an injunction over the tiny homes he built for the homeless people in Toronto. His name is Khaleel Seivwright, and many have labeled him a hero. Although the city of Toronto has critiqued his work, claiming the tiny homes he built are not a long-term solution to homelessness, many have called out the city is saying that the city has not solved this decades-long issue either. Khaleel partnered up with The Encampment Support Network and has raised more than $200 000, building over 100 homes for the homeless people of Toronto.
While almost 100 000 people are on a waiting list for affordable housing, there needs to be far more action taken by the city to ensure that the homeless population is safe and taken care of, especially during a global pandemic.
What can I do to help?
Toronto has many organizations you can donate to or volunteer your time. Fred Victor is a great resource to learn more and to donate, as well as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
Donations are always welcome! Things like food, clothing, and donations of sanitary items are always needed in shelters.
You can take it a step further and contact city officials, John Tory and even Doug Ford about the housing crisis currently being experienced by the homeless people in the city of Toronto. Demand concrete action and better, affordable housing for all city residents! It is important to put pressure on those who can do something about this issue, always let your elected officials know how you feel about current issues and what they should be doing to make the situation right.
Check out Fred Victor and the CCLA: