Gimme shelter

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activists and city staff are but-ting heads over the number of shelter beds required to house the homeless.The Toronto Disaster Relief Committee has “begged” the city for 80 more spaces at Princess Margaret Hospital and to allow men and transgendered people to bed down there. At present the hospital provides 120 beds to couples and single adult women.

“The estimates are that there are 1,000 more people outside, and there’s also overcrowding in the existing shelters,” insists the TDRC’s Cathy Crowe.

But John Jagt, director of hostel services, maintains that there are currently enough beds to accommodate everyone who needs one.

“If you count everybody who’s staying with a relative or that informal shelter system, then there probably are many thousands,” says Jagt. “But I’m talking about the ones who are living rough on the street. In the winter it gets down to handfuls.”

Jagt admits system usage is at 90 per cent, but stats from 143 shelters for the week of January 1 through 7 found that 256 adult and youth beds per night were still available, he says. There are 6,000 beds available citywide, he says, a few hundred of which are mats on the floor. SCOTT ANDERSON

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