Advocates call for hotel rooms downtown to house encampment residents

But for the sites to be successful, housing advocates say, they must have overdose prevention services provided by harm-reduction staff on-site


At least 38 people a day are denied shelter due to a lack of space in Toronto every day.

According to a report set to go to a meeting of the city’s Economic and Community Development Committee on Monday, “demand continues to be hard to predict [and] there may be individuals who are not able to access a shelter space through Central Intake within a 24-hour period” on any given night in Toronto.

Housing advocates say “the persistent inaccessibility of shelter” is one of the reasons people are seeking accommodation in encampments outside during the pandemic.

More than 30 housing advocates, among them academics and frontline workers, are on the list to make written and oral deputations to the committee on Monday. They will be urging a moratorium on encampment evictions. 

The city has been moving encampment residents who are willing to hotel rooms.

But Shelter & Housing Justice Network (SHJN) organizer A.J. Withers says that the rooms are often too far away from the social services and support networks in the downtown core that homeless people rely on to survive.

Withers says “many people” have returned to the encampments from shelter-hotels “because the conditions are unacceptable.”

With shelters full, housing advocates are calling for a moratorium on encampment evictions and the opening of shelter-hotel rooms closer to the downtown core. SHJN says more than 2,000 hotel rooms will be needed over the next four months – half of those in the downtown core – if those currently living in encampments are to be accommodated.

But for the sites to be successful, housing advocates say, they must have overdose prevention services and support provided by harm-reduction staff on-site.

They’re also calling on the city to provide $1 million to community agencies to distribute survival supplies and fire safety equipment to encampment residents, as well as to ensure “access to indoor facilities including access to winterized bathrooms and showers for encampments.”

@nowtoronto

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