Armouries as homeless shelters? 'Angry' Tory says no way

The mayor said the proposal to open up two armouries in Toronto to the city's homeless conflicts with expert opinion, despite homeless advocates and a petition calling for the beds.

Mayor maintained in Metro Morning interview that armouries aren’t a good choice for upping shelter beds

Opening up two Toronto armouries to the city's homeless is off the table, reiterated Mayor Tory on Tuesday. He is pressing forward with a plan to create more beds by opening motels and finding spaces in existing shelters. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Toronto Mayor John Tory used a Tuesday morning interview on CBC Radio's Metro Morning to double down on his rejection of a request to open two armouries to Toronto's homeless.

Tory's plan to add 400 shelter spaces by opening up motel rooms and freeing up space in existing shelters was criticized for overburdening an already full system.

Housing advocates like Rafi Aaron, a spokesperson for the Interfaith Coalition to Fight Homelessness, have called the plan a "great disappointment" that will "shoehorn" the new spaces where there's no room.

Aaron wants Tory to open up the Moss Park and Fort York armouries — a plan that's been backed by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam as well other housing advocates and 20,000 signatories to an online petition.

But the mayor clapped back on Tuesday, questioning why advocates like Aaron were taking centre stage in the debate.

"Why is it when it comes to opening the armouries are these one or two people to be taken as having the gospel?" he asked, bristling at the implication that "if I don't do exactly as they say… that somehow that this means that I'm not doing my job."

'It’s not even cold yet, it’s going to get colder this week, and I want to make sure that we’re ready to deal with a situation that’s been compounded by the presence of some refugees who we welcome to the city but some of them are struggling and need housing,' said Tory on Tuesday. (CBC)

The mayor said that public service experts inside and outside of city staff have advised him that opening the Fort York and Moss Park armouries would open up "a number of issues," including inadequate facilities.

He also said that though it wasn't the main consideration, opening the armouries would be costly.

When it comes to Aaron, "I'm taking his word against the word of the experts who work for the city," said Tory, who said he was angered by the "orthodoxy of a small group of people" on the issue.

Those experts, he said, "have said to me over and over again, that this will be done within the shelter standards" and that people won't be crammed in. 

He also said that 291 more shelter beds would be created in the new year as part of the city's plan to open five new shelter programs. 

Mayor John Tory wants 400 beds added to shelters "as soon as possible." Some homelessness advocates say the mayor's plan is "a great disappointment," and point to the city's already crowded shelters. We get the mayor's response. 9:19