Toronto

Mayor John Tory's shelter plans — will they work for Toronto's homeless?

Housing advocates warn Mayor John Tory's plan to open some 400 more shelter beds this weekend could put more stress on an already over capacity system.

Housing advocates want the city to open the Fort York and Moss Park armouries to the homeless

Approximately 5,400 people use city shelters in Toronto every night. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Housing advocates warn Mayor John Tory's plan to open some 400 more shelter beds this weekend could put more stress on a system that is already at over capacity.


The advocates want the mayor to seek the federal government's help to open the Fort York and Moss Park armouries to this city's homeless. But Tory says that based on expert advice the armouries are "well down the list" because they lack proper washrooms and security systems. 

"I don't think just because one group out there have consistently said that they think the armouries should be opened up is a reason why that should be the option we pick," he said.

Some 20,000 people have signed a petition supporting that plan, which frontline workers, like Cathy Crowe, say would be cheaper and faster than the mayor's plans to open up motel rooms and create additional spaces at existing shelters and drop-ins.

'A great disappointment'

On CBC's Metro Morning Monday, Rafi Aaron, a spokesperson for the Interfaith Coalition to Fight Homelessness, said the mayor's plan is "a great disappointment" and "really bad news" for frontline workers in shelters. 
Rafi Aaron, spokesperson for the Interfaith Coalition to Fight Homelessness, speaks at a podium during a press conference at city hall on Nov. 28. He was there demanding that the city declare an emergency in its shelter system. (John Rieti/CBC)

"It's shoehorning 400 spaces into already overcrowded drop in centres and shelters," he said.

"The guests and clients who use these services are experiencing health hazards due to overcrowding, with not enough washrooms and no showers often."

Aaron said most shelters in the city are at 96 per cent to 100 per cent capacity already. He also suggested that temporarily housing families in motel rooms is expensive, adding that the plan doesn't help individuals who need a bed. 

"There's a really easy solution — just open the armouries. You open the armouries they get people off the floor. They would be on cots, it's very spacious with showers and washrooms," he said.

Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, who last week joined faith leaders calling for the city to bolster its shelter system ahead of the winter, also criticized Tory's move, saying homeless people need a "proper response" from city hall.

With files from Metro Morning.