Toronto activists calling for more health supports inside shelters
Frontline workers with few resources left dealing with complex health issues
Toronto has a shelter crisis, and there could be serious health issues within the shelters that exist, two separate groups of activists are warning.
The Inner City Family Health Team and other groups will be at city hall on Tuesday morning, urging the city to enhance the health services offered within its shelters and respite stations. Right now, the group warns, frontline workers with the fewest resources at their disposal are dealing with those with the most complex health needs.
Later, the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society, which runs the Moss Park overdose prevention site, will demand that the city ramp up its efforts and open 1,000 permanent shelter beds by mid-April, when busy winter respite stations are set to close.
Toronto's homeless shelters have been operating at 95 per cent of their capacity during a recent bone-chilling cold spell, forcing officials to open more temporary respite spaces and warming centres. For the next couple weeks, the Moss Park armoury is also housing those in need.
Jo Connelly, who leads the Inner City health team, says she's happy the city's moving to open more emergency spaces, but she's worried that shelter staff and others won't be able to handle the complications that can stem from the health issues of some users.
"Many times people who are on the street have a lot of untreated health issues of all sorts, so it's just a lot for these staff to deal with," Connelly said.
Her group is calling on all three levels of government, as well as the Local Health Integration Network, to urgently add more health personnel to the shelter system.