Hon. Lisa MacLeod
Minister of Children, Community and Social Services,
Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues
6th Floor, 80 Grosvenor St.
Hon. Steve Clark
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
17th Floor, 777 Bay St.
Dear Minister MacLeod and Minister Clark,
In what has been a record-breaking winter for cold temperatures in Toronto, we are writing to you today to bring more light to an important and distressing issue.
The growing housing and subsequently homelessness crisis in Toronto and across Ontario is, and has been, at a critical turning point for too long. We know that in order to address this, every level of government must do their part to work together to provide dignified, equitable and sustainable solutions to an issue that is leaving far too many Ontarians behind.
Between January 2017 to June 2018, Toronto Public Health reported that 145 people experiencing homelessness lost their lives. So far in 2019, eight individuals have already suffered the same fate. Shelters and respite centres have been operating at and over capacity for years, particularly during the winter months, and there are now approximately 180,000 people on Toronto’s Centralized Waiting List for subsidized housing – with average wait times extending to almost twelve years before initial unit offers.
These numbers are unacceptable. We need to address the way that addiction, mental health, historic and ongoing systemic racism and oppression, precarious work, regressive labour conditions, and damaging cuts to social assistance provisions consistently and continually force people into situations of unnecessary suffering and poverty.
Too many people are precariously housed with often little to no support, and we cannot afford to keep ignoring that many Ontarians are one illness, one accident, or one traumatic loss away from homelessness.
The previous government’s long-term affordable housing strategy continuously failed to address mounting housing concerns. While they committed to ending chronic homelessness in 10 years, their lack of concrete targets and timelines meant that our most vulnerable remained neglected for years.
We are calling on your ministries to take both immediate and long-term action now – starting with confirming that you intend to keep the initial commitment to end chronic homelessness in 10 years as well as invest in more supportive housing units.
We also wanted to bring your attention to the Local Poverty Reduction Fund and the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative. Both these programs in the past have been used to support local organizations and municipalities in their efforts to combat poverty and homelessness, including providing emergency shelter supports – which Toronto and other cities are currently in desperate need of.
In 2018, there was no record of any organization, project or community receiving funds from the Local Poverty Reduction Fund. There has also been no communication from your government on intent to continue investing and funding the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative.
It won’t be long before another cold spell sweeps over the province and more lives are tragically lost. We hope that you recognize the urgency of this crisis and we look forward to your timely response confirming your government’s commitment to invest in immediate supportive housing and shelter supports, as well as set out concrete measures to end chronic homelessness in the next ten years.
Rima Berns-McGown Suze Morrison
MPP Beaches-East York MPP Toronto-Centre