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July 23, 1998
Breaking the Cycle of Homelessness
  
Homelessness Action Task Force Chair Anne Golden releases interim report to Mayor Lastman.

Toronto - Homelessness can be dramatically reduced but all three levels of
governments must be involved in the solution to the problem, states the interim
report released today by Homelessness Action Task Force Chair Anne Golden to
Mayor Mel Lastman.

The report, Breaking the Cycle of Homelessness, contains new data from eight
research reports that provide an integrated and complete picture of
homelessness. Included are the results of a longitudinal study of hostel use
over nine years, the first analysis of its kind in Canada. Other research
topics included poverty trends in Toronto; the supply of affordable housing;
mental health and addictions; and evictions.

"A homeless prevention strategy must recognize that homeless people are not a
homogenous group," said Anne Golden, Chair, Homelessness Action Task Force.
"All homeless people need housing, but different people will require different
types of housing and services. A focus on prevention will require developing
policies for the at-risk population and ensuring that affordable housing supply
and adequate support services are available so that people aren't forced to
substitute a hostel bed for a real home."

The policy implications from the data in Breaking the Cycle of Homelessness are
clear:
· All three levels of government must be involved in finding solutions to
homelessness.
· The groups most at risk of homelessness are more highly concentrated in
Toronto than elsewhere in the GTA or the province. Many of the city's problems
originate outside Toronto.
· The Federal Government has an indisputable role to play arising from its
historically pivotal role in social housing development, as well as its
responsibilities for immigration and Aboriginal policies.
· The Provincial Government has an indisputable role to play arising from its
responsibilities in the areas of health, mental health, housing and social
services.
· The City can take the lead by focussing attention on the issue, and by
bringing all levels of government and relevant players together. It can assist
in creating additional affordable housing through property tax policy, land use
regulation, financing, and the supply of land, for example.
· Toronto needs up to 4,000 more affordable rental units per year and 5,000
additional supportive housing units in total.
· A homeless prevention strategy must focus on preventing at-risk people from
losing their homes. Prevention will require policies on income, housing and
supports to enable homeless people to access and maintain stable housing.
· Access must be improved through an up-to-date, centralized information system
on housing and related services, and more co-ordinated intake, monitoring,
assessment and evaluation. Changes in government policies, and discharge
policies from hospitals and other institutions are also required.

The Task Force is proposing a nine point strategy to break the cycle of
homelessness, including: prevention and support services; integration and
co-ordination; additional supportive housing; income and employment; more
affordable housing; fair share policies; a national homelessness strategy; a
distinct Aboriginal policy; and implementation.

"The Task Force has done a good job in analyzing the problem," said Mayor Mel
Lastman. "It's clear we need all levels of government involved to dramatically
reduce the number of homeless people in Toronto. The city will take the lead on
bringing the players together. Now we need the Task Force to complete the final
report which I know will contain the action plan we need."

Task Force members engaged in over 150 hours of orientation visiting shelters,
drop-ins, motels, supportive housing programs, innovative housing models,
boarding and rooming houses, and consulted experts in the field of homelessness
as well as homeless and formerly homeless people.

Some key points from the report:
· 26,000 different people used Toronto's hostel system in 1996, including 5,300
children. Families and youth are the fastest growing segment of the homeless
population.

· 47% of shelter users come from outside Toronto.

· 80,000 people are at risk of losing their housing because they pay more than
50% of their income on rent or live in precarious situations. On a typical
night in Toronto, more than 3,000 individuals are staying in a shelter (many
more in winter), 37,000 are on a waiting list for affordable housing, and an
additional 40,000 are precariously housed and not wait-listed.

· 1 in 4 families in Toronto live in poverty, more than double the rate in the
rest of the GTA. For single female parents under 25, the national poverty rate
was 83% (and Toronto has a 45% higher prevalence of families headed by single
moms than the rest of Ontario).

· Average incomes in Toronto fell by 12.5% from 1990 to 1995, the biggest
decline in the province, compared to less than 8% in the rest of the GTA.
Renters' incomes fell by 12.4%, compared to a 5% decline in average income of
homeowners.

· More than one-third of renters live below the poverty line, compared to 7% of
homeowners, and the trend is worsening: poverty rates for families who rent
increased from 34.6% in 1993 to 36% in 1996.

· The number of evictions has increased dramatically; those executed by the
Sheriff's office have risen 78% over a five-year period.

· Prevention is more cost-effective than emergency response: non-profit and
supportive housing can cost from $12-$36 per day to house an individual (more,
if support is intensive), compared with shelters ($25-$43) and institutional
housing ($124-$360).

While the interim report suggests some general strategies for breaking the
cycle of homelessness, the final report to be released later this year will
provide specific recommendations on actions that need to be taken by all three
levels of government.

"The Mayor and his office have been extraordinarily supportive through this
effort," said Golden.

The Task Force was created by Mayor Mel Lastman in January 1998 following the
November release of United Way's report Beyond Survival: Homelessness in Metro
Toronto. Task Force members include Chair Anne Golden, also President of United
Way of Greater Toronto; Bill Currie, a member of the OPP and Chair of the
Addiction and Mental Health Services Corporation; Elizabeth Greaves, Executive
Director, Dixon Hall; and John Latimer, President, Monarch Development
Corporation.


Media Contact
Kim Barnhardt or Judith John
United Way
(416) 777-2001

Jim Warren
Mayor's Office
(416) 395-6482

 

 

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