Councillors call on province to end cap on hostel funding|
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City Budget Chief David Shiner and Community Services Committee Chair Olivia
Chow today visited Women's Residence - Toronto's largest shelter for women - to
witness the human side of homeless shelter services. In particular, the two
councillors saw the range of programs such as counselling and healthcare being
offered at Women's Residence that go far beyond providing basic shelter.
"Women's Residence provides much more than meals and a bed. But provincial
funding provides for little more than that," said Councillor Shiner. "The City
of Toronto has no choice but to invest in essential services that can help
homeless women, men and families get back on their feet. Property taxpayers
shouldn't be forced to subsidize the provincial government by funding such
immediate and necessary shelters and counselling services."
Under the provincial funding formula for homeless shelters across Ontario, the
province shares the cost of homeless shelters with municipalities but caps the
operating cost at $38 per person per day, of which the province pays 80 per
cent or $30.40. In Toronto, the average daily shelter cost is about $50 per
person, leaving the City of Toronto property taxpayers to pay the difference.
"Most of the women staying at this shelter have a host of needs that make
support services crucial to their well-being and progress," said Councillor
Chow. She said that "homeless shelters are not just about three meals and a bed
anymore," and commended Women's Residence for doing a great job helping to
guide women out of homelessness.
In a joint letter sent to Community, Family and Children's Services Minister
Brenda Elliott today, Councillors Shiner and Chow urged the provincial
government to eliminate its cap on hostel funding in view of the support
services being provided. The councillors pointed out that City of Toronto
property taxpayers will pay $16 million more than its share of the cost to
operate homeless shelters this year due to the provincial cap. In the case of
Women's Residence alone, the provincial-funding shortfall will amount to almost
$3.3 million in 2003.
Support services at Women's Residence, as in many homeless shelters across the
city, include mental health and addiction counselling, healthcare, employment
and skills training and housing search services. The shelter also operates "The
Lounge" harm-reduction program for high-needs women, Bellwoods House for women
who are chronically homeless and the Adelaide Resource Centre for Women that
offers a wide range of ongoing support, health and skills programming in
partnership with several community-based agencies.
Last year, nearly 2,500 women, ranging in age from 19 to 91 years, stayed at
Women's Residence. Two-thirds of the women were dealing with mental health
issues. One in five were victims of domestic assault. The Adelaide Resource
Centre for women received almost 23,000 visits in 2002.