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June 14, 2002
Community Services Committee set to discuss Toronto's Homeless Shelter Strategy
Community and Neighbourhood Services - On Monday, June 24, 2002, Toronto's
Community Services Committee will consider several key staff reports on the
future of Toronto's shelter system serving homeless adults and children.

In a 27-page report entitled "Multi-Year Shelter Strategy for the City of
Toronto," City staff have proposed three priorities for the future of Toronto's
shelter strategy: improving the current capacity of the existing shelter
system, increasing advocacy for long-term solutions to homelessness, and
ensuring operational accountability for the City's shelter program.

The report notes that despite the recent growth in the number of shelter beds,
homelessness remains a serious problem in Toronto. "More people are living on
the street and the needs of people who are homeless have grown deeper," said
Councillor Olivia Chow, incoming Chair of the City's Community Services
Committee. "The starting point for the multi-year strategy is an understanding
that shelters are not the solution to homelessness. There is more need than
ever to create long-term solutions to homelessness, but the immediate needs of
homeless people are still critical."

Key proposals in the report are aimed at:
- setting a space standard for shelters that reflects international standards
- replacing 481 beds within three years to upgrade beds and comply with the new
space standard
- reducing reliance on shelters within five years
- improving city-wide access to shelter beds
- increasing shelter capacity for special target groups, such as Aboriginal
- adding 1,992 new shelter beds over the next 10 years
- helping people leave the street or shelters.

The report estimates the annual capital cost for creating and replacing the
much-needed beds over the next 10 years would be $12 million. "As in the past,
the City will require funding support from the federal and provincial
governments to make the strategy a reality," said Councillor Chow.

A companion staff report recommends that the multi-year strategy be referred to
the Budget Advisory Committee for review as part of the City's budget review

The report goes on to say that "the shelter system cannot continue to be used
as the fall-back system for policy changes and service reductions at other
levels of government." The report recommends that "?the City continue to
advocate with senior levels of government to address the housing, health and
income issues that must be addressed before the City can effectively deal with
the issue of homelessness."

There are 65 shelters operating in Toronto and providing 4,500 beds on a
nightly basis. Over 30,000 homeless persons use the shelter system on an annual
basis. In 2001 the total cost to operate the shelter system in Toronto was
$97.5 million.


Chronology of Shelter Planning

- September 1999 Council adopts 675 new bed shelter development target

- February 2001 Community Services Committee requests long-term plan on shelter

- March 2001 Auditor?s report calls for enhancements to shelter occupancy
reporting and a review of bed reservation policies across the shelter system

- July 2001 Hostel standards review project initiated

- September 2001 Firm hired to conduct a review of shelter access policies

- April 2002 Council refers new Shelter By-law to Mayor?s Office

- June 2002 Community Services Committee considers multi-year shelter strategy
and draft new shelter standards

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