Homelessness Getting Worse Despite Some Progress, Says City Report Card|
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Today, the City of Toronto released its first annual Report Card on
Homelessness, which reviews action taken over the last year by each level of
government, in partnership with the community-based sector, to address the
recommendations of the Mayor's Homelessness Action Task Force, which were
released in January 1999.
The report card concludes that homelessness in Toronto is getting worse, not
better, particularly for families with children. Toronto's economy is
improving, but the people most vulnerable to homelessness - people with the
lowest incomes - are not reaping the benefits. Toronto has a large number of
people living in poverty at a time when rents are rising and the supply of
affordable rental housing is falling.
The report card also states that more people are turning to emergency shelters.
The fastest growing group of shelter users is now two-parent families with
children, and the number of children staying in shelters is alarming.
The report card links the rise in homelessness to government policy decisions.
Governments got out of the business of building affordable housing, expecting
the private sector to step in, which has not happened. Other political
decisions that have been linked to the rise in homelessness include the
Province of Ontario's reduction of social assistance benefits by 21.6 per cent
in 1995, vacancy decontrol, other Tenant Protection Act changes, and a
continuing serious lack of community-based mental health supports for people
who have been discharged from institutions.
Even though the homeless crisis is getting worse, it would have been more
severe without the progress that has been made over the last year. Of
particular note are efforts by community agencies, the volunteer sector and
concerned citizens. The City of Toronto is doing what it can with its limited
financial resources, and has implemented the key Task Force recommendations.
The provincial and federal governments have each taken some action in response
to the Task Force recommendations, but still must face the challenge of doing
more to address the root causes of homelessness - poverty and the lack of
supportive and affordable housing.
"The City has taken many steps to battle homelessness, said Mayor Mel Lastman."
However, we can't do it alone. A solution to homelessness will take the efforts
of all three levels of government working hand in hand with the communities and
businesses that make up our great city."
Adds Councillor Jack Layton (Don River), who co-chairs Toronto's Advisory
Committee on Homeless and Socially Isolated Persons, "Adding shelters is only a
Band-Aid, a stop-gap measure. We need the federal government to act and to act
now to build affordable housing."
This Report Card on Homelessness is the first of what will be annual reviews of
the progress of all levels of government at both eliminating existing
homelessness and reducing homelessness in the future.