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May 26, 2008
City Council approves enhanced services for panhandlers and others who are street involved
Toronto City Council today approved a staff report that will result in enhanced services for people who are street involved, whether they are housed, homeless and in shelters, or absolutely homeless and living on the streets.

“This shows our city to be compassionate and willing to invest in services that will give our most vulnerable residents an opportunity to take their place in the community,” said Mayor David Miller. “A social service response to people who panhandle will result in outcomes for all of us that are better than criminalizing poverty. We are committed to ensuring the dignity and the security of the urban poor and liveability for all Torontonians.”

The proposal builds on the success of the City’s Streets to Homes program, which has assisted about 1,800 people to find permanent housing directly from the streets since its start in February 2005, when City Council adopted a goal of ending street homelessness. The original mandate of Streets to Homes, which sees about 88 per cent of its clients remain in their housing, was to assist homeless people living outside. With today’s approval, this will be expanded to include all street-involved people, regardless of where they sleep.

“Following a ‘housing first’ philosophy, Streets to Homes has developed a successful way to co-ordinate community agencies to house people living on the street and to provide follow up supports in their homes that help people remain housed,” said Phil Brown, General Manager of Shelter, Support and Housing Administration, the City division that oversees the program. “Now we can provide the same level of service to anyone in Toronto who spends their days on the streets. Our goal is to reduce street homelessness and also panhandling.”

Starting in late summer, community workers will be visible on the streets in downtown Toronto, providing counseling, referrals, case management, and assistance in finding and keeping permanent housing to those panhandling and otherwise street involved. A central phone number will be established so that anyone across the city can trigger a response for those who need help. Additional mental health, addiction and employment supports are also being established.

Members of Toronto’s business community were consulted during the development of the staff proposal, providing valuable input and support. The cost of the enhanced service in 2008 will be about $2.6 million, mostly toward the hiring of additional counselors and other social service staff. This will not result in a reduction of other City services for homeless people since it is being funded out of a reserve fund.

Toronto is Canada’s largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. In the past three years, Toronto has won more than 70 awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. Toronto’s government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.

Media contact:
Patricia Anderson, Manager, Partnership and Development, Shelter, Support and Housing Administration Division, 416-397-4328,



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