Update on Toronto Shelters Campaign: City Council Votes to Open Beds for Homeless!
Thursday, April 4, 2013
It took months of community action, two occupations and some fifty arrests, but the City's claim that the overcrowded shelter system is 'meeting the needs of the homeless' has now collapsed.
On April 4th, City Council voted in favour of a return to the policy of opening new space when shelter occupancy reaches 90% (it is presently running at an official 96% average with some spaces, including women's shelters, at 99 and 100%). Staff are now instructed to take the measures necessary to achieve this goal including the opening of new facilities. Our efforts will now be devoted to ensuring that they do just that.
When the final vote was taken on the amended motion, one member of Council cast a vote against- Mayor Rob Ford. Ford had earlier told the media that he would return to the Council Chambers to explicitly vote against opening more beds for the homeless and he did just that. He had already delayed consideration of the shelter issue by placing on the agenda a proposal to open a Hero Burger outlet in Nathan Phillip's Square. He was able to win the burger joint, but his efforts to deny safety and dignity to homeless people were in vain.
This vote is a victory for community action. We said all along that
letting people die on the streets could be viewed as the ultimate result of the austerity agenda and we have shown we can fight back against that agenda and win. However, we are also clear that it will take ongoing action to ensure this Council vote translates into more beds and new spaces for the homeless.
Finally, pleased as we are with this victory, let's remember that we have won shelter beds for the homeless, not housing. We don't accept that people should sleep in hostels or that upscale development continues to push people and services out of the downtown core. We now have to build a powerful and united movement that can win housing for everyone in this city, and to push back against the gentrification of our communities. We know this will be a long and hard fight. The people who we've lost - members, friends, and the 'nameless' - they are not forgotten and we fight for a city where 'No More Homeless Deaths' is truly a reality.
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty