August 13th, 2020
Hon. Doug Ford
Premier of Ontario
Legislative Building, Queen’s Park.
Re: Provincial supports needed for Yonge-Eglinton area shelters
Dear Premier Ford,
Two temporary housing sites at Broadway and Roehampton have been opened by the City of Toronto in recent months in the Yonge-Eglinton area to protect street-involved residents from COVID-19. Our community recognizes the need to house these individuals, but more supports are required to ensure the safety of the community and shelter residents.
In the past week the facility on Broadway has experienced an overdose death of a shelter client, the stabbing of a City employee and a fire. In addition, there have been numerous break-ins, harassment of area residents, and needles found in public areas. The impacts on the shelter clients and the surrounding community are unacceptable and must be addressed.
These incidents are the result of a shelter community that has a significant need for mental health and addiction supports. Many of these shelter clients were released from provincially regulated mental health or correctional facilities without a housing plan in place. As a result, the housing of these individuals has become the responsibility of the City.
I have worked with the Mayor and local residents to successfully advocate for the City’s Shelter Services Division to provide additional safety and support measures including:
• Routine perimeter walks of the property by security guards
• Community Safety Teams picking up hazards such as needles and monitoring 24/7 for inappropriate activity
• City of Toronto Corporate Security mobile patrols
• 33 cameras throughout the site
• Toronto Police Services’ Community Response Unit visiting the site regularly.
• Inner City Health Associates will begin providing physician, nursing and psychiatric supports and Toronto Public Health – The Works, which provides harm reduction services, will be on site twice per week
• Working with local schools on a safety and security plan for when school resumes
• Hiring additional housing workers to be assigned full-time to the site. These workers will provide individualized supports and housing search assistance while referring clients to mental health professionals, employment services, skills training, harm reduction and addictions counselling, and other supports as needed.
These are good first steps, but to ensure the safety of the Midtown community, including local residents and shelter clients, additional provincial supports are needed. The Broadway facility will close by Labour Day but the City has signed a 2-year lease for the Roehampton site. Addressing the mental health and addiction issues faced by shelter clients at Roehampton are outside the City’s mandate and resources. Please support our neighbourhood by:
• Ensuring appropriate harm reduction, overdose prevention and mental health services are available to support individuals in the Roehampton shelter
• Ending the practice of discharging individuals directly from corrections facilities into homelessness by ensuring all individuals have a housing plan in place prior to discharge or by working with municipalities to coordinate discharge plans to address housing and community safety in advance of release.
• Re-open the mental health crisis beds that were shut down at the beginning of the pandemic, or make alternate arrangements to provide support for people that require these services.
Thank you for your attention in this important matter. I look forward to working with you to support all Midtown residents.
Councillor Josh Matlow
Toronto – St. Paul’s