First homeless memorial of 2023 highlights continued lack of housing and services for the unhoused, advocates say

A person in a red jacket is speaking into a microphone to a seated crowd. They are outside infront of a brick building.
The first homeless memorial of 2023 allowed speakers to comment on the recent closures of the shelter hotels and ongoing tent encampment clearings. Photo by Daniel Centeno/CJRU.
Daniel Centeno - CJRU - TorontoON | 12-01-2023
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Advocates say the first homeless memorial of 2023 is a reminder of Toronto’s continued lack of housing and shelter supply for the city’s unhoused.

Five names are being added to the homeless memorial this week, which include two that were cold-related during the holiday season. 

Gru, who has spoken to CJRU about housing previously, said to those in attendance of the city’s continued efforts to push the unhoused out of any type of shelter they can find. 

As congregate shelters remain at full capacity and warming centres only open for temporary stretches, many individuals have tried to create more encampments. 

This week, a small encampment at Richmond St. and Simcoe was cleared by Toronto Police. 

According to Gru, some of those in the tents were former residents of the Novotel at the 45 Esplanade. The shelter hotel closed fully on Dec. 31. 

Other tent encampments that may be cleared soon is in Allan Gardens park, he said. 

Community and Crisis worker Diana Chan McNally said responses and services continue to be cut despite the growing number of unhoused individuals - she said the community has reached its breaking point. 

McNally also works for the All Saints Supportive Housing.

Housing advocates including the Housing and Shelter Justice Network continue to question the city’s decision to periodically close its warming centres, especially when these locations used to be open 24 hours, 7 days a week. 

This week, the network created an open letter to the city called Homelessness Crisis - Open Letter to City CouncilIt reads that cold related deaths and cases of frostbite and hyperthermia are preventable. 

Further, the letter reads that increased funding to policing is not the solution and that stability with housing and accessibility to basic human rights will make for a safer community. This in response to the recent $48 million budget increase to Toronto Police that was approved earlier this week.

Some of the goals the letter is asking the city include 24/7 respite low barrier spaces, increase shelter beds by about 2700, keep existing shelter hotels open and stop the eviction of tent encampments. 

The city announced its 2023 winter plan in November to try and help find shelter for its unhoused population. This includes more shelter beds and the warming centres, but no concrete dates for full implementation were mentioned. 

CJRU reached out to the Shelter and Housing Justice Network for comment, and are awaiting a response. 

More details to come.