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  Mayor's Homelessness Action
Task Force - completed

The Mayor's Homelessness Action Task Force has completed its mandate and submitted its final report in January, 1999. The following information is provided for archival purposes.

Breaking the Cycle of Homelessness
Interim report July 1998

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Breaking the Cycle of Homelessness Interim Report The Mayor's Homelessness Action Task Force is pleased to provide this interim report of its findings to the Mayor of Toronto. These findings are based on an intensive orientation by Task Force members and on research that we have commissioned.

Each of the Task Force members engaged in more than 150 hours of orientation, including site visits and presentations by experts in the field. We visited a number of shelters, motels in Scarborough where homeless families are placed, drop-ins where food and services are provided, volunteer programs such as Out of the Cold where volunteers sustain a program originally intended as a band-aid solution to a crisis, supportive housing programs that provide housing and supports but for which there are long waiting lists, innovative housing models such as StreetCity and Strachan House which provide housing in a community setting, the Queen Street Mental Health Centre where 90 per cent of the clients live in poverty, and boarding homes and rooming houses some of which are unacceptable for habitation. We also met with service providers and their clients who gave us their perspectives on the problems and solutions to homelessness.

To help us understand homelessness and come up with strategies to break the cycle of homelessness, we commissioned eight research studies. We found that there was no current consensus about the definition of homelessness and the numbers of homeless people, no agreement on what actions are needed, no complete map of the mental health and housing support service system, no cost analyses or evaluations of these programs, and no complete data on evictions all of which we needed to develop a strategy to address the problems of homelessness.

This interim report sets out nine broad strategies for breaking the cycle of homelessness; the final report will provide specific recommendations on actions that need to be taken by all three levels of government.

Nine Strategies to Break the Cycle of Homelessness

The following sets forth some general strategies for breaking the cycle of homelessness. More detailed and specific recommendations will be part of our final report.

  1. Prevention and Support Services: Return the shelter system to its original purpose of providing short-term emergency service and stop using shelters as a substitute for housing. Preventing homelessness requires policies on income, housing, and supports to enable homeless people to secure and maintain stable housing. Prevention strategies will include eviction prevention, changes to discharge policies from jails, hospitals, and treatment facilities, and adequate funding for drop-ins, housing workers, and other needed support services.
  2. Integration and Coordination: Re-design the current system of shelter and housing programs and supports in Toronto to ensure access and promote accountability. This will require an up to date, comprehensive, centralized information system on housing and related services. It also requires a more centralized in-take system (with multiple access points) for emergency, transitional, and permanent housing programs and improved methods for monitoring, assessment, and evaluation. Re-design of these systems will build on existing networks with improved opportunities to integrate health and social service planning on a local geographic basis.
  3. Additional Supportive Housing: Build supportive housing and develop the programs for chronic users who are homeless due to mental illness, addiction, or other reasons.
  4. Income and Employment: Provide adequate rental assistance to those who are vulnerable to homelessness or already homeless due to economic reasons. Pursue economic development strategies to create jobs for extremely low income people and recipients of social assistance.
  5. More Affordable Housing: Create a multi-year program for preserving existing stock and creating new supply that meets existing and anticipated need for affordable housing.
  6. Fair Share: Implement fair share policies to prevent Toronto from becoming the magnet for all who need affordable or supportive housing in Ontario. Ensure a more equitable distribution of supportive and low-cost housing and services across the province, the GTA, and within the City of Toronto.
  7. National Strategy: Create a national homelessness prevention strategy that includes policies on income and housing supply. Clarify the respective responsibilities of the federal, provincial, and municipal governments for income, housing supply, and health issues.
  8. Distinct Strategy for Aboriginal Homeless Population: Develop a distinct homelessness strategy for Aboriginal people.
  9. Implementation: Establish a mechanism that ensures that the system will be implemented, monitored, evaluated, and accountable. Various government and stakeholder groups, including homeless and formerly homeless people, service providers, and business representatives, will participate in whatever mechanism is established.


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