Today, Mayor John Tory announced the opening of a new winter respite service at the Better Living Centre on the grounds of Exhibition Place. This is the sixth such 24/7 service the City has opened this winter to ensure there are warm, welcoming and safe places for those experiencing homelessness during the winter months.
When fully operational in mid-January, 100 clients will be accommodated at this site. Services for up to 20 individuals are starting immediately.
At its meeting earlier this month, City Council directed staff to provide 400 beds or sleeping spaces as soon as practically possible and authorized the spending of $10.6 million for this purpose.
Mayor Tory provided an update on the rollout of the shelter capacity expansion plan. Less than two weeks after receiving approval, City staff have identified 234 spaces that will be available by mid-January, including 84 beds and sleeping spaces that are already online. The remaining 166 beds will be made available in the weeks after that.
“When it comes to our shelter system, we must do the right thing, in the right way. I am pleased City staff have moved quickly to open additional beds for residents in our city who are experiencing homelessness,” said Mayor Tory. “It is critical that we get all 400 spaces in place as soon as possible and I know that everyone involved understands that urgency.”
“Homelessness is becoming the social crisis of our time. It is incumbent on the City of Toronto to do everything in its power to restore dignity of those who are suffering and save lives,” said Councillor James Pasternak (Ward 10 York Centre), Chair of the City’s Community Development and Recreation Committee. “The opening of the Better Living Centre is another vital strategic move in this direction. Thanks to the Mayor and city staff for leading and supporting this initiative.”
“This new respite service will help us move towards our goal of dramatically reducing occupancy rates. These spaces plus the additional 300 beds deliver on the promise of the Council motion,” said Councillor Joe Mihevc (Ward 21 St. Paul’s) who moved the motion to add the 400 beds or spaces at Council. “Our next step will be for staff, Council and the community to focus on getting the permanent shelter beds open, and in the longer term, to ensure supportive housing is available.”
“Exhibition Place is an outstanding City asset and I am grateful to both City staff and the community agencies who have responded so quickly to prepare the Better Living Centre to serve those in our city experiencing homelessness this winter,” said Councillor Mark Grimes (Ward 6 Etobicoke-Lakeshore), Chair of the Exhibition Place Board of Governors.
On top of the additional 400 beds or spaces, more than 290 shelter beds will be opened in 2018 as part of five new shelter programs serving men, seniors, youth and LGBTQ2S youth. Council also voted earlier this month to direct City staff to expedite the opening of three additional new shelters next year that were originally planned for 2019, as well as adding three more shelters to the 2019 plan.
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