Toronto gets $90 million to help end homelessness (Toronto Star)

In an article published on September 11, 2017 in the Toronto Star, I discussed the importance of new provincial funding to address housing and homelessness issues in Toronto. I am pleased that the Province has made an important $90 million contribution to support these efforts.

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Toronto gets $90 million to help end homelessness (Toronto Star)

The money is part of a $200 million commitment in the provincial budget for housing assistance and support services.

Housing Minister Peter Milczyn and Mayor John Tory made the announcement at Homeward Bound campus, a transitional housing facility for single mothers and part of WoodGreen Community Services.

“This is about helping lead people to permanent housing. It is about providing people with the tools and the pathways to get to that stable life that they deserve,” said Milczyn.

Milczyn said the money can be used towards capital expenses, building or sustaining transitional housing units or to pay for programs and wrap-around supports.

“We are providing the money to the city of Toronto. The city of Toronto will be administering the funds.”

Tory said the $90 million was the amount requested by the city, when the province asked what was needed to divert people from the emergency shelter system and break the cycle of chronic homelessness.

The money is expected to help close to 1,900 households.

“We recognize that the second part of this rests with us, and that is the urgency that comes with the investment of this money as soon as possible,” said Tory.

“This is all about fairness for people who are struggling,” he said. “Shelters are not a proper place for people to live on a long-term basis.”

Councillor Ana Bailao, the city’s housing advocate, is charged with making sure the money is spent quickly and in the most effective way.

“It is crucial that these funds are activated immediately to provide much needed supports,” said Bailao, in a statement.

Bailao will be asking the city’s affordable housing committee to direct city staff to come to the October council meeting with information on how to move forward.

On Sunday, the city’s emergency shelter system was at 96 per cent capacity, with more than 5,140 people relying on emergency shelter. Close to 1,000 people are in motel rooms used to manage the overflow in the family shelter system.

Toronto Community Housing is on track to close 400 units in the next year, unless additional funding is provided to manage a repair backlog. And 181,000 people are on waitlists for affordable housing.

When asked if there would be enough affordable housing for people to move into, after receiving supports, both Tory and Milczyn referenced ongoing and planned developments. Tory pointed to the creation of 1,000 affordable units, through the city’s Open Door Program.

Milczyn said that later this week he would announce updates to initiatives related to the use of provincially owned and donated property on Grosvenor St. and West Don Lands. That land combined could, he said, hold 2,000 new rental homes.

“We are investing in the construction of new housing that will be available to those who need it. And we are also investing in the rehabilitation of our existing social housing stock,” said Milczyn. The province announced $4.2 million in energy retrofits for seven buildings earlier this month and has pledged $130 million in retrofits to social housing.

“So we are covering all of the bases that are required to ensure we have fair and affordable housing in this community,” he said.

Homeward Bound is a four-year program designed to stream women who are precariously housed into careers and permanent housing.

Pauline Bogle, 48, spoke of how the program helped her after her marriage ended and she ended up staying with family or essentially couch surfing, with two young boys in tow.

Bogle, in front of the building where she used to live, now works in the banking and finance world and owns a condominium.

“You can’t just offer one piece of the puzzle. Affordable housing only works for people who are well established, who have the money to move in and already have the support system in place,” she said.


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