As COVID-19 continues to devastate the community and impact Toronto’s most vulnerable, the City has acquired over 1,200 hotel rooms to provide additional accommodation for homeless populations amid the pandemic.
As of Friday, April 24, the City says that some 770 people have been transported to hotel rooms with another 492 people moved to community spaces.
The additional living facilities come as part of the City’s “unprecedented, determined, and expedited action to protect those experiencing homelessness in Toronto.”
These measures build on the steps the City has already taken to assist those experiencing homelessness at this time, including opening 11 new facilities and a 200-bed recovery facility for those who are COVID-19 positive.
The City says it has also identified 250 permanent housing units to move people out of shelters to in addition to providing $1.2 million to community partners serving the homeless community for personal protective equipment.
“Implementing a comprehensive response as quickly as possible for Toronto’s most vulnerable has been a City priority,” reads a statement from the City of Toronto.
This comes after a coalition of public-interest organizations filed legal proceedings against the City over what they’re calling “deplorable” conditions in the city’s shelter system and respite sites amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coalition members include the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), Sanctuary Ministries of Toronto, Aboriginal Legal Services, Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, Black Legal Action Centre, and HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario.
The CCLA issued a statement on Friday that says the coalition of groups has filed a constitutional and human rights challenge against the City of Toronto.
“We are deeply concerned that the City continues to operate and oversee shelters that do not adhere to physical distancing standards. This endangers those who use the shelter system, and has forced countless others to set up tents and encampments outdoors, rather than risk going into spaces where there are already many people who have contracted the virus,” reads the statement.
“At the most recent count, there are 135 confirmed Covid-19 cases in 12 different shelters – and more to come. The City’s conduct has endangered not only homeless people, but also shelter staff, healthcare workers, their families, and the broader community.”
The CCLA says the dangers are a direct result of the Toronto Shelter and Respite Standards, which only require that the spacing between beds be 2.5 feet apart, rather than the 6-feet required for physical distancing.
“This is particularly disturbing at a time when everyone is being told to ‘stay home,’ when hotels are going bankrupt, and rooms and student residences are sitting empty,” the statement continues.
“The lack of appropriate accommodation six weeks into this crisis and the city’s conduct violate individuals’ Charter rights, including the right to life, security of the person, and equality.”
This pandemic highlights the deepening problems that arise from not having housing, and how not having basic shelter can have catastrophic effects on the most vulnerable.
— Canadian Civil Liberties Association (@cancivlib) April 24, 2020