Declare Homelessness and Housing a State of Emergency in Toronto

This Wednesday, January 30, Toronto City Council is debating whether or not they take action on our homelessness and housing crisis in Toronto.

With extreme cold warnings in place, a record number of people experiencing homelessness, an affordable housing crisis in our city, and an overflowing shelter system, it’s time Mayor Tory and Toronto City Council declared our homelessness and housing crisis a State of Emergency.  

We need a co-ordinated intergovernmental emergency response that a State of Emergency creates. Once a State of Emergency is declared, federal and provincial support is unlocked and Toronto’s own emergency response system is rolled out.

On Monday January 21, 2019, John Tory was interviewed on CBC and refused to declare a State of Emergency on homelessness and housing. See our detailed round up of the interview here.

However, not all city councillors are willing to sit back while thousands are left in the cold. Councillor Wong-Tam and Councillor Perks, alongside housing advocates, are formally asking the Mayor and the City of Toronto to declare a State of Emergency on homelessness and housing in our city.  See the letter from Councillor Wong-Tam and Perks here.

If the Mayor and other councillors hear from thousands of residents across the city, they will know Torontonians care and are watching. They will be compelled to declare a State of Emergency and lives will be saved.

Use our form to take action and have your voice heard today. The form also emails your Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) and Federal Member of Parliament (MP) to let them know that the City of Toronto cannot address the housing crisis and homelessness on its own.

Some stats:

  • 9,000 people are homeless or precariously housed [1]  

  • 7,945 people were in our shelters, respite centres, and warming centres this weekend [2]

  • Most of our shelter system is operating at capacity, with some places over capacity [2]

  • Many people who remain on the streets have built makeshift homes under the Gardiner Expressway and have been served eviction notices from the city [3]  

  • Four people experiencing homelessness have already died this January [4]

  • From January 1, 2017 to January 30, 2018, there were 145 deaths of people experiencing homelessness in Toronto [4]

  • 181,000 people are waiting for affordable housing in Toronto and they often have to wait 7-10 years before getting an apartment [4]

  • 14,000 Torontonians living with serious mental health challenges are waiting for supportive housing, with wait times of 2 - 4.5 years [4]

  • The city already failed to meet its commitment to open 1,000 new shelter beds in 2018, the city needs support [5]

Why do we need to call it a State of Emergency?
In the Mayor’s interview on CBC, Matt Galloway presses Mayor Tory on whether or not he thinks we have a crisis on our hands and if he would declare a State of Emergency. Mayor Tory repeatedly said that while this was an urgent situation, he would not call it a crisis.

Calling the situation a crisis and saying we are in a State of Emergency can unlock additional funds from other levels of government, so that the city can help to make sure people have shelter. In fact, the Government of Canada’s Emergency Management Act requires a request of assistance and the declaration of an emergency in order for their own emergency protocols to be implemented.

The City of Toronto has the ability to declare a State of Emergency, which sets a whole world of vital actions in motion [6]. The Mayor or city council can declare a State of Emergency on issues that constitute a danger of major proportions that could result in serious harm to people and that are caused by forces of nature (e.g. extreme weather), and more.

In a State of Emergency, relevant agencies and divisions come together to deal with the danger and how the city will recover from it. The City, provincial and federal government coordinate with each other. The City cannot deal with the crisis alone and an intergovernmental response to the homelessness and housing crisis is needed.

We need Mayor Tory and Toronto City Council to support Councillor Wong-Tam and Councillor Perks’ motion calling for the City of Toronto to declare that the homelessness and housing crisis is a State of Emergency.

That’s where you come in. If the Mayor, councillors, MPPs, and your MP hear from thousands of Torontonians demanding that they declare a State of Emergency on Homelessness and Housing in Toronto, we can save lives this winter.

Send your email today.