Toronto City Council Votes On the Creation of a New Standing Committee on Housing

 June 19 deputation

June 19 deputation

On July 26, Toronto City Council voted on the creation of a new Standing Committee on Housing.  This new committee will replace the Affordable Housing Committee and focus on all housing related matters - including affordable housing, homelessness and shelters.  

This item was considered by the Executive Committee on June 19, 2018 and adopted without amendment.  The TAEH submitted a deputation on the 19 with a follow-up outreach to all 44 members of City Council with a request to pass the motion for a Standing Committee on Housing.  The deputation is below.  Thanks to all who added their names in support of the deputation.  We will continue and monitor and provide updates on the new committee.

DEPUTATION

To:       Executive Committee, Toronto City Council
DATE:  Tuesday, June 19, 2018
RE:       Creation of a Standing Committee on Housing, EX35.1

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today on behalf of the Toronto Alliance to End Homelessness (TAEH).  The TAEH is a collective impact initiative made up of Community Partners focused on what it will take to end homelessness in Toronto. 

We are here today to speak in support of the creation of a Standing Committee on Housing.

As you know, the Alliance strongly believes that housing is the solution to end homelessness.  We are encouraged by the recommendations outlined in the report, in particular, the conversion of the Affordable Housing Committee from a special committee to a standing committee responsible for all housing, shelter and accommodation matters. Having one central standing housing committee at City Hall to look at housing holistically and tackle the issue in a central and coordinated way is much needed and exciting.

A Standing Committee on Housing that has a mandate to monitor and make recommendations on housing and shelter in the city is an excellent step forward and reason to be optimistic.  It also demonstrates an understanding that it is one continuum of services from street outreach to affordable housing that is required and shows a commitment to make the housing continuum a priority. 

It is imperative that we ensure those affected by homelessness and poverty have immediate access to housing. The current state of homelessness is at a crisis level. We know that Toronto’s shelters are near capacity (92 percent – June 19); that 8,635 people are homeless on any given night; that over (6,464 – June 19) individuals and families are in shelters, with over 500 people using respite sites (May 30, 2018).

Looking ahead, we believe that a Standing Committee on Housing will be beneficial in such areas as:

  • Redefining what deeply affordable housing means and how to bridge the affordability gap.
  • Exploring a range of housing and affordability issues.
  • Enhancing the City’s interdivisional work that’s starting to take shape.
  • Including diversion and prevention as part of the overall strategy.
  • Addressing the continuum from shelter to housing
  • Developing and enhancing the role of portable housing benefits.

Having a Standing Committee on Housing also provides an opportunity for the Alliance to work together with the committee on reaching our goal of ZERO TO, which is our plan and mission to end chronic homelessness in our city. We acknowledge our role in working with the City to make more affordable housing a reality and look forward to helping set Toronto up for success.

We believe the new Standing Committee will also be instrumental in helping to carry out the initiatives outlined in Reaching Home; the Federal Government’s redesigned Homelessness Partnering Strategy, announced on June 11. With that in mind, we encourage the City to commit as soon as possible a certain percentage of the increased National Housing Strategy dollars to housing and supports for those currently experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Conclusion

We want to recognize the good work done by the Community Development and Recreation Committee, The Affordable Housing Committee and Tenant Issues Advisory Council in addressing all matters relating to housing, shelter and accommodation.  That said, bringing all the City’s housing responsibilities together under one committee along with a proposed new housing secretariat is a step in the right direction and will undoubtedly be more efficient, more strategic for the community and have more impact.

The Alliance greatly favours the effort in creating a new committee focused on championing and overseeing the City’s overall housing delivery system; one that sees emergency shelters and supportive housing as integral components along with mainstream affordable housing development. Our deputation has been reviewed by over 30 of the Alliance’s Community Partners and Individual Supporters listed below and we stand together in advocating support for the motion for a new Standing Committee on Housing.

Thank you.
For more information:
Kira Heineck, Executive Lead
heineck_k@cotainspires.ca   
taeh.ca

Video Link

The Toronto Alliance to End Homelessness joins in celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day

Today, June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day. Officially declared in 2009, National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrates Indigenous cultures and honours the heritage of First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities in Canada. National Indigenous History Month is observed in June with events and festivities that celebrate the contributions of Indigenous people in Canada.

Honouring Indigenous heritage is something that shouldn’t be relegated to one day or one month of the year, rather it should be a part of everyday life in our communities. Until that point is reached, however, we have an opportunity today and this month to join in widespread celebrations and develop a deeper understanding of the history and traditions of Indigenous Peoples in Toronto.

The TAEH recognizes that we cannot adequately address or end homelessness in Toronto without working more intentionally with the leaders and groups serving Indigenous peoples experiencing homelessness going forward.  Consider the following:

·         There is a significant over-representation of Indigenous Peoples in Canada’s homelessness population, stemming from colonization, racism, oppression and historical trauma. In Toronto, Indigenous Peoples constitute around 15 percent of the city’s homeless population, compared to 1 in 128 for the general population. This means that urban indigenous peoples are eight times more likely to experience homelessness.

·         There is not yet an official Federal definition of Indigenous Homelessness. Working with Jesse Thistle, The Canadian Observatory’s on Homelessness defines Indigenous Homelessness as follows: Indigenous homelessness is a human condition that describes First Nations, Métis and Inuit individuals, families or communities lacking stable, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means or ability to acquire such housing. Unlike the common colonialist definition of homelessness, Indigenous homelessness is not defined as lacking a structure of habitation; rather, it is more fully described and understood through a composite lens of Indigenous worldviews. These include: individuals, families and communities isolated from their relationships to land, water, place, family, kin, each other, animals, cultures, languages and identities. Importantly, Indigenous people experiencing these kinds of homelessness cannot culturally, spiritually, emotionally or physically reconnect with their Indigeneity or lost relationships (Aboriginal Standing Committee on Housing and Homelessness, 2012).

You can read more – and watch a short video - about the 12 Dimensions of Indigenous Homelessness and more on the Homeless Hub website.

·         Everyday in Toronto we live, work and travel on land that is the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. The TAEH acknowledges that Toronto is covered by Treaty 13 signed with the Mississaugas of the Credit, and the Williams Treaty signed with multiple Mississaugas and Chippewa bands.

You can learn more about Indigenous peoples in Toronto at the Toronto for All campaign and its message of land recognition awareness in our city.  This public education campaign is delivered by the City of Toronto and supported by community partner Toronto Aboriginal Support Council (TASSC), who we have previously partnered with on projects and have plans to do even more together going forward.   

·         The Advisory Committee’s on Homelessness  focus and recommendations to the Federal government’s homelessness strategies on reconciliation in Canada. The recent announcement of the Federal Government’s Homelessness revitalized Partnering Strategy Reaching Home included the increase of funding to prevent and reduce Indigenous homelessness and support the delivery of holistic and culturally-appropriate responses to the unique needs of Indigenous Peoples living in vulnerable conditions.

We recognize that there is no solving homelessness – or even addressing the causes, or improving the conditions that are meant to support and assist people experiencing homelessness – without working in a coordinated way with leaders in the Indigenous community.  To change this we recognize that the TAEH has a role to play in learning more, and in seeking guidance from the Indigenous community on not only how to increase our working relationship and coordinate our efforts, but also on a shared vision of why this is so important.

Many Indigenous Peoples and communities have for generations celebrated their culture and heritage on or around June 21, the beginning of summer solstice and the longest day of the year.  If you are interested in learning more, Toronto for All has a section on their site on how you can get involved as well as a list of upcoming events.  As for where to celebrate, National Indigenous Peoples Day/Month 2018, there is an Indigenous Arts Festival at Fort York from June 21- 24 as well as other events happening throughout the city.

Resources:

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Report

94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Advisory Committee on Homelessness – Final Report
Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness
Homeless Hub

National Indigenous Peoples Day (Government page)

Toronto for All
Toronto Aboriginal Support Council

TAEH Deputes at Community Development and Recreation Committee

Last Wednesday, June 13, we attended the Community Development and Recreations Committee meeting at Toronto City Council. TAEH Executive Lead, Kira Heineck, TAEH Chair, Mark Aston and Jean Stevenson, Executive Director, Madison Community Services, provided deputations on the 2019 Shelter Infrastructure Plan and System Update Report.  Meeting minutes and the video archive are posted below the deputation.

DEPUTATION

To:       Community Development and Recreation Committee, Toronto City Council
DATE:  Wednesday, June 13, 2018
RE:       2019 Shelter Infrastructure Plan and System Update Report (CD29.08)

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you again today on behalf of the Toronto Alliance to End Homelessness (TAEH).  As you are aware, the TAEH is a collective impact initiative made up of Community Partners focussed on what it will take to end homelessness in Toronto. 

We are here today to speak in general support of the report and recommendation actions for this item.  The work it reflects and proposes responds constructively to the recent and current state of homelessness in Toronto, as well as to the discussions at Committee and Council meetings, including TAEH deputations, since the fall of 2017.

That being said, the TAEH remains frustrated – and galvanized against – the state of homelessness in Toronto that necessitate the measures outlined in this report.  This includes having to add new shelter beds and new respite centres.  We know that this Committee, Council and others in the community remain so too.   

It is with the vision of finally ending this unacceptable situation that we focus on the following points before us today:

·         We must strengthen our focus on housing as the solution to homelessness.  It is the only proven way to end a person’s homelessness and we congratulate you all again on including housing in discussions and decisions over the last months. The Increasing Housing with Supports section of today’s report is another essential part of Toronto’s overall response to shelter capacity issues.

Toronto’s use of the provincial Homes For Good program has produced good results so far.  We cannot however count on program funding to continue past 2020. Therefore, we urge Committee and Council to send a strong message to Ontario’s new Premier that it is exactly this type of investment in people and their housing that reduces both the experience of homelessness and the impact of more expensive responses on taxpayer dollars, such as emergency room visits.

·         We agree with the position in the report that more is needed beyond Homes For Good programming.  It makes sense to explore the recent Council motion that Toronto aim to build 18,000 new supportive housing units over the next 10 years.  Part of this will come from renovations, new construction and the encouraging increased collaboration with Toronto Community Housing to support successful tenancies for people experiencing homelessness.

But it will also require significant new funding dedicated to housing, as today’s report makes clear.  On Monday this week we all learned more about the federal government’s redesigned Homelessness Partnering Strategy – now called Reaching Home.  In addition to doubling the funding that Toronto has received in the past, it requires that all communities who receive this federal funding reduce chronic homelessness by 50% by 2029. 

This is a strong lever for the City to pull, even more so if linked to Toronto’s portion of National Housing Strategy dollars for renovation and construction of new housing. 

The next step is for City Council to commit as soon as possible a certain percentage of National Housing Strategy dollars to housing and supports for those currently experiencing or at risk of homelessness.  We ask this of all orders of government and strongly encourage Toronto to take the lead. 

·         We appreciate the City’s efforts to develop innovative interim strategies for its 2018/2019 Winter Services Plan as outlined to date in this report.  As noted before, these strategies will serve more people better, but we stress that we must also keep our eye on the permanent housing solutions to ending homelessness even as we go forward into another winter.

The TAEH has supported the new shelter model.  We agree with its vision to site shelters across Toronto’s neighbourhoods, recognizing that people experience homelessness everywhere and their chances of diverting quickly back to sustained housing is much higher if served in their own local communities.  And we support the increased emphasis on shelters as a key part of an overall housing delivery system, as well as the much-need work to improve standards. 

In order to meet its vision, and to bring about and sustain better standards, however, it is critical that City Council allocate enough resources to the new shelter model going forward as well.

·         We applaud the continued focus on improving data and reporting, including getting at better, city-wide assessments of need.  The TAEH participated in the development and delivery of the recent Street Needs Assessment and believe it will deliver useful results.  This count is, however, only “point-in-time” data; therefore, we are also deeply encouraged to be part of SSHA’s ongoing efforts to develop Toronto’s own ‘By-Name List’.  This list is now a requirement of the new Reaching Home program and the SSHA’s leadership on this sets Toronto up well for success in ending homelessness before the Federal target.

·         The increased inter-divisional work laid out in this report, including co-locations and partnerships between departments such as SSHA, the Affordable Housing Office, Planning, Real Estate, Long-Term Care Homes and Services is very welcomed.

The TAEH looks forward to doing our part in making the fall charrette between housing and planning departments and sectors, as moved in the March Council meeting, a success.  The possibility of a new standing committee on housing to the new Council is also good news. 

We note that more can be done in developing a strategically coordinated approach with the health sector, and that the Shelter Health Services Design Project is a good step forward. 

·         Increased focus on developing and applying a gender lens when planning and operating drop-ins and respite centres is an excellent development.

CONCLUSION

The TAEH recognizes the good, and monumental work already done on the shelter infrastructure plan even as we repeat the call to strengthen our focus on housing as the means to reach zero homelessness.  We look forward to continuing to work with all parts of the City to get there.

For more information:
Kira Heineck, Executive Lead
heineck_k@cotainspires.ca     taeh.ca

Background Information

Video Archive
https://youtu.be/fqQJCwrssxk

(May 30, 2018) Report and Attachments 1 to 7 from the General Manager, Shelter, Support and Housing Administration on 2019 Shelter Infrastructure Plan and System Update Report
(http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2018/cd/bgrd/backgroundfile-115726.pdf)

2018.CD29.8 - 2019 Shelter Infrastructure Plan and System Update Report
http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2018.CD29.8

In Support of Reaching Home: Canada's Homelessness Strategy

On Monday, June 11, the Alliance attended Eva's Initiatives in Support of Reaching Home, the Federal Government's reinvented Homelessness Partnering Strategy.  The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development announced that the Government of Canada would be making bold changes to the federal strategy to prevent and reduce homelessness.  Along with Adam Vaughan, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Homelessness and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Reaching Home reinforce its community-based approach delivering funding directly to municipalities and works toward a 50% reduction in chronic homelessness over the next 10 years.

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