Just two weeks after the first temporary winter shelter opened its doors to Londoners experiencing homelessness, there are early signs of success.

Thirty-two people are now staying inside heated construction trailers converted into modest shelter accommodations in the parking lot of the T-Block building on Elizabeth Street.

“This is amazing, because we’d be on the streets, sleeping on the streets, freezing our butts off,” explains 45-year old Tanya, who has been homeless for five years along with her boyfriend.

Homeless community workers in Montreal say they are worried about staffing shortages as COVID-19 cases surge among its population.

Resilience Montreal shelter has been closed since Dec. 17 so that its staff could take a break after being swamped for weeks helping members of the city’s homeless population.

Nakuset, director of Resilience Montreal, told Global News the shelter is unsure how to greet people on Monday when the establishment reopens.

Sam Watts, director of the Welcome Hall Mission in Saint-Henri, says the number of COVID-19 infected people the shelter has seen has increased rapidly.

A baby girl, about two weeks old, clutches her mother’s finger. She, her mother and 13-year-old sister are crashing in a single room at a friend’s house, after the family left one of the city’s homeless shelters.

In a sterile hospital room, around 3 p.m. on Nov. 28, 2020, Toronto’s homeless population increased by one. A six-pound, 12-ounce infant with a shock of dark hair came into the world without a fixed address.

The baby was delivered by C-section after medication to induce labour dropped the infant’s heart rate. Though the medical system bore the weight of a pandemic, the infant’s mother said she felt safe in the hospital. Her partner was able to stay with her for a day, though no longer.

Born with a cleft lip and palate, the baby would have to stay in hospital for a few days, with surgeries to come in the months ahead. But there was no nursery sitting empty at home.

Alicia Fay rifles through the food rescue donation boxes to see what’s inside.

Food insecurity expected to grow next year

The outreach coordinator for the Gathering Place says the city’s soup kitchen is just trying to fill a need in the community, one that Fay expects will grow in 2021.

“We have so many families who could benefit,” Fay says as she puts frozen pizzas and instant food items aside.

“Food insecurity comes in many shapes and forms. Some people have too much pride to use a food bank or soup kitchen and they just go without.”

Thunder Bay’s municipal government will fund a warming centre in the city’s south end, responding to concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic has left the vulnerable with few ways to get out of the cold.

City council approved funding for a daytime warming centre at a meeting on Dec. 21, voting unanimously to allocate $46,000 to staff the centre, and up to $20,000 for operating expenses.

The centre is expected to run through the end of March. It will be operated by a community agency selected by the city, which will have to follow financial reporting requirements.

Over four million Canadians, one quarter of whom are children, do not have adequate access to food.

The recent Beyond Hunger report by Community Food Centres Canada highlights the scope of food insecurity, which has been made worse by the pandemic and oppressive systems like institutional racism.

One in seven Canadians now struggle to put food on the table due to layoffs and economic downturn. Food insecurity is a human rights issue and to address the root cause, Urban Pantry advocates for income solutions that make it more affordable for Canadians to meet their basic needs with dignity.

Imagine living on $10,000 per year in Toronto, searching for work while trying to stretch that $815 a month to cover housing, food, transportation and all other necessities. This is the reality for single people on social assistance.

To help them avoid falling into deep poverty – and the consequences that poverty has on their overall health – Ontario must increase the social assistance benefits that unemployed Ontarians who do not qualify for Employment Insurance often rely on. Single adults without dependants who are deemed employable receive about $8,800 in social assistance benefits annually, plus $980 in other tax credits and benefits (e.g., GST/HST tax credit). This income amounts to 40 per cent of Toronto’s poverty line. In other words, singles on social assistance can purchase only 40 per cent of the goods and services they need to achieve a basic standard of living.