February 8, 2018
Dangerous overcrowding in Toronto’s permanent shelter system and in temporary sites is damaging health and human dignity. Being without a safe place to call home is literally a matter of life and death. Toronto Public Health reported that at least 94 people who were homeless died in 2017. That’s about two deaths per week, and the median age of death was only 48 years.
Sleeping outdoors can be deadly. Between Dec. 12, 2017 and Feb. 8, 2018 Toronto had 29 days when an extreme cold weather alert was called. To make matters worse, the city’s overcrowded shelter system is in crisis. On Feb. 5, 2018, for example, the permanent shelter system had 5,758 guests and a 95 per cent occupancy rate. That same night, there were another 768 people sleeping on mats, cots, or chairs at Out of the Cold, winter respite drop-ins, women’s drop-ins, and warming centres. An investigation of these temporary sites by Health Providers Against Poverty found cramped, unsanitary conditions that did not meet the city’s own shelter standards or those of the United Nations.