Toronto’s shelters are consistently overflowing, advocates and public health experts warn

After years of shelter overcrowding and a dramatic rise in homeless deaths were met, largely, with government inaction is it time to declare homelessness in Toronto an emergency situation?

Many have compared shelter conditions to those of disaster relief camps. News stories of homeless deaths are almost weekly events and the estimated homeless population of the city sits at around 9000.

The weather is so cold the David Busby Centre’s outreach van is frozen shut, forcing staff to use their own vehicles to provide services to the city’s most vulnerable residents, executive director Sara Peddle said.

“We’re making sure everybody is in from the cold, and our outreach team is making sure everybody has a place to be or at least the supplies to be warm,” she told Simcoe.com on Thursday. “People are still outside, and we’re trying to connect with them.”

While Busby has been at cot capacity for a few days, it will remain open throughout the extreme cold. Busby has taken in more than 70 people per night during the cold snap.

It’s no surprise that the plunging temperatures are forcing more people to walk through the doors at the Alliston Out of the Cold Shelter on Paris Street, but so far the volunteer-run organization is keeping up with the demand.

“We are not at capacity but we’re are getting awfully close, and have managed to stay that way for quite some time now,” said shelter director Jeni Pergentile.

“We are hovering around the seven to nine mark for people staying with us, and our capacity is 12.”

Pergentile said the overnight shelter has been doing everything it can to help people escape the deep freeze, like extending its hours in the morning so users have a place to stay until other facilities in town open their doors.

As Ontario courts grapple with the case against the provincial government on basic income, the Jesuit Forum for Social Faith and Justice is reminding Catholics that Catholic social teaching demands society must provide an economic minimum that supports families and human dignity.

“The universal basic income idea is about giving people that fundamental human right to a just wage, which is totally in line with Catholic social teaching,” Jesuit Forum director Anne-Marie Jackson told The Catholic Register. “Money is like manure — it’s only good if you spread it around.”

That concept was put to the test in an Ontario court Jan. 28 as lawyers argued over the cancellation of Ontario’s Basic Income Pilot. The court has reserved judgment.

… Canada, the United States, and not-so-Great-these-days Britain. They are all run by people who pretend to work for the citizens but really do the opposite. Whatever they do to make things better always makes life worse. There’s a good article about them on The Guardian web site.

It’s an excerpt from a book by Anand Giridharadas, Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World. The title gives a good clue to what it’s all about. It’s a good companion piece to another Guardian essay, The Trouble With Charitable Billionaires by Carl Rhodes and Peter Bloom, that appeared last May.

Wesson, an affordable housing advocate and former business owner, is also someone who has used the shelter system. He said he’s also dealt with addiction, having used IV drugs for a long time until about nine years ago.

“Mental illness and drug addiction is my life. Not part of my life, my whole life,” Wesson said, his hands clasped while seated backwards in a chair.

“I got 52 years in on this. I’ve seen what can happen, I’ve seen (the) system fail and kill people … I will bring my lived experience and my energy and I will make a difference.”