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Canada Toronto ombudsman probing ‘confusion’ over homeless services

17:37  03 january  2018
17:37  03 january  2018 Source:   metronews.ca

Toronto’s homeless are in crisis, open the armouries now and save lives

  Toronto’s homeless are in crisis, open the armouries now and save lives Toronto’s homeless are in crisis, open the armouries now and save livesIt is freezing in here. She closes her eyes, trying to shut out the noise, the cold, and the horror of having to be here. A man tries to make his way through the mats, (there are no aisles between them). He stumbles and kicks her as he passes. It looks as though he may fall upon the other people, huddled where his feet are trying to walk.

Toronto ’s ombudsman is probing city services for homeless people and the city is launching a review following controversy over available shelter Ombudsman Susan Opler announced her inquiry Tuesday in a news release citing “recent confusion ” over whether the crowded shelter system has

David RiderVerified account @dmrider. # Toronto ombudsman probing ‘ confusion ’ over # homeless services after people trying to find space in Loading seems to be taking a while. Twitter may be over capacity or experiencing a momentary hiccup.

The Better Living Centre at Exhibition Place opened as a respite centre last month. The Fred Victor Shelter, which is running the centre, said it had spots open all day and night Monday and continues to have spots open Tuesday.: Toronto ombudsman probing ‘confusion’ over homeless services© Provided by Free Daily News Group Inc Toronto ombudsman probing ‘confusion’ over homeless services

Toronto’s ombudsman is probing city services for homeless people and the city is launching a review following controversy over available shelter space as a potentially deadly cold snap stretches into the new year.

Ombudsman Susan Opler announced her inquiry Tuesday in a news release citing “recent confusion” over whether the crowded shelter system has room for homeless Torontonians who want out of the cold.

“We are concerned about reports that some people were mistakenly told there wasn’t any space for them on Dec. 30,” Opler said. “Ombudsman Toronto wants to ensure that these essential services for vulnerable people are being optimally delivered.”

With shelters packed and people at risk of freezing to death, why can’t we do more?

  With shelters packed and people at risk of freezing to death, why can’t we do more? It’s been cold out there. Cold enough that the annual Polar Bear Dip at Sunnyside Beach, an event specifically designed to show defiance against the frigid winter weather, was cancelled due to frozen conditions. Cold enough to cause havoc at Pearson airport, where hundreds of flights have been cancelled due to the deep freeze.Cold enough that the annual New Year’s Eve celebration at City Hall was shortened to just a half-hour long, with planned concerts and skating events cancelled. “The city is taking all measures to protect the health and safety of the public, artists, volunteers and event staff,” the city government said in a press release announcing the scaling back of festivities. And understandably so.

WATCH ABOVE: Another night of frigid weather in Toronto has street workers concerned for the safety of the city's homeless . There are services available, but there is confusion over access – so the city's ombudsman is now investigating.

01:21 11 january 2018 Source: edmontonjournal.com. Toronto ombudsman probing ‘ confusion ’ over homeless services . The commission hired Simon Fraser University professor Curt Griffiths in December to review the Edmonton Police Service ’s street check policies.

At a press conference Tuesday, Paul Raftis, head of the city’s shelter, support and housing office, said, “There’s no question we have to review the system we have in place.”

The responses followed a second incident in which city staff appeared to tell a homeless advocate that a temporary respite centre, opened at Exhibition Place to deal with an ongoing shelter space shortage, was full even though cots were available.

Homeless advocate Doug Johnson recorded a phone conversation he said he had with a central intake worker, from the city’s shelter, support and housing office, at about 11 p.m. Monday, when temperatures had plunged to -21.3 C. Centralized intake is the main access point for people seeking emergency shelter for homeless Torontonians.

Toronto considers opening armoury to house homeless

  Toronto considers opening armoury to house homeless Toronto is revisiting a shelved proposal to use a federal armoury to cope with unprecedented demand on its homeless shelter system, the city's mayor said Wednesday. John Tory and members of council had rejected a motion to open the Moss Park Armoury to the homeless last month, weeks before an extended cold snap gripped the city and dramatically increased demand for shelter spaces. As temperatures dropped to around -20 C for several nights and thousands of residents signed a petition calling on Tory to revisit the armoury proposal, the mayor initially said other city-owned properties presented better options.Tory reversed course on Wednesday.

"I remain whole-heartedly committed to continuing to work with Toronto , as well as communities in all corners of Ontario, as we continue to build a mental health system that can be there for all of us when we need it," Hoskins said. Toronto ombudsman probing ‘ confusion ’ over homeless services .

If anyone sees a homeless person in obvious danger, they should dial emergency services at 911, Tory said. Toronto ombudsman probing ‘ confusion ’ over homeless services .

Johnson asked if there were any beds available in the west end or in the Better Living Centre respite centre, and a female intake worker is heard saying they were “filled up.”

But when Johnson and a friend who pretended to be homeless went to the building, they were invited inside and told there was space. That followed an incident Saturday when a Moss Park safe injection volunteer said she was told there was no overnight shelter for people huddled in her trailer, which closed at 10 p.m. The city later said there was ample room at the Better Living Centre.

The ombudsman’s inquiry — shorter, with smaller scope than a full systemic investigation — will update Opler’s report last March that recommended the city improve cold-weather drop-in services, and ensure the changes were made.

At least one councillor said the inquiry will not get to the heart of the problem.

“I think the ombudsmen’s review will help to identify the areas for improvement on communications,” said Councillor Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina). “However, the real issue is not how we communicate our available housing options. The real issue is the absence of housing on all fronts and the urgent need for political leadership to tackle the crisis.”

How other cities help the homeless during extreme cold

  How other cities help the homeless during extreme cold How other cities help the homeless during extreme coldNew York City

Toronto ’s homeless are in crisis, open the armouries now and save lives : Homeless Nanaimo man returns mistakenly-donated diamond ring A With shelters packed and people at risk of freezing to death, why can’t we do more? Toronto ombudsman probing ‘ confusion ’ over homeless services .

Opler noted the city is conducting its own review of communications and protocols but has promised to co-operate with her probe.

“Our inquiry will focus on the cold-weather needs of the city’s homeless, and whether the city is providing services in a way that ensures people’s dignity, safety and comfort,” she said.

Fred Victor Shelter, which is running the Better Living Centre respite, had open spots throughout Monday, and by Tuesday afternoon, there were 140 cots and room for more, said executive director Mark Aston.

“I am looking over at 30 to 40 cots not currently being used,” Aston said. “We are not turning people away.”

Homeless advocates and some city councillors are accusing senior city staff and the mayor’s office of downplaying a crisis by referring to “spaces” that might be only a yoga mat on a floor, and citing 4 a.m. vacancy figures that don’t reflect a full facility that earlier may have turned people away.

Outreach workers search the streets for people who might need help and offer them services. Staff are also trying to improve communication across the shelter intake stystem, Raftis said.

Toronto opens two new warming centres for homeless residents

  Toronto opens two new warming centres for homeless residents After a barrage of criticism, and with temperatures set to take a dangerous plunge, the City of Toronto opened two new warming centres for homeless people and deployed outreach workers and ambulances to check on those who refuse to move indoors. Also, city and federal officials said Thursday discussions to open the Moss Park Armoury as a temporary respite centre were going well, and they expected an announcement later in the day.Mayor John Tory said the new round-the-clock warming centres would open at Metro Hall and Regent Park Community Centre at 7 p.m. and remain open until the extreme cold weather ends.

Street nurse Cathy Crowe is calling for the city to immediately open the two federally owned armouries, at Moss Park and Fort York, as temporary shelters, warning that Toronto’s intransigence could add to a death toll for homeless people that she said reached at least 80 in 2017.

By Tuesday afternoon, her petition calling for the armoury openings had more than 35,500 names.

Raftis said the armouries are an option the city will consider if it chooses to open additional sites in the future and staff is currently reaching out to the federal government.

Don Peat, speaking for John Tory, said the mayor supports both the ombudsman and city staff probes, and staff were told before the cold weather that “anyone who requests city-funded and/or operated homeless support and respite services, receives it. Staff also know that if they can’t help someone immediately, they work with individuals to get them transportation to alternative service.”

City statistics show that, while some vacancies were reported in some categories of overnight care, Toronto’s homeless services remain full to bursting in potentially deadly cold.

The overall occupancy rate was listed at between 94 per cent and 95 per cent but shelter space for families was full between Dec. 29 and Jan. 1.

Spots for women and youth remained about 98 per cent full, according to the 4 a.m. daily census, with only room for families — many of them refugees put up in motels outside the downtown core — showing any real capacity for a surge in use.

The statistics also show that on New Years’ Day more than 440 people were in 24-hour drop-ins and winter respites, which could be chairs or mats on floor but are not shelters with beds and services stipulated by city criteria.

Concern over the fate of homeless Torontonians, and the city’s response, has spurred some activists, volunteers and businesspeople to find and fund rooms themselves and give people in need a warm, safe place to stay.

The end of austerity? Torontonians get say on city budget .
It’s not everyone’s idea of a good time, but Sarah Climenhaga is eager to give Toronto councillors an earful about the 2018 budget.The community activist, who plans to run against Mayor John Tory next October, can’t wait to tell budget committee members she is fed up with austerity budgets during public “deputations” starting Monday.“I’m frustrated by the lack of funding for city-approved policies and strategies, and I’m upset that the needs of the people of Toronto are not in this budget,” said Climenhaga, who plans to make her pitch Wednesday with input, on video, from like-minded Torontonians.

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