Letter to Hostel Services on School House
To: Ms.Longair, Director, Hostel Services, City of Toronto
CC: Councillor Kristyn Wong Tam
We have come today to Metro Hall as a delegation to present this letter to the City and, in doing so, reinforce our total opposition to the closing of the School House shelter and our determination to prevent this from happening.
We are here today to demand that Hostel Services and the City of Toronto keep the School House shelter open by ensuring adequate funding is provided to continue this vital service as it currently exists.
We are well familiar with the practice of precariously housing shelter residents displaced by redevelopment, often in ill serviced and distant suburban locations, and presenting this a 'success'. However, even if we were to accept that the existing residents of the School House are to be found lasting and decent housing, the need for this facility is still just as great for countless other homeless people and those who are about to fall into homelessness.
The removal of this vital service is being justified on the grounds that it is better for people to have housing than to be put in shelters. As a general proposition no one can disagree but, raised in this context, it is a cynical diversion from the real issues by a municipal government that knows very well the scale of the housing crisis even as it sells off its own public housing stock. It is no secret to any of us that the removal of services for the homeless is a key element of the agenda of upscale redevelopment in the downtown east. This factor underlies the measure we are confronting as it is behind much else that is regressive and unjust in our community.
We view the closing of this shelter as a municipal cutback and have no regard for the suggestion that it is simply a decision of the agency presently running it to 'change the program of care'. If Dixon Hall wishes to discontinue its present role, the provision of shelter for the homeless remains a responsibility of the City and it is down to you to take the measures necessary to ensure the continuation of this important public service. In any event, it is well known that agencies make such decisions, in large measure, on the basis is what services are and are not being funded by governments. We come back to gentrification and the complicity of City government in it.
As governments bring in more measures of austerity and social cutbacks, the crisis of homelessness can only be driven to new levels and, just at this time, another fifty five beds are being taken away. No one is even faking an intention to replace them. The seriousness of the situation is made even worse by the fact that the School House does not impose a ban on drinking as most shelters do. It, thereby, removes the risks involved in pressuring people outside when they need to consume alcohol by simply allowing homeless people the same right everyone else has to take a drink where they live.
Finally, we just want you to know and include in your calculations that this closing is going to be exposed and resisted. We have already held one rally, and publicly put out a petition that is gathering signatures by the day (a copy of which is attached to this letter). Support for our initiative is growing. As long as School House remains open, we'll fight to keep it that way and, if you do lock it up, we intend to mobilize the community to take it back.
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
Download the letter in PDF format here.
Petition to SAVE THE SCHOOL HOUSE Harm Reduction Shelter!
We the undersigned people of Toronto demand that the City of Toronto provide adequate funding to keep the School House Shelter, a 55 bed harm reduction shelter for men in the downtown east community, open and operating. School House is a vital service that needs to be kept open and operating. We need more housing and support for poor people in the city, not less.
View signatories here. Please sign and share!