Taking Action to End Homelessness and Build Supportive Housing Now

Homelessness is a crisis in our city, and supportive housing is a crucial component in addressing it. We must act immediately and begin building supportive housing now if we are ever going to truly end homelessness.

City Council has identified supportive housing as a critical component in addressing the growing homelessness crisis many times. In March 2018, Toronto City Council adopted a target of building 18,000 new supportive housing units over the next 10 years, 1,800 per year. In January 2019, Council adopted a second motion to consider options that spring for an aggressive supportive and transitional housing build plan. In an update report, it was indicated that instead, a plan would be included in the Housing Opportunities plan this fall. However to date, no plan has been considered by Committee or Council. And, the target for building 1,800 new supportive housing units a year, adopted in 2018, remains unmet. 

When faced with the capital repair backlog crisis at Toronto Community Housing, Council committed through our Close the Housing Gap campaign to one-third of the funding needed to address the $2.6 billion capital repair backlog. Now, the City must commit to one-third of the funding needed to meet our Council-approved new supportive housing target, and renew our urgent request that the Provincial and Federal governments do the same. 

I will be introducing a motion to the November City Council meeting that will ask City Staff to include one third of the capital funds required to meet the Council-approved target of building 1,800 new supportive housing units a year for 10 years starting in 2020 in the upcoming 2020 Budget, and to report to the January Planning and Housing Committee on a plan to roll out the program as soon as possible for 2020. It also calls on the Provincial and Federal Governments to commit to funding the additional two-thirds, one third each, and asks the Provincial government, as the level of Government typically responsible for funding supportive housing, to commit to the new operating dollars required for Council's target of 18,000 new supportive units. 

We can end homelessness in Toronto. Yes, poverty and inequality are increasing in our province and city. And yes, it is a layered and complex issue that needs many social policy responses. Supportive housing is but one part of the large housing spectrum, including social housing and rent-geared-to-income supports, that needs investment. But, housing is the answer.

Last week a homeless man named Richard died in a bus shelter on the waterfront in my community. He didn’t want to go to a shelter, he wanted a home. I knew him. For years I had tried to find him supportive housing, and I failed. Not again.