Homelessness- A Silent Crime
By Selena Khokhar
Toronto, being the largest city in Canada, has an unfortunately large rate of homelessness. With the pandemic and the upcoming winter, the city has planned and prepared to support those living on the streets. This year, there will be up to 560 spaces of shelter beds provided, 24-hour beds for rest, and more housing units (Draissma).
As of September 27th, Toronto Public Health has recorded up to 649 people who have tested positive for Covid-19 cases in the shelters. As of September 29th, 5 people have died from the outbreak. In 1988, the Out of Cold program was created to prevent homelessness, and to maintain support for the people in need. Those in shelters and who were living on the streets were offered meals, warm clothes and shelter during the winter. However, due to the pandemic, this program closed in March. In replacement, a winter services plan has been put in place to help those during the winter.
As a part of Toronto’s winter plan for the homeless, the Better Living Centre opened its doors on November 3rd, 2020. The purpose of this centre is to provide a safe and comfortable space for those in need this winter. However, this centre has received backlash when pictures were revealed, claiming it looks like a “prison for homeless people.” Many residents of an encampment in Toronto were forced to relocate to the Better Living Centre. Lorraine Lam, an advocate for homelessness has revealed what it was really like living in the Better Living Centre. All their belongings were to be packed without warning, there is a two bag limit, there were mandatory showers with no hot water, beds were separated by glass separation, and there was no personal privacy (Lam). Lorrain Lam spoke to many of the residents where she was told they were hoping for private, long-term housing, not expecting to be placed with a group of strangers. Many residents of the centre, as well as torontonians who have seen the reveal were outraged to see there was no privacy on the glass walls. The city claims that the glass was necessary to maintain safety during the pandemic; placing covers on the glass was a safety hazard. Many people took it to Twitter to address the issue and share their own opinion, “Where is the humanity in this?? No privacy, 100 people jam packed in the middle of a pandemic. These are glorified glass cages. Personally, I’d rather live in an encampment with privacy and significantly less risk.” (Via Twitter @kelsiem_)
The residents in Toronto were given an ultimatum between being evicted from their encampment or staying in the Better Living Centre, under these unethical conditions. Whereas, Scarborough has modelled and began the fabrication of an affordable housing unit; as opposed to a small building filled with over one hundred people during a pandemic, with cold showers, lack of privacy and 24-hour surveillance. The Better Living Centre was an attempt at a permanent solution that cannot satisfy the people in need. Scarborough housing is leading into the right direction, and can hopefully lead many others to form a plan of action.
“ActiveTO Is (Mostly) Finished, so How Will Toronto Get Residents Outdoors This Winter? | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 3 Nov. 2020, www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/activeto-winter-plans-1.5786766.
“City Unveils Winter Plan for People Experiencing Homelessness in Toronto | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 6 Oct. 2020, www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/city-toronto-winter-plan-homelessness-details-new-spaces-1.5752792.
Miller, Mira. “People Are Saying Toronto's New Homeless Shelter Looks like a Prison.” BlogTO, BlogTO, 3 Nov. 2020, www.blogto.com/city/2020/11/toronto-new-homeless-shelter-prison/.