Open 24-hour homeless shelter for women now

Posted on January 11, 2015 in Child & Family Delivery System – Opinion/Editorials – Homeless shelter for sex workers and those with substance abuse and mental health problems needed now.
Jan 11 2015.   Editorial

In September, 2013, Street Health security cameras captured a homeless woman being sexually assaulted by two men in separate pre-dawn attacks while she slept in the agency’s doorway.

The assaults pointed to the desperate need in Toronto for an all-night shelter for homeless and marginally housed women, including sex workers and those with substance abuse and mental health problems.

These women are at serious risk of sexual and physical abuse at night after other shelters and services are closed.

So why isn’t there a shelter a year and a half after that shocking assault, and two years after community activists pointed to the need for one?

It’s a story of incompetence and finger-pointing that must stop now. The shelter needs to be opened, immediately.

In fact, a drop-in shelter to address the women’s needs was supposed to open last month. City council voted last June to open one or two 24-hour women’s drop-ins “no later than December.”
But that vote appears to have been useless.

According to city hall staff, no money was set aside to cover the estimated $2 million budget for a new facility. (Extending the hours of an existing facility would cost less.)

That jaw-dropping omission is now compounded by the fact this year’s budget, where money could now be set aside for the shelters, is not set to be approved until mid-March, an unfathomable delay.

And then there’s this potential road block: the budget might never get approval. Councillor Joe Mihevc is concerned that plans for the shelter could be scuttled in the upcoming budget debate because of efforts to keep property tax hikes at or below inflation.

Still, the councillor has a good plan to get the drop-in centre open immediately. This week he plans to ask city council to approve interim funding to open the safety and counselling service for women.

While the need for a drop-in shelter for vulnerable woman is great all year round, it is especially dire in cold weather. Council needs to approve Mihevc’s motion and get the shelter open now.

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