If you’ve had your ear to the ground lately, surrounding issues of homelessness and housing in Toronto amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, you will likely have come across some strong opinions about the City’s response to these overlapping crises.
I’ve added my voice to the mix on social media, encouraging others to contact the mayor and city councillors to advocate for swift and appropriate action, especially when it seemed that encampments were going to be cleared before people living in them had received housing. I am also in support of the injunction being levied against the City, demanding that shelter standards be modified to adhere to necessary physical distancing guidelines, among other things.
I believe that when residents voice their concerns about social issues, it can make a difference. If enough public pressure is placed on people with decision-making power, things happen. So thank you to everyone who has been insisting that people who are homeless need to be safely housed, especially now.
The one thing that I lament about this type of advocacy (again, in which I firmly believe), is when shelter and housing workers get caught in the crossfire. I know and love many people who work tirelessly at city-funded shelters, as city-funded housing workers, and as city staff in the shelter and housing departments. These folks are amazing. They are doing the very best they can, with the resources that have been made available to them.
So let me be clear: when I refer to “the City” needing to do this or needing to do that, I am referring to the decision-makers who determine where resources will be allocated. I am not referring to the incredibly hard working folks at shelters, Streets to Homes, and the other agencies that are seeking to provide shelter to my friends. This is an important distinction, and one that I will be making more explicit in my future calls to advocacy.
So, thank you shelter and housing workers. I see you, and I appreciate the work that you are doing. We’re all in this together.