Letter to Editor of Toronto Star Re: Homelessness

Re: Toronto needs a long-term solution to homelessness

I wanted to point out a few things your editorial missed when we talk about dealing with homelessness.

Let’s start with the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) which is funded by the provincial government. ODSP is for individuals with disabilities who can’t work. It comes in two payments each month. The “basic allowance” for all your expenses is $649. The “housing allowance” is capped at $479. Ever try to find a place your family, let alone a one bed-room apartment in Toronto for less than $500?

The result? ODSP recipients take money which should go to food and clothing to pay for rent. And that is if you are lucky in this tight rental market to get something so cheap. ODSP recipients who cannot do both, get evicted, and end up in shelters. The ODSP has to be raised. City Council has urged the provincial government repeatedly to do this.

Let’s talk Legal Aid. Another chronically under-funded provincial program. I represent two of the City’s Neighbourhood Improvement Areas. The number of people I talk with who have mental health and/or addiction issues trying to stick-handle their way through our court system without a lawyer is staggering. No permanent address? No Legal Aid lawyer? These people often end up in jail. The City’s shelter system at 96 percent capacity, sees them staying in jail. (The goal is 90 per cent capacity)

We keep people in jail because there is no public money for a lawyer, they have no home address, and they have health issues, no room at the shelter….so they stay in jail? If they are lucky now they sleep on a cot in a hallway. If they have a family, maybe a cramped room in a strip motel?

As the editors said, we need a long-term solution. Shelter beds are not the answer. Properly funding ODSP, Legal Aid, and our health system are long term goals which should reach!

All my Best,