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Getting From Streets to Homes Takes Time

This week, my fellow Councillors and I received an update from the team at Shelter, Support, and Housing Administration (SSHA) on our emergency shelters. These sites were set up quickly in 2020 to provide COVID relief to our shelter system and ensure that shelter residents were able to physically distance. They have been essential in providing housing and a wide array of supports to those most in need during this challenging time. Now, as we begin to look beyond the pandemic, SSHA staff have prepared a report on how to transition out of these temporary sites.

Many shelters have had to change their operations to better protect shelter residents throughout the pandemic.

We know that folks enter the shelter system for a variety of reasons, many of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Currently, 34% of individuals in the shelter system are refugees and refugee claimants. This number is high because each person in the shelter system is counted as an individual, so each member of a refugee family in a shelter is counted individually. Another 15% of people in our shelter system have been recently evicted, sometimes while still employed. Shelter caseworkers work very hard to try to rehouse these individuals before chronic homelessness sets in. The remaining percentage come into the shelter population with various challenges, including fleeing spousal abuse and suffering from mental health issues including addiction. Since the beginning of the pandemic, all three orders of government have acknowledged the heightened vulnerability to COVID-19 for residents in our shelter system because of how crowded shelters typically are. The Federal Government moved quickly in 2020 to provide funding to Toronto and other cities with high shelter populations to create emergency shelters with enough space for residents to safely distance. These have predominantly been set up in hotels, as most travel has ceased over the pandemic. We have two such sites here in Don Valley North.

This chart shows the shelter system capacity from fall 2019 to present. “COVID-19 Programs” refers to the number of residents in emergency shelters. Click on the image to view a larger version.

SSHA staff anticipate that they will soon be able to begin winding down operations in some of these emergency hotels. It’s important to note that this transition is designed to be gradual, as it is based on the City’s goals of building more support into homeless population services and helping as many people as possible transition to permanent housing. Our emergency facilities will be decommissioned in phases of five shelters at a time, with an emphasis on finding the best possible placement for each resident. Some shelter residents will move back into shelters that can serve more individuals post-pandemic, while others will be ready to take advantage of other housing opportunities. I know that some in the community will not be happy about the gradual nature of this plan. It means extending our leases on hotel facilities for another year. During this time, shelter residents will move out in two phases and then repairs will be completed. SSHA staff will then report back on lessons learned, next steps in the transition, and hopefully more housing opportunities in 2023. Right now, the report from SSHA lists a wide range of potential housing opportunities that will be available for shelter residents to transition into housing. With the support of non-profit partners and Federal funding, the City will deliver more than 2,800 homes, including:

  • 150 supportive homes through new partnerships with non-profit housing providers and private market landlords

  • 50 additional homes through rent supplements

  • 550 homes through the TCHC Rapid Rehousing program

  • 1,000+ new supportive homes through the Modular Housing Initiative and Rapid Housing Initiative

  • 1,000 Canada-Ontario Housing Benefits

Above is a rendering of a Rapid Housing Initiative site, dedicated to help those experiencing homelessness secure permanent housing.

All of the opportunities above come from very specific funding programs and initiatives. It is important that these not be confused with the affordable housing units you hear about when we are working on new developments in the ward. These programs sit at very different points along the housing spectrum, and are targeted towards different groups. Shelter accommodation is at one extremely end of the housing spectrum. It accommodates individuals and families who have lost all access to housing. Then, there are various types of supportive and transitional housing for folks who are exiting the shelter system and trying to establish stable housing. Next comes rent-geared-to-income, or social housing. Further along, there are the affordable units that are often included in new developments. These units are at a much higher income point on the affordability spectrum. This graphic from the City really helps show the wide range of programs and options along the housing spectrum:

A graphic illustrating the housing spectrum. Click on the image to view a larger version.

At a recent community meeting about the proposed development at Tyndale, neighbouring residents were shocked to learn that the affordable units being proposed in this development would likely rent for between $1300 and $1800/month. “That doesn’t seem very affordable,” said one homeowner. I had to explain that affordable housing doesn’t only refer to those in social housing or receiving government benefits. If you’ve owned your home for a long time, like me, you may not realize that very hardworking individuals, couples, and families are earning wages that just haven’t kept pace with market rents. With so many types of housing along the affordability spectrum, it’s easy to get them confused. Whenever housing opportunities of any kind are created, planners and Councillors have to be very up front about which type of housing it is. Some residents in our neighbourhood have called my office worried that the type of affordable housing in a building could change somewhere along the way. This is never the case. Affordable units are approved only after it is crystal clear which type is being proposed and which funding program will be accessed.

121 Parkway Forest Drive is an affordable rental building here in Don Valley North built all the way back in 2006.

So what do we know? We know that opportunities all along the housing spectrum are essential to support a wide range of Torontonians. When it comes to those currently in our emergency shelters, we need to make sure enough options are available to support their transition out. Otherwise, we’ll end up turning thousands of homeless individuals out on the streets, creating a whole new set of problems. The City is continuing to work to expand our housing policies, in concert with our Federal and Provincial partners, to make sure we’re supporting Torontonians all along the housing spectrum. Whether that's creating more modular housing for those transitioning out of shelters, negotiating more affordable units into new growth projects for young people and families, or expanding ownership options in our neighbourhoods, these policies are essential to creating a liveable Toronto for current and future generations. Toronto has long been a place that has supported those who need it most. We know that today, that help is needed more than ever. Whether housing support is needed by a young family working hard but struggling to make ends meet, or refugees fleeing from conflict as we’re now seeing in Ukraine, we need to meet our modern day housing challenges with the same gravitas and humanity as we have in past.


Don Valley Northerner of the Week

We're kicking off Don Valley Northerner of the Week! Each week, we’ll be giving a shoutout to one local resident who supports their community here in Don Valley North. Read on to meet our inaugural Don Valley Northerner of the Week and to learn how to nominate someone in your neighbourhood!

Our first Don Valley Northerner of the week is Teresina Stanichevsky. It’s nearly impossible to list all of the wonderful things Teresina does for her community in this short of a space. She runs the cooking program at Working Women’s Community Centre, and works closely with local food banks and other organizations to promote food access to those most in need. She has also worked tirelessly as a local Vaccine Ambassador to connect with neighbours and run events to help encourage a wide range of residents to get vaccinated. Whatever the problem, Teresina never hesitates to reach out and help a neighbour in need.

Nominate a Neighbour! Do you know someone in your neighbourhood who makes a difference? Someone who is committed to bettering their community and always there to help out their neighbours? Nominate them for Don Valley Northerner of the Week! To submit a nomination for Don Valley Northerner of the week, please send the following information about the person you are nominating to

  • Name

  • Address

  • A short blurb (~100 words) about why you are nominating them (how they support/contribute to the community, etc.)

I know so many of you help out your friends and neighbours in a number of ways, so please nominate anyone in your community who you feel makes a difference. My team will contact you if we select your nominee as Don Valley Northerner of the Week!


Planning & Development Updates

Upcoming Community Meetings

Sheppard Avenue East Study Kick-off Meeting Monday, March 28, 2022 @ 6:30 PM City Staff are undertaking a review of the Sheppard Avenue East Secondary Plan between Bayview Avenue and Leslie Street. Register for the first community consultation at the link below:

11 Greenbriar Road Community Consultation Meeting Thursday, March 31, 2022 @ 7:00 PM City Planning staff will be hosting a virtual community meeting to hear from residents about the development application at 11 Greenbriar Road. The Preliminary Report initially proposed a four-storey building with 29 units, which has since been revised to the current proposal for a three-storey building with 20 units. Register for the community consultation at the link below:

RapidTO Phase 2 Public Meeting: North York Tuesday, April 5, 2022 @ 6:30 PM City staff have launched Phase 2 of the City's three-phase RapidTO consultations. During this phase, the project team is looking for feedback on the list of roadways to be prioritized for study, consultation and installation over the next 10 years. Register for the North York-specific community meeting below.


Upcoming Vaccine Clinics in Don Valley North

Parkway Forest Community Centre (55 Forest Manor Rd.)

North York General Hospital is running a vaccine clinic at Parkway Forest Community Centre on Tuesday, March 29 from 4:30 PM - 7:30 PM. First, second, and third doses of Pfizer and Moderna are available, and all ages (5+) are welcome. Appointments are preferred, but walk-ins are welcome from 5:00 PM - 6:30 PM while supplies last. For more information, visit the link below:


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