Addressing homelessness in the city

Nearly a year ago, in September 2020, the Right to Housing Toronto (R2HTO) provided the City with a set of rights-based recommendations to uphold its commitment to realize the right to housing for all residents living in encampments.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, encampments have increased across the city, many of which are as a result of unsafe conditions in shelters and the lack of access to adequate and affordable homes.  

Ahead of Toronto City Council’s meeting on June 8 and 9, 2021, R2HTO joined 20 organizations and groups who signed a joint statement urging the City to act in compliance with human rights legislation at the provincial, national, and international levels by enacting a rights-based approach to engage with encampment residents and people experiencing homelessness.

At the Council meeting, Councillor Mike Layton introduced a motion asking for the City to reiterate its commitment to a human rights approach to housing for those experiencing homelessness, as well as to ensure that City staff develop and implement a response that is consistent with the Jury’s recommendations from the Faulkner Inquest, as it specifically relates to the health and safety of those living in encampments. The motion passed with near unanimous support, which was a welcome development and is a crucial approach to addressing the housing and homelessness crisis in Toronto.

A core aspect of a rights-based approach to addressing serious human rights issues like homelessness is to meaningfully engage impacted communities. At this same council meeting, Councillor Layton’s introduced a motion to meaningfully engage encampment residents and people with lived experience of homelessness in developing a strategy to provide them with housing opportunities. Unfortunately, this motion failed to gain support from a majority of City Councillors.

On July 21, following the City’s clearing of several encampments, advocates including R2HTO once again urged the City to take a rights-based approach by consulting encampment residents in their efforts to find them adequate and safe housing. We supported a set of rights-based recommendations laid out in A Path Forward which was presented to Mayor John Tory.

We will continue to urge the City to address homelessness by upholding its obligations and implementing rights-based recommendations in all areas of its housing policies and practices.