Published: April 12, 2021
Implementing the right to housing in the City of Toronto’s shelter system
The City of Toronto and its residents have been experiencing a homelessness and inadequate housing crisis for decades, which has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. The absence of adequate housing options has contributed to an increasing number of residents who have been left with little option but to rely on the City’s shelter system for long-term housing, instead of a temporary place to stay in cases of an emergency. The shelter system is overwhelmed and at capacity, struggling to meet the needs of residents and to ensure they can exercise their right to housing.
In our in-depth Shelter Rights Review report, the Right to Housing Toronto (R2HTO) network reviewed the City’s efforts to transform its shelter system from an emergency-response system to one that offers residents more pathways into longer-term housing options. Despite the City’s laudable goals and efforts, frontline workers, advocates, and people who use the City’s shelters raised a number of urgent concerns. Their reports from the ground point to a system that is stretched beyond capacity, where we heard that residents face difficulties navigating the system, may experience health and safety risks, or their needs and abilities are not always accommodated. In addition, their services and resources are not equally available in all areas of the city.
The Shelter Rights Review also provides a set of rights-based recommendations for the City of Toronto to implement through the design and administration of its shelter system in order to better uphold the right to housing of shelter residents and people experiencing homelessness.