Four more names added to Toronto Homeless Memorial
Chris Fox, CTV Toronto
Published Tuesday, March 14, 2017 7:13PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, March 15, 2017 4:27PM EDT
Four more names were added to the Toronto Homeless Memorial on Tuesday, prompting one street nurse and activist to lash out at the city for failing to address what she says has become nothing less than a “state of emergency.”
A service is held once a month to add names to the memorial outside the Church of the Holy Trinity in the city’s downtown core.
According to activist and street nurse Cathy Crowe, the four names that were added to the memorial on Tuesday belonged to homeless Torontonians who died on city streets over the last month, including two who passed away within days of one another near Queen and Bathurst streets.
Crowe said that she is also aware of two other homeless people who have been hospitalized due to hypothermia in recent days, including one in a coma.
“There could be more done. The city has just dug in this year and refused to respond to our requests to open up more harm reduction shelters, warming centres and more shelters period,” she said. “It is really a state of emergency in this city. It is shameful. I don’t understand why the mayor and city council have not been responding in a humane way.”
According to daily tracking numbers released by the city, about 96 per cent of the 4,679 shelter beds across Toronto were occupied on Monday night, including 100 per cent in facilities reserved for families and 99 per cent in facilities reserved for women.
The city’s two 24-hour warming centres were scheduled to close for the season on Wednesday but the city announced in a news release Tuesday that cold weather services have been extended at three facilities through April, including the two 24-hour warming centres.
Margaret's Toronto East Drop-in Centre at 323 Dundas Street East will remain open until April 15, while the overnight program at St. Lawrence Community Centre will be available by referral from March 18 through to April 15.
Services at St. Felix Centre at 25 Augusta Avenue will stay open 24/7 until March 18, at which point it will return to its regular daytime drop-in programming unless there is an Extreme Cold Weather Alert.
Crowe and other advocates for the homeless have previously asked the city to push for the opening of the Moss Park and Fort York armories as emergency shelters, however the mayor's office has said that those spaces would not be appropriate to use for that purpose.
“We are going to see more people outside. March and April are sometimes the worst months of vulnerability,” Crowe said on Tuesday. “The weather is still unpredictable and we don’t have those extra resources.”
The city began formally tracking the deaths of homeless Torontonians on Jan. 1 but the Toronto Homeless Memorial has been keeping an unofficial count since 1986. There are more than 800 names on the memorial.