The temporary shelter set up inside Moss Park Armoury reached its approximately 100-person capacity on Friday night, prompting a downtown councillor to call for the city to create at least 1,000 new spaces in the shelter system.
“Moss Park Armoury being full shortly after it opened is not a surprise especially since we know the demand was there and front-line workers said that very clearly,” Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam said on CP24 Saturday afternoon.
She added that the city’s shelter system needs to grow by 1,000 permanent, year-round beds in order to keep up with the rising demand she says front-line shelter workers have seen coming for a long time.
“This is not something that emerged over the last few weeks, this is something that has grown and compounded over the past few years,” Wong-Tam said.
She said she is also asking for the Moss Park Armoury to stay open beyond Jan. 29 when it is scheduled to close, and have seven other winter respite sites stay open after Apr. 15.
“Once (the winter sites) close, the 700-odd people that are sleeping rough every night in those temporary accomodations will be back on the street, in the ravines and in our parks.”
Last month, council approved adding approximately 400 spaces to the shelter system, which had already grown by 1,000 spaces since 2016.
A former youth detention centre on George Street will open by the end of the month to serve as a respite centre and replace the capacity lost when Moss Park Armoury closes.
Wong-Tam said the 400 spaces approved last are not permanent shelter beds in the traditionally understood sense, saying that half of them are actually contracted hotel or motel rooms.
On Thursday, city staff said the shelter system was at 94 per cent capacity, with 5,544 people in shelters or hotel rooms and another 640 people staying overnight at various winter-specific sites such as Out of the Cold, winter respite drop-ins or a warming centre.
Wong-Tam said she will submit a motion this week to add 1,000 beds to the 2018 budget, to be considered at a council meeting scheduled for Jan. 31.