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The Globe and Mail

City council avoids discussion on homeless beds

Toronto City Councillor Adam Vaughan speaks to the media in Toronto Nov. 30, 2012 at City Hall.

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Adam Vaughan's push to have Toronto city council debate homeless shelter beds has fallen short, a defeat that immediately sparked a protest that shut down the council chamber.

Councillor Vaughan moved the motion Wednesday morning, saying homeless people are in harm's way and the city is failing to take care of them. He said action must be taken before more lives are lost.

Councillor Gord Perks was among those to speak in favour of the motion. He said he had a sister who lived on the streets and has since died.

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The motion required a two-thirds majority to be added to the agenda. But only 24 councillors were in favour, while 20 were opposed. Mayor Rob Ford and Councillor Doug Ford were among those against the motion.

Councillor Ford said there also needs to be more information on why some people don't want to go to homeless shelters.

The city has said the occupancy rate for homeless beds is higher than 90 per cent. An occupancy report for Tuesday said 94 per cent of total single adult beds were occupied.

Councillor Vaughan, however, said those numbers do not reflect the true need. "If you're in north Etobicoke and you're told a bed is available in Scarborough, how do you get there?" he asked

Councillor Vaughan said the homeless shelter on Peter Street has been running at close to double occupancy since October.

Members of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty – who last week set up a shelter outside the mayor's office and had to be removed by police – were in the council chamber for the vote and yelled, "Shame on you!" and "No more deaths!"

The coalition said it plans to take over Metro Hall on March 7 and set up a shelter.

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Speaker Frances Nunziata ordered everyone to leave the council chamber after the protest began.

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