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Toronto mayor dismisses protest by anti-poverty activists

Rob and Doug Ford appear at a meeting of the audit committee at city hall An audit, which was released earlier this month found the mayor overspent his $1.3-million campaign limit by 3 per cent and contravened election law dozens of times.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says anti-poverty activists who have taken refuge inside Metro Hall are waging "nothing more than a cheap publicity stunt."

A few dozen protesters with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty – which last month staged an hours-long sit-in outside the mayor's office – set up a makeshift shelter inside Metro Hall on Thursday.

The group has said Toronto's homeless shelter system is in crisis.

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Mayor Ford, speaking with reporters at city hall Thursday, accused OCAP of continuing to create "a false sense of crisis."

He repeated his claim that 3 to 4 per cent of shelter beds are empty every night, and that city policy is to never turn someone away.

"We don't need more spaces. We have over 100 empty beds a night. We have to be efficient. Do we want to open up 500 empty beds? That's just a waste of taxpayers' money," he said.

Mayor Ford said the community development and recreation committee will discuss a report on the shelter system in the next few weeks and he encouraged people to read it.

Councillor Doug Ford, the mayor's brother, said the OCAP protesters "need to get a job."

An attempt by Councillor Adam Vaughan to debate the homelessness issue was voted down at council last month.

Councillor Vaughan said at the time that homeless people were in harm's way and the city was failing to take care of them.

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Social Planning Toronto, an organization that is committed to improving "the quality of life for all people" in Toronto, on Thursday released a survey it conducted of 12 community organizations that operate 15 shelters.

The survey found that all of the shelters had to turn people away at some point during the last month because they were full.

Of the 12 organizations, eight said additional emergency shelter space is needed. Two others said more supportive and affordable housing is needed, though more emergency shelter space would address the immediate need.

One shelter provider, whose name was not released, said there is a need for single beds for adult women in particular.

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