The City of Toronto plans to open 90 new shelter spaces by Monday, renting 20 motel rooms at two sites as a stop-gap measure to address a bed shortage and get people off the streets on cold winter nights.
The creation of the temporary spaces, outlined by city staff at a meeting Thursday of the community development committee, will cost an estimated $100,000 over the next two months. The motel spots will be used to house families or couples, staff said, and the spaces they free up will allow for more emergency beds.
The city's proposed 2015 budget, to be released next week, also will include funding for 100 new shelter spaces and money for two women's drop-in centres, the committee was told.
Councillor Joe Mihevc, who earlier this week urged the city to take action given the harsh weather and the recent deaths of men living on the street, welcomed the temporary measures. The response of staff and support of Mayor John Tory for immediate measures are a positive sign for the budget discussions that begin next week, he said. It also shows a more collegial atmosphere at city hall from the past four years when councillors often had to "work around" the mayor's office, rather than with it to address issues, he said.
"It really is a good-news day," Mr. Mihevc said.
Mr. Tory, who pledged earlier this week to add more spaces quickly, called the temporary arrangements "not completely satisfactory."
He continued to hint at additional measures in the coming budget, saying he plans to "make sure the budget is going to contain some further relief and contribution to the strength of our homeless shelter system."
Councillor James Pasternak, chair of the community development committee, said the city manager and staff were able to find money for the temporary measures.
He said he has not seen a figure in the 2015 budget proposed by staff for the expanded shelter services, which also will include spaces for LGBTQ youth. Earlier staff estimates put the cost of the two drop-in centres for women at $2-million each annually, he said.
The temporary spaces in motels are "not ideal, but if it saves lives, it is something we should endorse." Mr. Pasternak told the committee.
In the span of less than two weeks this month, four homeless men have died, one in a city-run facility. The other three were sleeping out in a transit shelter, a van and a makeshift shelter.
With a report from Ann Hui