As we all brace ourselves for the Alberta clipper bearing down on us this week, please remember to go to your special inner tropical place every hour to keep your spirits up. I recommend going full luau if need be, but I would clear it with Michelle before anyone brings inflatable palm trees into the hot room. I can’t stop thinking about how we went from ‘no snow’ to ‘all the snow’. It’s treacherous out there, right? There’s a solid layer of ice under all this powder from the melt and refreeze of last week. If I don’t think about it, I won’t slip on it. Gosh I hope that’s a saying.
Let us take a moment to acknowledge that this city has just a teensy bit of a housing crisis. With rental rates skyrocketing and available units dwindling, the colder temperatures put such an increased challenge on people experiencing homelessness. The city has opened a few warming centres and they remain open for as long as the extreme weather advisory is in effect. Recently video has made the rounds of various media outlets, and social media that makes clear that these centres are teeming with people who need shelter. What happens, I wonder when the advisory is lifted. Where do all of those people go?
So far this year Toronto has lost four citizens experiencing homelessness. Extra warming centres have been opened, then quickly shuttered with the city claiming they were ‘sitting empty’. And yet, I wonder how the mayor reconciles that people are being turned away from shelters that have no room for them. Housing advocates say it will take all three levels of gov’t – municipal, provincial and federal – to work together on a long-term solution for this city. For many of our most vulnerable fellow Torontonians, that solution might not come fast enough.
IMHO – housing is a human right. People need to feel safe and sheltered in order to get on with the challenging business of being a decent human. Toronto has a dire need for deeply affordable housing, supportive transitional housing, and mental health services. Don’t believe what you hear – our shelters are presently at capacity. There are people living in our underpasses, and more women on the street than ever before. Despite Doug Ford’s drastic changes to city council, some of our most activist council members have joined forces to act on the housing crisis – starting with getting it called just that – a crisis.
Now for the good news…there is something you can do right now. Progress Toronto is circulating an online petition to ask Toronto City Council to vote in favour of declaring a housing crisis on our streets. I think of this city as one of the most caring cities in the world. You may disagree, but they say that sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. Believe in your city and advocate for what you think will make it better. Reserve your judgement and preserve your energy by doing something to affirm your power as a citizen – advocate for your fellow citizens. It’s an easy way to feel warm all over.
Here are a few ideas to spread Toronto love while the temperatures are scary.
1. Carry hand and toe warmers in your pocket or bag. When you pass someone asking for change, offer these as well. You can pick them up at most drug stores and one pair delivers about 4 hours of warmth for about $2.
2. Bring your gently used old winter clothing to your local shelter. Avoid those big metal drop boxes if you can. They have been responsible for the death of at least one homeless citizen.
3. If someone is asking for change and you don’t have any, it’s ok! You’re not a bad person! Sometimes a smile and some eye contact is actually more valuable. Offer these instead.
4. Sign this…https://www.progresstoronto.ca/take-action-to-declare-homelessness-a-crisis
Stay warm friends, and stay cool Toronto.