22 November 2023
No Homeless Evictions

Dear Mayor Chow,

People who are unhoused, living in encampments, or staying in congregate shelters or in City of Toronto’s hotel program need and deserve the protection tenants and homeowners have to safeguard their right to housing and adequate shelter. Laws that prevent tenants and homeowners from legally being suddenly evicted or forcibly removed from their homes do not apply to members of Toronto's unhoused community. Rather, members of Toronto's unhoused community live under constant threat of eviction, whether they're sleeping in a congregate shelter, a hotel program, or an encampment. They are being evicted from their rooms, beds, and tents every day. Eviction from encampments and shelters results in lost and stolen belongings, lost jobs, harms to physical and mental health, criminalization and violence from Toronto Police Services.

The primary tool for evicting individuals from shelters is “service restrictions”. “Service restrictions” can bar individuals from a shelter for a day up to many months, sometimes indefinitely. Residents also have no effective path to appeal their evictions. The City of Toronto fails to provide proper oversight over how shelters and hotel programs are being operated, especially the use of “service restrictions”. With the heightened dangers of winter for unhoused people, we call on the Mayor, City council, and SSHA to place a full moratorium on evictions and address “service restrictions” practices across the entire shelter system.

As you know, Toronto's homelessness crisis has continued to worsen in 2023. Small encampments have been cleared. Residents of other encampments feel the constant threat of imminent eviction. At Allan Gardens, workers from Toronto’s Office of Emergency Management have been removing and destroying tents and belongings consistently, including in -30 degree temperatures last winter.

Unhoused folks across the system are routinely directed to call Toronto's Central Intake line to find a bed, despite recent stats that show 300 people are turned away every day. Shelters and temporary hotel programs, which are funded by and under the oversight of the City, are evicting people from their beds daily through the use of "service restrictions''.

Toronto Shelter Standards (TSS) state clearly that service restrictions must only be used as a last resort, especially to address incidents involving violence or threats of violence, danger to others and the violation of significant shelter rules. TSS detail the support that must be provided to an individual who has been service restricted and their right to appeal. TSS also acknowledge the risk service restrictions pose to the health and safety of the person evicted and direct shelter providers to temporarily suspend all service restrictions in most cases, during a weather alert, extreme weather alert, or smog alert. Despite this, current service restriction practices are very disturbing, with what appears to be no City of Toronto commitment to reviewing practices and addressing unfair and inhumane uses of service restrictions.

Voices for Unhoused Liberation, a Toronto group of people with lived experience of poverty, homelessness, and insecure housing who centre those who are staying or have stayed in a congregate or a hotel-shelter, has been documenting how service restrictions are being used and their impact on persons who are evicted through a service restriction. Service restrictions have been used to punish and criminalize individuals for spilling food or water in their room, for their tone of voice when speaking to staff, for arguing with other shelter residents. This kind of use of service restrictions demonstrates enduring systemic issues of racism, transphobia, and other forms of discrimination, combined with the failure to provide the resources needed to ensure adequate staffing levels and that all staff work within a trauma-informed, anti-oppressive practice. Shelter staff are using service restrictions every day to evict residents for arbitrary reasons, with no effective path for appeals.

Right now, the City of Toronto has already moved away from the sweeps and forced clearings of encampments, instead offering residents a chance to move into Toronto's congregate shelters or one of the temporary hotel shelter programs. Given that shelters cannot meet the current need for shelter spaces, these beds are only made available to encampment residents by evicting shelter residents from their beds. The City of Toronto cannot boast about housing encampment residents if it is at the cost of evicting shelter residents. As the winter weather sets in, the City must take immediate action now!

That's why we're calling for:

703 verified
  1. Dreddz Green, Anti-suffering activist, Voices for Unhoused Liberation, Toronto
  2. Griffin Epstein, Educator and researcher, George Brown College, Toronto
  3. Nichole Konschuh, Social service worker student, George Brown College, Toronto
  4. Chelsea Edra, Social Service Worker Student, George Brown College, Toronto
  5. Sarah McKerracher, massage therapist and student, George brown college, Toronto
  6. Usman, Student, George Brown College, Toronto
  7. Hannah Anderson, Student, George Brown College, Toronto
  8. Emily Winsor, Student, George Brown College, Toronto
  9. Avery Dupuis, Social Service Worker, St Felix Centre, Toronto
  10. Em, Toronto
  11. Soph Poirier, Student, The University of Victoria, Victoria
  12. Amanda Clendenning, Student, George Brown College, Toronto
  13. January Adams, Academic Support, University of Toronto, Toronto
  14. Elsa Commissiong, Social Service Worker Student, George Brown College, Toronto
  15. Kai Lumbang, Toronto
  16. Bushra Asghar, Community Organizer, Climate Emergency Unit, Toronto
  17. Tury Al-jaqobi, Infrastructure analyst, Toronto
  18. Melissa Bui, Designer, Self Employed, Toronto
  19. Rowen Loucks, Math tutor, Toronto
  20. Anna Alger, Toronto
663 more
verified signatures
  1. Joey DAngelo, Toronto
  2. Camila Luchsinger, PEER Support Worker/PWLE, Hamilton
  3. Jasmeen Chandi, Toronto
  4. Michelle Harney, Unhoused, Self-employed, Toronto
  5. Nasreen Nessa, Student, Toronto
  6. Lisa Cavicchia, Self employed, Toronto
  7. steve brearton, writer, Toronto
  8. Katie Ashcroft, Toronto
  9. Jen Evans, Founder, B2B News Network, Toronto
  10. Chris Smithson, IT professional, Toronto
  11. Jordan Harrison, Self employed, Dust busters, Brampton
  12. Amy Simpson, teacher, Toronto
  13. Naomi blackwood, Poet, Toronto
  14. Melissa Paulin, Toronto
  15. Lily jeon, Studio technologist, University of Toronto, Toronto
  16. Malcolm Loo, Graphic Designer, none, Toronto
  17. Fatemeh Gharibi, PhD student, York University, Toronto
  18. Christopher Powell, Associate Professor, Toronto Metropolitan University, Toronto
  19. Tone Bailey, Food Production, Chocosol Traders Inc., Toronto
  20. Kaela Stewart, Student, UofT, Toronto
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