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FORUM: City budget a real challenge but we can work together (Nov. 2020)

December 4th, 2020 · No Comments

Impact on homeless is most acute

By Mike Layton

Winter is fast approaching, and with COVID-19 cases on the rise, we must prepare for how to support residents and small businesses through the next couple of months.

The pandemic has highlighted the fact that not everyone is impacted equally, and that we need support from all levels of government to make sure Torontonians are taken care of now and into the future.

At our last council meeting, we put plans in motion to rapidly scale up the permanent housing and shelter capacity response for the 2020-2021 winter season, and to try to  extend winter access washrooms for those using our parks. We also expanded efforts to extend support for restaurants to operate outdoor dining and take out.  

A concern that I hear regularly from those advocating on behalf of those living in encampments, as well as all park users, is the lack of access to public washrooms, since most businesses are not providing public access to washrooms during the pandemic. 

This issue will only get worse as the city closes its washrooms for the winter due to the threat of damage to the infrastructure due to freezing.

This is why I asked council to approve an immediate report back on the impacts of, and options for, keeping more public washrooms open and fully accessible including clearing pathways of snow and ice in our parks through the upcoming winter. 

Knowing that this may be difficult, in the long-term, council will also be directing staff to evaluate retrofitting all public washrooms in our parks to withstand the winter climate so we need not have this discussion in the future.

I am also proud to report that I supported the recent approval of council giving city staff the authority to use whatever resources deemed necessary to help those experiencing homelessness now.

But we need to do much more. city staff are projecting a financial impact from the pandemic at over $1.8 billion, at a time where residents need services more than ever. 

The mayor and City Council need to continue to advocate for increased powers for municipalities that actually expand available revenue tools. 

We need to have options beyond property taxes to fund the services that residents need.

As the 2021 City Budget process begins this month, you have my continued commitment to push for long overdue change that puts the needs of people front and centre. 

I will also make clear our collective need for help from all levels of government. 

On a hopeful note, the pandemic has also shown us that, together, we can make transformative change happen quickly. There have been some direct supports created in the past few months to assist everyone whose lives have been impacted by the pandemic.  

Another issue that has been at the forefront for residents recently is eviction. I want to make clear that if you are experiencing issues with your tenancy and/or eviction, the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Association is an excellent resource for advice on how to file an application with the Landlord and Tenant Board, if needed. 

You can contact them by visiting www.torontotenants.org. The city is working hard to enhance and expand available financial support to help tenants to maintain their homes in these times.

The city has also been helping to connect residents with various support networks based on need. Outreach continues to those who are experiencing homelessness as we work to find them stable housing and access to services to support their well-being.

You can find helpful information on all of the above at the city’s website at www.toronto.ca/covid-19. 

No matter the issue you are facing, my office remains available to assist and to connect you with the resources you need as we continue to live through the pandemic. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office at Councillor_Layton@toronto.ca if you have any questions. 

My team and I will do everything we can to help.

Mike Layton is the city councillor for Ward 11 University—Rosedale.

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Tags: Annex · Columns · Opinion