Toronto will get a $12.3 million holiday gift from the province – partial repayment, for one year only, of $21 million in housing and homelessness funding cutsthat took effect on January 1st. The Ontario government rushed out its announcement of $42 million in transitional housing and homelessness funds to municipalities in the middle of the holiday season, just days before major cuts to provincial housing and homelessness funding were due to take place. While the new funds are one-time only and only a partial replacement for the funds that were cut, municipal and community advocates are welcoming the news as a partial victory in their campaign to restore funding for the cuts to Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit and other provincial housing and homeless funding.
Toronto officials are meeting to consider how to allocate the transitional funding from the province. The provincial cuts had triggered a number of cuts in the City of Toronto’s 2013 proposed budget for Shelter, Support and Housing, including plans to eliminate Personal Needs Allowance. This is a $3 million annual program that provides a small allowance to people who are forced to live in the city’s homeless shelters to buy personal items, such as sanitary napkins or transit tokens. There is no word from the city, as yet, on whether it will use part of the restored funding to renew PNA.
Other funding and service cuts that are still part of the draft 2013 Toronto budget and will be considered by Toronto City Council in the coming days as it completes its budget deliberations:
- A cut of 41,172 bednights in the homeless shelter system, including 24% of the bednights at the city’s family residence (for homeless families), and a 10% cut in bednights at Robertson House, the city’s main shelter for homeless women.
- A 50% cut in funding for new affordable homes at a time when the city’s affordable housing wait list continues to set a new record every month.
There has been a spike in the number of reported homeless deaths in Toronto in December, leaving advocates concerned that cuts to housing and homeless funding could lead to increased homelessness and a continuing heavy burden of poor health and premature death.