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Nowhere To Go

By February 29, 2024March 8th, 2024No Comments

Scott Mission confronts the housing crisis by helping to house men who are living on the streets of Toronto.

“Adequate housing,” says the Ontario Human Rights Commission, “is essential to one’s sense of dignity, safety, inclusion, and ability to contribute to the fabric of our neighbourhoods.” Despite this, there is no official basic right to shelter in Ontario.

Since the pandemic, tent encampments in our parks are common. Last year, the City of Toronto declared homelessness an emergency.1 According to Statistics Canada, Toronto has the highest number of homeless people in the country. According to city data, 10,607 people were actively homeless, in the last three months, across the city of Toronto.

Our shelter crisis

100,000+ Torontonians waitlisted for affordable and supportive housing
98+% occupancy rate of Toronto’s emergency shelters
75% of homeless people struggle with mental illness
18.5+% of Toronto families experience food insecurity 2

Health and housing ‘inextricably linked’

According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, “without appropriate housing it is often not possible to get and keep employment, to recover from mental illness or other disabilities, to integrate into the community, to escape physical or emotional violence, or to keep custody of children.”

Dr. Andrew Boozary is the founding executive director of the Gattuso Centre for Social Medicine at University Health Network (Toronto). In a CBC news article Dr. Boozary remarks, “We’ve known for a very long time about worse health outcomes for people who are experiencing homelessness.” Dr. Boozary also concludes that, “Health and housing are inextricably linked.” 

Scott Mission’s unhoused clients are typically cut off from accessing what we commonly take for granted, because they lack adequate shelter. Poor nutrition, loss of self-care, and oppressive feelings of shame and worthlessness cause worsening health and further isolation from any potential community of support.

“There is a paradigm of thinking that people are homeless because they abused substances or have severe mental illnesses,” observes Julian Picon, Senior Manager of Scott Mission’s shelter. 

“While these things are also prevalent,” he continues, “they don’t give the full story. The pandemic has broadened the list of people who have become hopeless.”

Thankfully, Scott Mission is here as a beacon of hope for those who are experiencing homelessness and food insecurity across our city. “It’s a tremendous feeling whenever even one person receives meals and is safely housed,” says Michael Hamilton, Scott Mission Case Management Manager.

1 “Toronto city council declares homelessness an emergency.” CBC Toronto, May 12, 2023. Online.
2 Facts and numbers about homelessness are courtesy of the City of Toronto, Fred Victor, Homeless Hub, and the Wellesley Institute.