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Toronto coalition launches website to help protect people experiencing homelessness from COVID-19

Wednesday, June 10, 2020 @ 12:15 PM | By John Schofield

Last Updated: Wednesday, June 10, 2020 @ 1:42 PM


A coalition of groups in Toronto is encouraging residents to use a new web form if they discover situations where the City of Toronto is contravening its commitments to protect people who are experiencing homelessness due to COVID-19.

The web form at COVIDShelterRights.ca was launched June 9 by the coalition, which includes Sanctuary Ministries of Toronto, Aboriginal Legal Services, the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, the Black Legal Action Centre, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) and the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario. The form is housed on the website of Toronto law firm Goldblatt Partners LLP, which is representing the coalition.

According to a news release issued June 9 by the CCLA, anyone who encounters a possible breach of the city’s commitments can report the situation anonymously by filling out the web form and may also upload photos or videos of shelter conditions.

The coalition filed a lawsuit against the City of Toronto on April 24 alleging the city was failing to provide for adequate physical distancing in its shelters and was contributing to the rapid increase in cases of COVID-19 among people experiencing homelessness. The coalition and the city reached a settlement on May 19 when the city agreed to specific measures to address the issue.

The coalition reports that 36 Toronto shelters have had COVID outbreaks, more than 528 homeless people have been infected and four have died.

Information collected through the new web form may be used by the coalition to enforce the city’s compliance with the stipulated measures to protect people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic, the news release says. The City of Toronto has agreed to report regularly on its adherence to its commitments until it achieves and sustains compliance for two months.

“People experiencing homelessness in Toronto should know their rights,” Jessica Orkin, a lawyer at Golblatt Partners, is quoted as saying in the release. “If you have received shelter support services in the City of Toronto since the COVID-19 crisis began, you are protected by this agreement. This includes those living in tents. If you are being offered a space within the shelter system, it must meet these standards.”

More information about the lawsuit against the City of Toronto can be found at https://ccla.org/toronto-must-defend-homeless/.

Editor's note: headline has been revised