NEWS

Homeless complain of lack of shelter beds during Sandy

10/31/2012 03:35 EDT | Updated 12/31/2012 05:12 EST
Toronto Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam says she will meet with city staff to find out why it appears some homeless people couldn't find a shelter bed at the height of Monday's massive storm.

Many said they couldn't find beds in shelters despite promises from the city that 100 extra beds would be added as extreme weather brought on by Hurricane Sandy hit Toronto.

Wallace McDonald spent Monday night sleeping on the floor of the city’s housing referral centre after seeking a bed when the storm hit.

"I had looked but it was pretty filled up over there,” he said. “Some they had to turn away."

Derrick Jones also found there were no beds available.

"I walked around soaking wet, looking for a dry space to stay," he said.

Wong-Tam said she had been told that extra beds would be added for the storm.

"What was told to me was that there would be an additional 100 beds made available to our homeless population," she said.

"Furthermore, anyone who was requiring shelter would receive shelter that night."

There were vacancies, says city

Patricia Anderson, the manager of the city's shelter, support and housing administration department said in an email to CBC News that the city has the ability to add 165 emergency beds at any time. Of that total, 41 were used Monday night.

"In addition there were vacancies remaining in the permanent shelter system as well," she said. "Permanent beds may not have been used for a number of different reasons, including that the client did not like the location, or the beds may have been on temporary hold for someone else for a time, or the program was not a good match for the client ..."

More than 140 people stayed at the city's referral centre, nearly 17 per cent more than usual.

Doug Johnson-Hatlem, a homeless outreach worker with the Sanctuary Ministries of Toronto, says the city should have been better prepared for the storm.

"We counted over 40 people who were out last night," he said.

High winds downed power lines and left as many as 60,000 Toronto Hydro customers without power at one point.

Objects being tossed in the wind were a common occurrence, and one woman died after a large windblown sign struck her on the head as she was walking near Keele Street south of St. Clair Avenue West.

Johnson-Hatlem wants the city to double the number of shelter beds, but said what's really needed is more affordable housing.

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