NEWS

Ford dismisses homeless protest

03/07/2013 06:22 EST | Updated 05/07/2013 05:12 EDT
Toronto police have broken up a demonstration by homeless activists at Metro Hall, escorting the protesters from the lobby of the hall one at a time.

Police moved in shortly before 10 p.m. to end the day-long protest aimed at calling attention to what the demonstrators have called a crisis in the city's shelter bed program.

Earlier in the day Mayor Rob Ford criticized the demonstration organized by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. OCAP says there aren't enough shelter beds for Toronto's homeless and they want the city to create more spaces.

But Ford says that's not true.

OCAP says more space is needed because the city's shelter system is overcrowded and in crisis.

Protesters say they've seen "violence everywhere" in the system.

Some say it is unsafe inside so they "gave up on the shelter system and just stayed outside."

But claims by OCAP that Toronto needs more beds were contradicted by Mayor Ford.

The "claim that people do not have access to beds, that people are being turned away, that there has been a reduction in service, they are absolutely wrong," said Ford.

Ford said the system is well funded and space exists.

"We don't need more space," he said. "We have over 100 empty beds a night. Do you want to open up 500? That's just a waste of money."

The city says that on the night of March 6 there were 3,859 beds available across the city.

Of those beds 3,689 were used, leaving 170 beds available.

Jon Brandt of the Yonge Street Mission says there are a small number of beds available most nights, but conditions are hard.

"Shelters provide a service, but they are not luxury places to stay," said Brandt. "You have high occupancy rates and you have concerns about safety, concerns about your belongings."

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