Toronto opens first shelter dedicated to 2SLGBTQ+ adults
FILE- People gather outside of a shelter in downtown Toronto on Saturday, March 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Published Wednesday, November 30, 2022 11:12AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 30, 2022 11:12AM EST
Toronto is opening its first dedicated shelter for 2SLGBTQ+ adults this week.
The city, along with The 519 and Homes First Society, is opening a transitional shelter in the city’s west end, which will provide beds for up to 20 people.
The shelter will prioritize and provide temporary housing to 2SLGBTQ+ refugees with a focus on trans women, they said.
“Working with The 519 and Homes First, the city will move forward in our goal to develop better, more inclusive shelter standards that centre on the safety, wellbeing and affirmation of 2SLGBTQ+ community members. We want everyone to have access to safe indoor shelter and this dedicated site will help to do that while also helping residents secure permanent housing,” Mayor John Tory said in a Nov. 30 news release.
According to the City of Toronto, the new shelter is the outcome of months of work following consultations with more than 150 community members with lived experience of homelessness as well as service providers.
The shelter is funded by the city, operated by Homes First Society, and supported by The 519. Homes First Society provides affordable, stable housing and support services, while The 519 is a 2SLGBTQ+ multi-service agency.
The city says it has provided $30,000 to The 519 to help support the development of a comprehensive program model at the shelter, along with a one-time start-up amount of nearly $121,000 for initial site renovations. The city is also providing an annual operating budget, which was undisclosed.
“As a first step in establishing a dedicated shelter space that is affirming for 2SLGBTQ+ adults, we are laying the groundwork to change the way 2SLGBTQ+ people experiencing homelessness are supported and provided lasting solutions to homelessness. I am proud to be able to actively take this important first step with Homes First,” Maura Lawless, The 519’s executive director, said in a statement.
An estimated 12 per cent of people experiencing homelessness in Toronto identify as 2SLGBTQ+ and an even bigger share of youth (26 per cent) have that identity, according to Toronto’s 2021 Street Needs Assessment.
In addition, in 2021 hate crimes targeting sexual orientation rose 64 per cent in the country from 2019, a Statistics Canada report said.
The city says the shelter is one step towards responding to systemic barriers and will assist 2SLGBTQ+ newcomers as they often have limited resources and may not be able to rely on local cultural communities for support due to their identities.
“It's critical that queer, trans, and non-binary newcomers and refugees have access to services and supports that can help them safely settle in their new country. As a refugee myself and someone committed to ensuring housing for all, I know a place to call home is the foundation for building a good life we all deserve,” Davenport Councillor Alejandra Bravo said in a release.
The city said the shelter would focus on building inclusive standards that centre on the safety, wellbeing, and affirmation of 2SLGBTQ+ community members.
All shelters in Toronto work from a housing-first model in an effort to help clients secure permanent housing.