Toronto Vigil: Homeless People Die as Referral Centre Turns People Away

Homeless people die as referral centre turns people away, Community demands immediate government action 

Toronto: The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) will be organizing a vigil at 129 Peter Street, Thursday November 7 at 5:30pm to remember lives lost to homelessness and demand immediate action from all three levels of government.  

The vigil will highlight the continuous failure of the shelter system, to meet the needs of the homeless in the midst of the City’s worsening housing crisis. This summer shelter occupancy rates have exceeded the highs of last winter and even respite sites, which provide cots, chairs or mats on the floor for people to sleep on are at capacity. 

The Peter Street referral centre is intended to be a last resort for those in need of a shelter bed. “On a nightly basis dozens of people are forced to spend the night in chairs and on the floor in the centre’s waiting area because there is nowhere to refer people to” says Gaetan Heroux, a community worker and OCAP member.  When the waiting area is packed to capacity others who have travelled to the centre in hopes of securing safe shelter are being turned away and told to come back later.  

On October 5th the body of Kevin Dickman was pulled out of the Don River. Despite repeated efforts and extensive support, he was unable to access shelter or a safe space to go. We do not know why Kevin was by the Don River. We do know that the shelters are full and for many who are homeless or in crisis there is nowhere to go and no hope for housing. “The outcome of the shelter and housing crisis is tragic and deadly. Kevin is only one of many lives we are losing to homelessness. The shelter system is already at a breaking point and as the winter approaches the need will only intensify. The abandonment of homeless people this winter will have deadly consequence” adds Cat Chhina, an OCAP organizer.

On November 7th community members will gather at a vigil to remember lives lost to homelessness and make two specific demands. The community is demanding that the City immediately open 2000 shelter beds, and publicly call on the Provincial and Federal governments for urgent assistance to begin the immediate construction of social rent-geared-to-income housing.  

Media Contacts: 

Cat Chhina, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty  


Gaetan Heroux,  Ontario Coalition Against Poverty 


Ontario Coalition Against Poverty

157 Carlton St #201 

Toronto, ON. M5A 2K3

Phone: 416 925 6939

Fax: 1 855 714 0566 (toll free) 


Twitter: @OCAPtoronto



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