With family shelters currently running over capacity, many of the city’s homeless are being put up in motels for months, with the city footing the bill.
Following the death of four homeless men this winter, Mayor John Tory said the city would be renting blocks of rooms in two Toronto motels in an effort to make at least 90 extra spaces available during the cold weather.
The solution is not a new one. The city has been using motels to house families for 29 years. As of Tuesday 266 people are being housed in between four and five motels along Kingston Road.
Last month Tory said the motels, which he called a short-term solution, would cost roughly $100,000 until March.
“It’s going to be used on a sort of supply-and-demand basis; if the need is there, then these rooms are going to be available to us,” he said at the time.
But this short-term solution adds up to weeks and months for some families living in a small motel room as they wait for affordable housing.
The amount of time families are living in shelters is growing. In 2011 the average stay for a family in a shelter was 62 days. That number has since grown by almost 60 per cent to 103 days.
It is putting an increased strain on the system and forcing the city to use even more motels.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Tory said he believes the answer to the city’s homeless problem isn’t expanding the shelter system but tackling the affordable housing issue.
“I’ve got some meetings that I’m scheduling in a couple weeks, to sit down with people who are going to help us in dealing with the issue of a lack of supply of affordable housing and find out what it’s going to take,” he explained.
A major review of the city’s shelter system is expected to be released in March.