Housing Help Centre
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, medial care, necessary social services, and housing.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25-1
This principle is one of the driving forces behind the COSTI Housing Help Centre, which continues to address the rapidly increasing issue of homelessness.
Over the past few years, despite Toronto's growing economy and falling unemployment rates, the number of homeless and low-income people, and, in particular, families, continues to be on the rise. The causes behind this growing crisis are clear - a lack of affordable housing, rising rents, and an increasing number of eviction applications.
- Recent years have seen eviction applications rise to over 2,000 per month. Most of those affected, unfortunately, fail to contest their evictions, often due to low literacy and other language barriers. Without a hearing, eviction orders are issued by default.
- The supply of rental housing in the GTA is failing to keep pace with the increase in demand, and, even worse, there have been no government-assisted rental housing completions since 1997.
- Rent increases are severely outpacing tenant incomes, placing many at risk of rent arrears and eviction.
With nowhere to go, the number of people living on the street continues to remain high, and many individuals and, in particular, families are being forced to use emergency shelters as semi-permanent housing. According to the Toronto Report Card on Homelessness, the fastest growing group of emergency shelter users is the family.
Many of the individuals that come to the COSTI Housing Help Centre are immigrants and refugees, facing multiple barriers to accessing and securing housing. They also include youth and seniors, families with fixed incomes, victims of discrimination and racism, survivors of domestic violence, and individuals suffering from addiction and chronic mental or physical illnesses.
The Housing Help Centre works with these individuals and families, assisting them in breaking free of the shelter system by overcoming barriers to securing safe, affordable, and adequate housing. The Centre offers a holistic approach to service, providing crisis intervention, housing search support, document and application assistance, individual life skills coaching, direct access to employment, education, and training programs, a Rent Bank, specialized services for women, and a drop-in program. The Centre also offers workshops on tenant rights and responsibilities, an immunization clinic, and private counselling for victims of domestic violence.
To continue to effectively respond to the ever-increasing demand for service, the Housing Help Centre will require additional computer equipment to enhance client access to various sources of housing and legal information, as well as a full time Landlord Worker to recruit, educate, and negotiate with landlords. The Centre is also planning to develop a dedicated housing database that will provide self-serve access during non-business hours, and to establish a permanent volunteer program that can provide escort and interpretation for newly arrived immigrants and refugees, and ongoing support for those suffering from chronic mental and physical illnesses.
By providing critical information and support, in a culturally sensitive and non-judgmental environment, the COSTI Housing Help Centre continues to be a trusted and effective tool in preventing homelessness and in helping individuals and families move off the streets.