On Friday, about 40 protesters affiliated with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty were removed from City Hall and ticketed for trespassing. Today, many of them returned to the council chamber in an attempt to get an emergency debate on the state of homelessness in the city onto the council's agenda. Councillor Adam Vaughan acceded to their request and tabled the appropriate motion, but such motions require a two-thirds majority, and so it failed with only 24 of the council's 45 members on side.
After the vote, the assembled OCAP members began chanting "No more homeless deaths," and Speaker Frances Nunziata immediately adjourned the council for the day. OCAP has indicated that they will occupy portions of Metro Hall on March 7 and use them as a homeless shelter, although it is unclear at this time as to what exactly that means.
At present, shelter beds in the city are running at 96% occupancy, well above the 90% limit the council imposed on itself in 1999. While there are empty beds available, such high occupancy rates mean many shelters fill up early and homeless people must sometimes spend hours walking the streets and standing in line looking for a free cot. With winter coming to an end next month and temperatures already on the rise, the problem may be swept under the rug for another year, but homelessness activists say even more people are killed by the blistering heat of summer than by the freezing cold of winter.