Deputation to the Planning and Housing Committee
Re: PH16.8, Addressing Housing and Homelessness Issues in Toronto through Intergovernmental Partnerships
September 22nd 2020
Good Morning. My name is Harmy Mendoza and I am the Executive Director of the Woman Abuse Council of Toronto (WomanACT). Our mission is to eradicate violence against women and advance gender equity through coordination, education, research and policy. We convene and mobilize communities across Toronto to drive system change for women and we have been doing this for 29 years.
I am here today to support the Housing and People Action Plan and the COVID-19 Interim Shelter Recovery Strategy. I have had the privilege of being both a member of the Toronto Housing External Advisory Committee and the COVID-19 Shelter Recovery Task Force. In both capacities, WomanACT highlighted the importance of incorporating a strong outreach process with community organizations. Further, we encouraged and supported members' participation from the Violence against Women sector to engage in consultative processes.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the housing challenges and crisis we face, I have been encouraged by Toronto's collaboration across government and community agencies. This has highlighted the need for this collaboration to be advanced among and across all three levels of government.
It will be no surprise to you that housing remains one of the top issues and barriers faced by women experiencing violence and those services that support them. Or that the Violence against Women sector in Toronto has experienced demand in the needs for services and supports by survivors during the pandemic. Violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness and housing instability among women and their dependent children. It can lead to devastating impacts on a woman's economic security, preventing them from leaving abusive situations because they are unable to secure safe and affordable housing.
The reports' recommendations support the request for a new tri-government partnership to advance and use investments under the National Housing Strategy and other programs. This is particularly critical for women experiencing violence across Toronto who interact with policies and programs operating at municipal, provincial and federal levels.
The reports' recommendations also support the request to expedite actions in the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan, including delivering 3,000 affordable and rental supportive homes. This is aligned with we what we have heard from our communities. While emergency shelters are an essential component to any housing strategy, women experiencing violence need and want long term, affordable and permanent housing solutions.
We also welcome the recommendation that SSHA and the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services collaborate to coordinate approaches to serving women and their children fleeing domestic violence, including coordination between the VAW system and the City-operated housing opportunities.
Over the last 6 months, the violence against women sector has collectively and rapidly mobilized to adapt to emerging issues and needs. We have embraced change and used this time to reflect on how we can do things differently and better serve women experiencing violence from diverse communities with housing insecurity. We must start implementing measures and solutions that address women's housing needs in the long term to provide safety and stability. Thank you.