Muslim youth group partners with not-for-profit to launch mobile shelter for Toronto homeless

A national Muslim youth group is launching a “Shelter Bus” campaign to help the homeless in Toronto.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, in collaboration with Humanity First, have re-purposed a coach bus with 20 beds, a kitchenette, lounge space and bathrooms.

The initiative will see the bus go to different neighbourhoods every night for three months to provide both shelter and hot meals for those in need in the city.

READ MORE: Ontario government ‘pauses’ on homelessness count due to gaps, lack of access to data

Toronto Public Health (TPH) said 101 people experiencing homelessness died in 2017, followed by 92 in 2018.

In 2019, there have been 57 deaths to date — an average of 2.2 every week.

“It’s quite visible downtown – the numbers out there on the streets and they don’t have any shelter to go to,” said president of the youth group Zubair Afzal.

“At night it can be very cold and harsh as well, so we want to be able to reach out and do what we can to provide them shelter and a hot meal.”

The inside of the Shelter Bus. Tom Hayes/ Global News

In early November, the Ford government announced it would be putting a former Liberal government program aimed at eliminating homelessness in the province on hold.

The program was launched in 2018 and was a part of a broader strategy to eliminate chronic homelessness in Ontario by 2025.

The current government said the program has been put on hold because it recognized things have changed from the previous year, including the fact that some communities are using real-time data to track homelessness.

“For those reasons, the ministry is pausing the requirement for service managers to conduct local homeless enumeration to give us time to review in more detail enumeration requirements,” assistant deputy minister Janet Hope said at the time.

READ MORE: Toronto announces 10-year, multi-billion-dollar plan to address housing issues, homelessness

The announcement was met with criticism from Ward 4 Parkdale–High Park city councillor Gord Perks, as well as NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark said the Progressive Conservative government wants to address data gaps and other limitations ahead of any future counts, but noted that communities can continue the work on their own if they wish.

For more information on the Shelter Bus campaign, click here.

— With files from The Canadian Press

zubair afzal president of group

i think it’s quite visible once you come downtown. … idea came a few months ago by a member of the organization.

why don’t we create the facility

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