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Facing down winter and COVID-19, Canada's homeless are struggling – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Across the country, people are being told to stay home and stay apart as a way to slow the spread of COVID-19. But when you don’t have a place to live, following those guidelines and staying safe from the virus is a huge challenge.

With homeless shelters reducing capacity to allow for physical distancing and few options for housing, more people are camping out on the streets, in city parks, or, as in one B.C. woman’s case, a beat-up van.

Tucked behind a shopping mall sits a 1988 Dodge Ram — 50-year-old Kathy Denton’s current home.

Early in the pandemic, she became homeless for the first time, forced from her apartment after her relationship fell apart.

“My stress level was through the roof,” Denton told CTV News. “I cannot explain how bad it was at that time for me.”

She’s also unemployed and thus can’t afford a place of her own.

“How can you afford to rent a place if are not bringing in at least $2,000 a month?” she pointed out.

The van — which has no running water or stove — was only supposed to be a temporary solution.

“I am on the housing list,” Denton said. “Maybe I will get in, but it is not going to be right now.”

Nov. 22 is National Housing Day, which began in 1998 when the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee declared that homelessness was a national disaster in Canada. In 2020, housing is more important than ever amid a pandemic that makes gathering indoors in large numbers with strangers a potentially dangerous situation.

As COVID-19 cases continue to spike in B.C., space in short-term housing and shelters is increasingly difficult to find.

Jeremy Hunka helps run one of Vancouver’s oldest shelters, the Union Gospel Mission, and tells CTV News that “we don’t have enough places for people to go.”

There’s more demand for beds now than during the pandemic’s first wave, he explained.

In B.C., a ban on evictions that was put in place early in the pandemic was lifted on Sept. 1, potentially contributing to the number of those experiencing homelessness in the province.

“The need is up, space is down, threat level up,” Hunka said. “People are stressed. Some people are getting sick.”

According to the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, up to 235,000 Canadians spend time in homeless shelters each year.

Across the country, infections are up among the homeless. On Nov. 6, public health officials in Manitoba announced there was an outbreak at Oscar’s Place, a homeless shelter in The Pas, Man.

At a shelter in Calgary, there have been three separate outbreaks.

“There are 60 clients who have tested positive, and four staff,” Sandra Clarkson, executive director of the Calgary Drop-In Centre, told CTV News.

Their most recent outbreak started earlier this month, only weeks after they had lifted their outbreak status to allow more to access the shelter.

So far, 25 of the residents who tested positive have since recovered.

In Ontario, the battle for support for the homeless is only heating up. Activists staged a demonstration outside of the condo Toronto Mayor John Tory lives in on Sunday, constructing green “foam domes” as snow fell around them to highlight the need for more housing help.

Some shelters are trying to keep their residents safe by putting up glass dividers between beds, something that’s been done in Toronto’s Better Living Centre at Exhibition Place. The facility, part of the city’s winter plan for expanding shelter services, has been criticized by activists for the lack of privacy and the prison-like design.

In addition to the virus, worsening weather is a major concern for this housing crisis. Snow and dropping temperatures can turn living on the streets into a death sentence, even in a year without a deadly pandemic.

This leaves many of those experiencing homelessness with an impossible choice: try and find a space in a crowded shelter and risk contracting COVID-19, or stay in an outdoor encampment and risk the freezing weather. Many cities also have bylaws against encampments, and will issue eviction notices to tent residents as well.

Denton knows winter will be a challenge.

“I would rather not be living in my van, please,” she said.

Another hurdle is the hefty parking tickets she gets, just from having to park her van somewhere every night, one more example of the obstacles put in the way of those experiencing homelessness. 

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Canadians leaving big cities at record numbers: Statistics Canada – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Canada’s biggest cities are experiencing a record-breaking loss of people as urbanites move to smaller bedroom communities in search of affordable homes.

According to a new Statistics Canada report, Montreal and Toronto both saw a record loss of people from July 2019 to July 2020 as urban-dwellers moved to the suburbs, smaller towns and rural areas. 

Toronto lost 50,375 people over those 12 months while nearby Oshawa, Ont. saw its population grow by 2.1 per cent — the fastest population growth in the country. Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo in Ontario and Halifax were tied for the second-fastest growth, at 2 per cent. 

Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter said this shift is great news for his city. 

“It really introduces us to greater opportunities: new families, new friends, new communities and it really adds to the wonderful fabric of the city of Oshawa,” Carter told CTV News.

Over the same period, Montreal lost 24,880 people, while nearby communities such as Farnham, Que. and Saint-Hippolyte, Que. saw their populations rise.

Experts say the pandemic has accelerated the urban-to-suburban trend as more employers shift to a work-from-home model and young, first-time buyers look beyond the city for more affordable properties. 

This shift has also inspired plenty of competition in communities where bidding wars are anything but typical. 

“With the low supply issues that we are seeing in a lot of the major markets across the country, that is creating some challenges if you want to buy a home just because there is less to choose from,” said Geoff Walker, an Ottawa realtor.

Despite urban areas posting overall population growth due to international migration, the report found that high numbers people from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver chose to move away.

And despite border closures during the pandemic, international migration from July 2019 to July 2020 accounted for 90 per cent of the growth in Canadian cities. That number drops to just over one-third of growth in other regions. 

Real estate markets in Canada’s biggest cities continued to grow during the past year, but Robert Hogue, a senior economist at RBC, expects some of that action to calm in the year to come.

“The very high levels of activity in the late stages of 2020 are probably going to settle down through the course of 2021,” said Hogue. 

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Canadians leaving big cities at record numbers: Statistics Canada – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Canada’s biggest cities are experiencing a record-breaking loss of people as urbanites move to smaller bedroom communities in search of affordable homes.

According to a new Statistics Canada report, Montreal and Toronto both saw a record loss of people from July 2019 to July 2020 as urban-dwellers moved to the suburbs, smaller towns and rural areas. 

Toronto lost 50,375 people over those 12 months while nearby Oshawa, Ont. saw its population grow by 2.1 per cent — the fastest population growth in the country. Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo in Ontario and Halifax were tied for the second-fastest growth, at 2 per cent. 

Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter said this shift is great news for his city. 

“It really introduces us to greater opportunities: new families, new friends, new communities and it really adds to the wonderful fabric of the city of Oshawa,” Carter told CTV News.

Over the same period, Montreal lost 24,880 people, while nearby communities such as Farnham, Que. and Saint-Hippolyte, Que. saw their populations rise.

Experts say the pandemic has accelerated the urban-to-suburban trend as more employers shift to a work-from-home model and young, first-time buyers look beyond the city for more affordable properties. 

This shift has also inspired plenty of competition in communities where bidding wars are anything but typical. 

“With the low supply issues that we are seeing in a lot of the major markets across the country, that is creating some challenges if you want to buy a home just because there is less to choose from,” said Geoff Walker, an Ottawa realtor.

Despite urban areas posting overall population growth due to international migration, the report found that high numbers people from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver chose to move away.

And despite border closures during the pandemic, international migration from July 2019 to July 2020 accounted for 90 per cent of the growth in Canadian cities. That number drops to just over one-third of growth in other regions. 

Real estate markets in Canada’s biggest cities continued to grow during the past year, but Robert Hogue, a senior economist at RBC, expects some of that action to calm in the year to come.

“The very high levels of activity in the late stages of 2020 are probably going to settle down through the course of 2021,” said Hogue. 

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Canada surpasses 700000 confirmed COVID-19 cases – CTV News

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Canada’s procurement minister urged drugmaker Pfizer-BioNTech to get the country’s COVID-19 vaccine delivery schedule back on track as soon as possible as cases of the novel coronavirus surged past the 700,000 mark on Saturday.

The country hit the milestone less than two weeks after recording 600,000 cases of the virus on Jan. 3 — a feat that took months during the pandemic’s first wave.

Seven provinces recorded 6,479 cases on Saturday, pushing the national tally over 702,000.

Nationwide inoculation efforts had resulted in more than half a million residents receiving a vaccine dose as of Friday night, though the pace of immunizations is set to decrease as Pfizer-BioNTech upgrades its production facilities in Europe.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision to delay international vaccine shipments for four weeks during the upgrades.

“We are once again in touch with representatives from Pfizer to reiterate firmly the importance for Canada to return to our regular delivery schedule as soon as possible,” she said on Twitter Saturday. “Pfizer assured us that it is deploying all efforts to do just that.”

She noted that shipments for the upcoming week will be largely unaffected, and said Ottawa will provide updates as they become available.

Ontario became the latest province to adjust its vaccination rollout plans in light of Pfizer’s announcement.

Dr. David Williams, the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, issued a statement on Saturday saying officials do not yet know the full impact the delay will have on Ontario’s immunization strategy.

“We understand that this change in supply could see deliveries reduced by at least half for Canada in the coming weeks,” Williams said in a statement Saturday.

“We will assess and take appropriate action to ensure we can continue providing our most vulnerable with vaccines.”

In Ontario, long-term care residents, caregivers and staff who already received their first dose of Pfizer’s vaccine will get their second dose between 21 and 27 days later, no more than a week beyond what was originally planned.

But that time frame will be longer for anyone else receiving the Pfizer vaccine, with second doses being delivered anywhere from 21 to 42 days after the initial shot.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said Friday the reduced shipments mean that 86,775 of the 176,475 doses of the vaccine expected by Feb. 8 won’t be delivered on schedule.

Officials are establishing a new distribution plan, but the Quebec Health Department said it still intends to immunize as many people as possible within priority groups, with a delay of up to 90 days for the second dose.

Officials in Saskatchewan said COVID-19 vaccinations will continue as doses are received, with Premier Scott Moe telling reporters Friday that the province’s strategy for the two-dose regime depends on steady shipments.

Canada’s top doctor continued her push for strict adherance to public health guidelines as Saturday’s case count inched closer to levels forecasted in bleak federal projections released earlier in the week. Modeling released on Thursday indicated Canada could see 10,000 daily cases by the end of January if current infection rates continue.

“If we ease measures too soon, the epidemic will resurge even stronger,” Dr. Theresa Tam said in a tweet. “This is double-down time!!”

Tam said Hospitalizations and deaths across the country, which tend to lag one to several weeks behind a spike in cases, are still on the rise.

Canada averaged 4,705 hospitalizations across the country with 875 patients requiring intensive care treatment For the seven-day period ending Jan. 14.

During the same period, an average of 137 deaths were reported daily.

Ontario topped 3,000 cases in a 24-hour period once again on Saturday and added another 51 deaths linked to the virus.

In Quebec, 2,225 new infections were reported along with 67 deaths attributed to the virus, pushing the province over the 9,000 death mark since the beginning of the pandemic.

New Brunswick continued to report the highest daily COVID-19 case counts in Atlantic Canada, with 27 new diagnoses reported Saturday. Nova Scotia, by contrast, reported just four.

Saskatchewan reported 270 new COVID-19 cases and two further deaths on Saturday. Alberta logged 717 new infections, while Manitoba reported 180.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2021.

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