Author: Alexis

Shelter suicides uptick

Shelter suicides uptick

It was supposed to be a safe, affordable home for Ontarians with nowhere else to go. But inside, it was horrifying.

A new report on the shelter says there has been a sharp uptick in suicides in the past two years.

According to Statistics Canada, the number of completed suicide cases in Ontario (which includes Ottawa and Toronto) jumped to 476 in 2016, and is expected to be about twice that for 2017.

It’s a number that doesn’t include the deaths in the past few months of people in the shelter.

The government plans to start looking at possible solutions in this month’s federal budget, but the issue has quickly become a political lightning rod.

‘It’s like living in the world’s worst-case scenario’

According to a study published in early 2017, when the shelter doors closed in December 2016, more than 700 homeless people lost their lives – and that’s just the known cases. It was a number far higher than the government’s initial projection.

“It’s a really heartbreaking situation, that’s for sure,” said Dr. Donna Mowbray, who has worked with the shelter for the past 20 years.

In fact, in the past three years, she says there have been two suicides, two overdoses and four sexual assaults in the shelter.

“It’s a really, really tragic situation,” she said.

“It’s like living in the world’s worst-case scenario.”

Dr. Donna Mowbray worked as a volunteer at the shelter for decades. She says the crisis has a ripple effect, with all the other challenges, both for the individuals who go through the shelter and for the larger community. (Submitted)

Shelter life a ‘humbling’ experience

The challenges of the shelter have been ongoing for many years. The first staff were recruited in the mid-’80s, and began the job of housing homeless people in 1993.

One of the first people to die from the shelter was a woman named Janice, who was found dead in a hotel bathroom in 1987.

But as the shelter expanded, the size of the staff grew as well.

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