City and TTC increase their outreach effort for mental health

Apr 11, 2023 | Canadian News, News

The city of Toronto and The Toronto Transit Commission has teamed up with LOFT Community Services to expand their mental health outreach.

The city will be providing $500,000 to help cover the costs of the one-year pilot project led by Leap of Faith Together (LOFT) to provide mental health, homeless and addiction support.

TTC spokesperson Stuart Green said the March 29 announcement was “a broader approach (to) compassionately help people who are in our system,” who should be getting other more support and shouldn’t be using public transit for shelter.

“What we have found throughout the last year or so, is there seems to have been a real increase in the number of people who are on the transit system who are in need of greater supports and greater help,” Green said.

This move comes after the beginning of the year saw an increased number of altercations, attacks and murders on TTC vehicles and stations that have left citizens apprehensive and uneasy.

This also comes as more of the city’s homeless take shelter around areas close to TTC stations, with Spadina and Union stations cited by Green as examples.

However, he clarifies these areas are not “the only places where LOFT would do their work.

“They’ll be using our information, as well as data through the city of Toronto that has the Streets to Homes Outreach Program, and they’ll determine deployment based on that,” Green said.

CEO of LOFT community services Heather McDonald said they’re pleased to expand the outreach program in cooperation with the city and the TTC.

“Providing vital supports to people experiencing homelessness and mental health issues who have few options but to shelter in the TTC system will help build a healthier Toronto,” McDonald said in the media release.

In the media release provided by the city, it additionally details that LOFT will be providing TTC staff de-escalation training.

An example Green gave as a de-escalation technique is fare disputes. If the person doesn’t pay the fare “we just let them ride.”

“They might get fair inspected later, depending if they’re on the streetcar. But there’s no point in getting into physical altercations with people over $3 fare, it’s just not worth it,” Green said.

Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie said she wants the TTC to be safe for everyone and that the city, TTC and LOFT’s work “has been immediate and is getting results.”

“Bringing LOFT onboard now allows us to extend the immediate supports we have already deployed and provide the many ongoing aspects of health and social care that people need to lead healthy lives,” McKelvie said in the media release.

Further information about LOFT Community services can be found on its website.