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City of Toronto Council and Committees
All Council and Committee documents are available from the City of Toronto Clerk's office. Please e-mail clerk@toronto.ca.




December 22, 1999

To: Community Services Committee

From: Commissioner of Community and Neighbourhood Services

Subject: Update on the City of Toronto Squeegee Diversion Strategy

Purpose:

To update Council on the recently enacted Provincial law prohibiting roadway solicitation and to provide an interim report on the City's Squeegee Working Youth Mobilization (SWYM) program for street-involved homeless youth.

Financial Implications and Impact Statement:

There is no immediate financial impact. The amount of $250,000 has been requested for the SWYM program through the 2000 budget process, which is the same amount as approved by Council for 1999. The City's 1999 funding levered a Federal contribution of $395,000.

Recommendations:

It is recommended that:

(1) Council support the continuation of the SWYM program as one vital component of the squeegee diversion strategy; and

(2) the appropriate City Officials be authorized and directed to take the necessary action to give effect thereto.

Background:

At its meeting of November 25, 26, and 27, 1998, in response to growing public concern about roadway solicitation or "squeegeeing," Council endorsed a balanced approach to responding to squeegeeing activities. (It was estimated in 1998 that at any given time there were 400 street-involved homeless youth on the street and 5,000 youth who were homeless at some point during the year.) The two aspects of the City response to squeegeeing were: requesting that the Province introduce enforcement legislation banning squeegeeing; and developing a City-led diversion strategy that would provide stabilization and employment alternatives for street-involved homeless youth.

The City proceeded immediately with the development of the diversion program which came to be called Squeegee Youth Working Mobilization (SWYM).

In November 1998, Council pre-approved the expenditure of $250,000 to develop and support an integrated service model for that subgroup of homeless street-involved youth who were not currently being served. The objectives of the service model were to provide a single point of access for these youth; to create a new employment preparation program that would be specifically targeted to address the unmet and complex needs of the youth and divert them from squeegeeing and panhandling activity; and to combine all of the existing and new program elements, including stabilization services, pre-employment assistance, and specialized employment initiatives into one overall program.

In March 1999 the Community and Neighbourhood Services Department issued a request for proposals to develop and implement the squeegee diversion program. Central to the concept was the participation of a consortium of agencies currently serving youth that could develop and support an integrated service model. A consortium of agencies was established and approved for funding in April 1999. The consortium is led by Youthlink and includes All-Aboard-Youth Centre, the Yonge Street Mission Evergreen Centre for Youth, Foodshare, Harbourfront Community Centre, KYTES, Parkdale Community Health Centre, Shout Clinic, Queen West Community Health Centre and St. Christopher House.

Human Resources Development Canada agreed to become a funding partner in the delivery of the program and in June 1999 Council approved a contract with HRDC for $395,000.

A co-ordinator and youth outreach workers were hired in the early summer. The youth outreach workers and other agencies involved in the consortium began working to engage squeegee youth in the program and found that street youths' level of interest was very high. The first ten-week training module began July 26, 1999.

Two community committees have been established to support the work of SWYM. The Project Reference Group (PRG) brings together key members of the community to identify and potentially co-ordinate efforts to address their various concerns regarding squeegee youth and their activities.

Membership of the PRG includes a Staff Inspector from Police Services who represents personnel from Divisions 51, 52, and 14; the Manager, Drug Abuse Prevention Program, Toronto Public Health; the Operational Support Co-ordinator, South District, Parks and Recreation; the Co-ordinator of Youth Programs, Social Development and Administration Division; the SWYM Program Co-ordinator and a consortium member from the All-Aboard Youth Centre.

The SWYM Steering Committee is comprised of the consortium members and meets on a monthly basis to oversee the development and implementation of the program.

The Provincial government introduced legislation prohibiting squeegeeing and aggressive solicitation in November 1999. The legislation, which was passed in December is expected to be proclaimed early in 2000. With passage of the legislation, the two elements of the City's response to squeegeeing are in place. This report reviews the progress of the SWYM initiative and the scope of the provincial legislation.

Comments:

The SWYM program consists of ten-week training modules offered through consortium members. In addition, youth contacted through SWYM outreach can also access the services provided by consortium members.

The training modules have provided an opportunity for youth to engage in a hands-on learning experience to build skills which they will find both interesting and applicable to other employment prospects. In addition to this assistance, the youth have also participated in workshops and activities to address the "soft skills" necessary for employability.

To date there have been four ten-week modules:

(1) KYTES (Kensington Youth Theatre and Employment Services) was the site of the first module which focused on the development of bike repair and assembly. (20 participants)

(2) Dufferin Mall Youth Services delivered the second module which focused on multi-media skills including web page design, video editing and compact disc production. (20 participants)

(3) FoodShare is currently delivering the third module which focuses on the growing of organic food in greenhouse settings; the preparation of food (soup which is distributed to local drop-in centres for the homeless); and food distribution (packing and shipping of Field to Table food boxes). (18 participants)

(4) Evergreen Yonge Street Mission is currently delivering the fourth module which is providing training in web page design. (10 participants)

Midway through its first year of operation, the results of SWYM have been positive. By the end of November, outreach workers and agency staff had contacted 122 youth engaged in squeegee work; 78 of them entered the SWYM modules, 39 have been referred to other services. An additional five youth have been referred to other programs and services that could best meet their needs. The enthusiasm to participate in SWYM is a clear indication that the youth for whom the program has been designed wish to find alternative ways to generate income.

Of the forty youth who participated in the first two modules, 33 finished the modules. The seven who left the program were not ready to consider employment options and are being connected to other supports. Thirteen youth have entered or are in the process of entering further skill development programs, five have returned to school, and ten have found employment. In addition to these outcomes, seven youth have found permanent housing. The success of SWYM has made it a model for programs in other cities. A Winnipeg organization recently visited Toronto to study the model for possible adoption in that city.

The City of Toronto has contracted with the Canadian Training Institute to evaluate the Squeegee Diversion Project. The report on the first year of operation will be available in July 2000. The City Auditor is also involved in the monitoring of the program and has been updated throughout its implementation. The Auditor plans a full audit of the program in July 2000.

One year after Council approved its squeegee diversion strategy, the Provincial government introduced legislation prohibiting roadway squeegeeing. Bill 8, the Safe Streets Act, passed by the Ontario Legislature December 8, 1999, makes it an offence "while on a roadway, [to] solicit a person who is in or on a stopped, standing or parked vehicle." It also amends the Highway Traffic Act with the effect that, "No person, while on the roadway, shall stop, attempt to stop or approach a motor vehicle for the purpose of offering, selling or providing any commodity or service to the driver or any other person in the motor vehicle."

Those contravening the act "are liable,

(a) on a first conviction, to a fine of not more than $500; and

(b) on each subsequent conviction, to a fine of not more than $1,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both."

The bill also prohibits "aggressive solicitation, solicitation of persons in certain places and disposal of dangerous things in certain places."

The successful development of SWYM and the enactment of the Safe Streets Act represent the implementation of Council's two-pronged strategy on squeegee activities. The personal challenges experienced by the subgroup of street-involved homeless youth currently involved in roadway solicitation are expected to persist despite the prohibition of squeegeeing activity. Police and community workers indicate that to be successful, an enforcement strategy must be complemented by an ongoing diversion strategy that enables street-involved youth to identify and pursue alternative options.

Conclusions:

As a key component of Council's balanced approach to responding to the issue of squeegeeing, SWYM assists street-involved homeless youth to stabilize their lives, to seek out healthcare, life-skills, and employment supports; and to make transitions to other forms of support, education, training or work. The ongoing partnerships that the City has established with community agencies and HRDC serve as a model of innovative, targeted service delivery and position SWYM to be able to continue meeting the needs of a highly visible segment of hard-to-serve youth population. With the passage of the Safe Streets Act, the two-pronged strategy for reducing squeegeeing activity is in place. It is recommended that Council support the continuation of the SWYM program to ensure this "balanced approach" in responding to squeegeeing is maintained.

Contact:

Nancy Matthews

Manager

Social Policy Research and Analysis

Tel: 392-8614 Fax: 392-8492

Commissioner of Community and Neighbourhood Services


Please note that council and committee documents are provided electronically for information only and do not retain the exact structure of the original versions. For example, charts, images and tables may be difficult to read. As such, readers should verify information before acting on it. All council documents are available from the City Clerk's office. Please e-mail clerk@toronto.ca.

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