Newsletter: A dramatic rise in emergency shelter bans

Plus, a rundown on some key topics during municipal budget deliberations

You’re reading the November 23, 2021 edition of the Peterborough Currents email newsletter. To receive our email newsletters straight to your inbox, sign up here.

Good afternoon, welcome to the Peterborough Currents newsletter

I’m Brett Throop, a reporter here at Currents. Starting today, we’re trying an experiment with a new format for our emails, where we round up news you should know about and short news stories. We’ll alternate between these round-up style emails and emails with links to our latest Peterborough Currents stories on a new weekly schedule. So, you’ll be hearing from our team a little more often. (We hope that’s good news!) 

This week, city councillors are pouring over Peterborough’s $392 million draft municipal budget for 2022 in a series of back-to-back evening meetings. (For me, that means fumbling with my phone as I try to watch the finance committee while cooking dinner). 

Round two is tonight at 6 p.m. Many people are watching to see whether this budget will move the City closer to reaching its climate change commitments; we have more on that below. Plus, we have obtained new data on how often people are banned from emergency shelters, and our photo of the week is from the Trans Day of Remembrance vigil last Saturday. 

Budget Week 2022

Hockey vs. the climate?

Critics have argued that the draft budget prioritizes hockey over tackling climate change, with $12.5 million earmarked for initial construction of a $90-million twin-pad arena at Morrow Park. It’s the biggest capital expense for 2022, eclipsing a series of smaller climate initiatives (for example, $1.7 million toward an organic waste collection program and $1 million for smart traffic signals to ease congestion). 

Several residents phoned in to a virtual finance committee meeting last week to urge council to shift money from the hockey column to the climate column of the budget. That might be a tall order, since council pre-committed $61.5 million over three years toward the arena this past summer. We’ll see if their arguments swayed any councillors this week during budget talks.

“Budgetary constraints” delay new cycling infrastructure

Meanwhile, advocates are frustrated by a lack of funding for cycling infrastructure in the draft budget. This past summer, council committed to add 80 kilometres of trails and bike lanes to the current network over the next 20 years. A city staff report put the price tag between $1.2 and 1.5 million a year, starting in 2021. But here’s the rub: the commitment is part of a bigger cycling master plan that isn’t in effect yet; it is expected to go before council for final approval in the coming months. As a result, the 2022 budget pushes funding for key cycling infrastructure projects, such as the long-planned extension of the Crawford Trail, ahead to future years, citing “budgetary constraints.” 

“There’s always projects that are getting prioritized, and cycling just doesn’t seem to be at the top of the list a lot of the time,” said Chad Pinto, chair of the Peterborough Bicycle Advisory Committee. He’s “cautiously optimistic” that the cycling master plan will lead to more spending in the future. But “it’s a loss of momentum by not having anything this year,” he said. 

Several road work projects are on the books for next year, at a cost of $11.9 million. Only one of those projects – the reconstruction of a section of Charlotte Street – includes building bike lanes, according to the budget. But it isn’t clear how much installing them will cost, and it’s a multi-year project, so you won’t be riding on them for a while. 

There’s also $190,000 toward the ongoing Bethune Street flood reduction project, which will see that street turned into a bicycle-priority corridor, and $150,000 to study new walking/cycling crossings over the Otonabee River. 

As Pinto points out, those amounts don’t add up to the minimum of $1.2 million a year staff said is needed to get 80 kilometres of bike infrastructure built by 2041. He said that while approval of the twin-pad arena felt like a “fait accompli” from the beginning, trying to get funding for cycling infrastructure “feels like a fight sometimes.”

Dramatic rise in emergency shelter bans

Last year, my colleague Will Pearson submitted a freedom-of-information request to the City to find out how often people receive bans from local homeless shelters. (Bans are formally referred to as “service restrictions.”) Here’s the story he wrote at the time.

The City had only been collecting this data systematically for less than a year. Still, it did seem like a pattern was emerging: bans were becoming more frequent.

This fall, the presence of people experiencing homelessness but sleeping outside of the shelter system — in tents, for example — became a matter of public interest again. Knowing that many individuals choose to tent after they are banned from shelters, Will submitted another FOI request on service restrictions. Here’s what he found: the increase in bans last fall was just the beginning of an even bigger surge in 2021. 

There were 394 service restrictions issued in the third quarter of 2021, more than triple the number issued in the same period last year. Those 394 service restrictions were issued to 123 individuals. (Bans vary in length, lasting from two hours up to three months or more, so it’s possible for individuals to receive multiple bans in succession.)

Meanwhile, over at Peterborough This Week, reporter Taylor Clysdale debunked claims that people experiencing homelessness are flocking to Peterborough to take advantage of services here. Here’s that story.

Photo of the week

(Photo: Ayesha Barmania)

Remembering lives lost to anti-transgender violence

Dozens of people lit candles in Peterborough’s Confederation Square to honour people who have lost their lives to anti-transgender violence on Saturday, November 20.

Trans Day of Remembrance ceremonies this past weekend came as the trans community mourned a record number of murders around the world in the last year. Between October 2020 and September 2021, 375 trans and gender-diverse people were reported murdered world-wide, according to the Trans Murder Monitoring project, run by the advocacy network Transgender Europe. It was the highest number of deaths since the project started tracking the data in 2008. In 2020, the project counted 350 trans people who were reported murdered, including two trans Canadians.

That’s it for now. We’ll be back in your inbox next week. We love hearing from you, as well. If you have thoughts on any of our stories – or just want to say hi – hit the reply button!

Photo of Brett Throop

Thanks for reading! Take care,

Brett Throop
Reporter, Peterborough Currents

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