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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE FEBRUARY 25, 1999
Seven Arrested Following Five-Hour Sit-in at Mayor Mel Lastman's Office to Demand Immediate Action on Homelessness
Seven people were arrested today following a five hour sit-in by about a dozen people in Mayor Mel Lastman's office protesting mayoral inaction over the crisis of homelessness in Toronto. The seven -- Matthew Behrens, Don Johnston, Sandra Lang, Brent Patterson, Deborah Sharpe, William Taylor, and Paul York -- were demanding that Mel Lastman take steps to open the armories for the city's homeless, and to bring together the emergency planning committee to deal with a crisis that was declared a national disaster almost five months ago.
At least nine people have died on the streets of Toronto since January -- those names which could be confirmed -- and outreach workers fear the number is in fact higher. With hostels over-full, the need to open the armories is more pressing than ever.
In the meantime, demonstrators were hoping Lastman would stop passing the buck on the issue by waiting for other levels of government to take action.
All seven must go to court in early April to set a date for trial.
"Canada was recently criticized at the United Nations for its failure to guarantee all residents safe and affordable housing. We are charged with breaking the law when all levels of government are in violation of numerous U.N. covenants which Canada has signed; we were simply trying to uphold the covenants and seek ways of implementing them before more people die on the streets," said a group spokesperson.
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