The Shelter Shelters Are a Living Hell

The Shelter Shelters Are a Living Hell

It was supposed to be a safe, affordable home for Ontarians with nowhere else to go. But inside, it was horrifying. These young people, people in their 20s and early 30s, were forced to live and work in a cold unit for seven to 10 years, before being transferred back to the regular living quarters.

The government-run facility was supposed to be a temporary, transitional living space when young people in precarious housing situations turned to homelessness. In the early days, they were supposed to be moved to a new, affordable home. But for over a year, the place was a living hell.

Many of them were forced to eat, sleep, shower and pray on the floor. The air was stale and their belongings were stuffed into bags with the space between them already filled. During a particularly bad time, they were even forced to eat from the waste bin. These units were referred to as “tent shelters” because they were meant to be temporary.

In many ways they were, but after seven months the residents were still trying to get out.

“It wasn’t the cold, it was how they were treated,” said one resident of the shelter, who asked to be identified as a woman named Emily out of concern for her safety so as to protect her family name. The woman was one of the hundreds of Ontarians who have come forward to share their stories of physical, emotional and mental abuse at a government-run women’s shelter over the past seven months.

The woman asked to be identified by her first name and a friend’s name instead of her last name because so many people have asked her to remain anonymous.

She said she has been left to freeze herself inside her sleeping bags and was made to sit for hours on the hard cement floor to pray.

“There is no heat in here, it can’t get cold,” she said. “It’s dark. You don’t know where anyone else is.”

When she was finally brought out of her tent in the middle of the night by authorities, she was immediately placed into a car and transported to a hospital. Her mother had to spend days away from home caring for her and she is still in hospital dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.

She is just one of thousands of women who have recently shared

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