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Activists, volunteers, business owners team up New Year’s Eve to find warm beds at local hotels

A pregnant woman and her partner were among the many housed in hotel rooms where a shelter wasn’t an option on Sunday night thanks to the actions of Toronto residents.
Mohamad Fakhih, owner of Paramount Fine Foods, has covered the hotel bill — approximately $2,800 to $3,000 so far — for vulnerable people needing accommodation during the deep freeze. (Carlos Osorio / Toronto Star file photo)
Tues., Jan. 2, 2018
Eighteen vulnerable people in Toronto were given a warm bed this week, thanks to a New Year’s Eve scramble by a hastily assembled team of local advocates, street teams, business owners and restaurant staff.
A pregnant woman and her partner were among the group given refuge at the turn of the year. All rooms have been renewed again for Monday night.
Jennifer Evans — the driving force behind the project — never expected her New Year’s to be spent corralling volunteers and arranging hotel rooms. But a miscommunication about the availability of Toronto homeless shelters this weekend turned her ear to the problem.
Conflicting information on whether shelters had any available room meant some were left seeking refuge. On Saturday night, Evans — who’s also CEO of SqueezeCMM and B2B News Network — spied a tweet about the shelter intake centre on Peter Street.
“They were going to start turning people out,” Evans told the Star. “The volunteers had to go home and they had no place to send people.” She offered to man the desk and keep the centre open, or to pay for hotel rooms for those without a place to stay.
Good samaritan Dave Das (middle in black) delivered 15 sleeping bags to people in need Sunday at Moss Park in frigid temperatures. Conflicting information about space available at Toronto's shelters meant some people were still looking for a warm place to stay on New Year's Eve. A group of Toronto residents has pleged to pay for hotels in the instance when shelters aren't an option. (Lucas Oleniuk)
That’s when the ripple effect began. Over the last two days, people across the city have followed suit, pledging to cover the cost of 165 hotel rooms if and when they’re needed through the rest of the winter.
“I do feel there is responsibility for the community to step in,” Evans said. “Government is not a fast-moving entity. It’s a bureaucratic body, and if we can cover some of the people who fall through the cracks in the interim, and catch them, and then refer…

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