When the Toronto City Council voted on a proposal to help homeless LGBT youth, they were unanimously in favor—except for mayor Rob Ford.
The plans outlined in the proposal include allocating 25 percent of shelter beds to LGBT youth in a pre-existing youth shelter facility in the fourth quarter of 2014, opening transitional housing or an emergency shelter, mandating that all shelter staff in the city undergo anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia training effective immediately, and researching the feasibility and costs of such services.
According to the Toronto Star, Ford “has a long history of homophobic remarks and opposition to gay initiatives.” The day before the proposal passed with a vote of 37 – 1, Ford also refused to stand for World Pride festival organizers during a council ovation.
He later claimed that he is “not homophobic,” but declined to explain his actions.
The Toronto City Council’s only openly gay member, Kristyn Wong-Tam, told the Star, “The mayor is homophobic. He’s consistent. He’s done everything he can to demonstrate this is a community he doesn’t care about…I think he’s voting with his values, and his values are he doesn’t support the LGBT community.”
Regarding the necessity of the proposal, she said, “We have a shelter system that the LGBT youth community does not feel comfortable in. They would rather be on the streets than in the shelter system. We need to ensure the services the city provides are going to be accessible to all, free from discrimination.”
According to the results of a 2013 survey, 21 percent of youths in shelters self-identify as LGBT. Other studies have shown that queer youth are more likely than others to end up homeless due to being rejected by their families.
Homophobia remains a problem in currently existing shelters, leading to increased rates of verbal and physical abuse. According to a previous Star article, it’s “a problem staff aren’t properly trained to deal with.”
Despite Ford’s repeated claims of not being homophobic, in 2013 he tried unsuccessfully to stop Toronto City Hall from flying the rainbow flag during the Olympics, and has admitted that he avoids the city’s Pride Parade because “I’m not going to change the way I am.”