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EXCLUSIVE: Tory says city will no longer refer people to illegal group homes

Last Updated Dec 6, 2017 at 7:09 pm EDT

After a string of deaths, Toronto is changing its policies on referring people who need assisted care to illegal group homes, Mayor John Tory says.

An elderly man who died last year while escaping an illegal group home was referred to the facility by Toronto city staff, a CityNews investigation has revealed.

Toronto city staff recommended that 70-year-old Esa Lehmusjurri move to an illegal and unlicensed group home that charged $3,940 for four weeks of accommodation. Photos taken by his daughter Anne-Marie Pollock after his death show the living conditions were substandard. Her father’s basement room was littered with mouse droppings, and he slept on a mattress on the floor. Pollock says her dad was allegedly locked inside illegally and died while trying to escape.

Pollock, who was her father’s emergency contact, was also not informed by city officials that he would be moving out of a public facility.

In the past few days, the city has now prohibited its staff from recommending illegal group homes to people looking for assisted care. The mayor says he regrets the way city staff handled Lehmusjurri’s case. He had been living at a men’s shelter on Kingston Road for ten years but was told by staff he had to move because a nurse at the shelter was being reassigned to a different facility.

“We are not satisfied the man was properly dealt with,” Tory tells CityNews. The new rules won’t “bring him back to life, but at least going forward it won’t happen again.”