January 21, 2015
To Executive Committee of Toronto City Council:
Along with many others in this City, we would like to express our outrage that some $3.8 million will be allocated to light up the Bloor Viaduct for the Pan Am Games.
Recently, three homeless men died on the streets of this City and another perished as he sought respite from the cold at the Peter Street Referral Centre. The waiting list for housing stands at close to 170,000 people while those struggling to obtain or retain a place to live are routinely denied access to the Housing Stabilization Fund by Toronto Social Services offices. Tens of thousands of people in this City turn to food banks in order to survive.
Recently, the community had to take action to ensure there were a few more spaces in the homeless shelter system and to win the belated opening of long promised drop in space for homeless women and trans people. Yet, when the circus comes to town and a privileged few stand to make a killing, money is no object and millions can be allocated for something so tacky as the lighting up a bridge.
We call on you to kill the lights on the Bloor Viaduct. Instead, we demand you use the $3.8 million to open up TCHC units that are now standing empty because lack of repair has made them uninhabitable while tens of thousands wait for a decent place to live. To proceed with this obscene misuse of public resources will be an insult to communities living in poverty that we shall have no alternative to respond to.
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
After the deaths of four homeless men in Toronto and, under enormous community pressure, the City of Toronto has taken some important steps to deal with the crisis of overcrowding in the homeless shelters. Today, the Community Development and Recreation Committee of City Council met and the following initiatives emerged from it.
1. Motel space will be opened up in the in both the west and east ends of the City. An immediate 90 spaces will operate by Monday but the locations are 'expandable' and the Administration committed to using these facilities to ensure that occupancy levels do not exceed 90% in all of the sectors of the system.
2. The two 24 hour drop in spaces for homeless women and trans people that should have been opened last month will be included in the City Budget and the first will open in March and the second the following month. We are appalled by this outrageous delay but the very fact that the drop ins will open in two to three months is a gain. A short while ago, there was no indication that they would even be included in the Budget for 2015
3. Two shelters will open by the summer for LGBTQ youth, a part of the homeless population that faces particular exclusion from the shelter system.
4. Shelter Services and the Board of Health are being asked to reassess the cold weather alert system to distinguish between the needs of the general population and the homeless. This means looking at opening warming centres before the temperature has dropped to -15c and keeping them open during much if not all of the winter.
5. Adhering to the 90% and the other measures will be included in Budget proposals but City staff are instructed to get to the 90% level immediately. The full Council is asked to endorse the results of the meeting but additional space will open in the meantime.
In the situation where overcrowded shelters are threatening lives, the gains made today are important but it's completely necessary to point out that the history of providing shelter for the homeless in Toronto is one where those in power have done as little as possible when they absolutely had to. Some concrete resources have been freed up but we will have to keep taking action, challenge any and all backsliding, push for further improvements and engage the Provincial and Federal Governments as well to move beyond a struggle for mere shelter beds and to take up the fight for housing.
Following the freezing deaths of two homeless men in Toronto, a third life has been lost this week. A 61 year old man came into the City's Peter Street Referral Centre last Thursday, according to shelter administration, to take a break from the streets under their 'respite program'. He died while he was inside the building with no information released on the exact cause of death.
This man's tragic death is reminder of the conditions homeless people face and how short life is for so many on the streets. During 2014, 29 people died in the City's homeless shelters - 26 men and three women. Their average age was only 57.6 years. We're fighting to reduce overcrowding in the shelters to the point where people can be sure of a bed and have an expectation of safety and dignity but we are only too aware that the bigger issue is to win decent housing for everyone as a matter of right!
From Today: Gaetan Heroux Talks About the Dismal Situation in the Toronto Shelter System on CTV- 'We Let People Freeze'(Follow link below, right above picture):
No More Homeless Deaths! We Demand Action Now!
When: Today - 1:30pm
Where: City Hall
In the last 48 hours two homeless men have died on our streets during the
first cold days of this winter. The City failed to call an extreme
weather alert which would have opened up 3 warming shelters. The emergency
shelters remain full, turning people away daily. The City must act today!
On Monday morning a 59 year old man was found dead seeking shelter in an
empty truck in a shipping yard on Davenport Road, near Lansdowne Ave.
This morning, another homeless man died after being found in a t-shirt and
jeans in a bus shelter at Dundas and Yonge St. In both deaths the cold
weather was likely a factor. In both deaths, the lack of a proper
adequate emergency shelter system, and the absence of decent accessible
social housing were certainly factors.
It is unacceptable for homeless people to be left to freeze to death
outside. The City of Toronto has the power to act immediately to address
the homeless crisis and to prevent further deaths.
In 1996, after the freezing deaths of three homeless men, the City was
forced to open the armouries for emergency shelter. We demand that Mayor
John Tory: intervene and open up more emergency shelter so people are not
turned away from the existing overcrowded one, instruct the Medical
Officer of Health to call an extreme cold weather alert, and open up the
three warming centres.
The shelter system is in crisis. The City breaks it’s own 90% occupancy
limit daily. It has warned and conceded that the system is overcapacity.
In addition the City has failed so far to open the two 24hour women &
Trans drop-ins. Refusing to act is contributing to the deaths of people on
the streets of Toronto. The City must act now!
Join us today at 1:30pm at City Hall to demand immediate opening of
emergency shelter space now!
Please: Call/email/tweet in on mass to Mayor John Tory, your City
Councillors and the Board of Health
Picture from Today's Action:
While the shelters are overcrowded and there is still no after-hours
drop-in for women and trans people in Toronto, the City chose to violently
arrest 5 women rather than open safe space now. The City has acknowledged
that there is a serious issue with the lack of shelter space and need for
the drop-in yet it does nothing. It is cold and will only get colder. More
people will get sick or even die on the streets because of their inaction.
Women are being sexually assaulted on an ongoing basis with no safe space
to go yet bureaucratic stalling has delayed the drop-in that Council
Those arrested have all been released from police custody and are facing
charges of mischief and trespass. They will be in court for first
appearance shortly. More details to follow about supporting those arrested.
The fight for shelter and safe space continues.
We are circulating the statement below for endorsement by agencies, anti-poverty groups, unions, and other allies. Please forward it widely.
To add your name to the list of endorsing organizations, please contact Parkdale Community Legal Services 416-531-2411 ext. 248 or firstname.lastname@example.org
We are encouraging groups to take up this issue as part of the
Raise the Rates provincial Week of Action, Oct. 13-17
For more information:
like Raise the Rates on Facebook
Stepped Up ODSP Medical Reviews Will Mean Improper Denial and Needless Hardship
During the recent Provincial Election, Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals distanced themselves from the crude right wing ideas of the Hudak Tories by pointing to their ‘progressive’ Provincial Budget over which the election was fought. In fact, this document is not quite the road map to ‘social justice’ it claims to be.
What the Liberals actually set out in their Budget plan is a multi-year blueprint to cut the spending for government programs in Ontario. If you take into account inflation and population increases, the Budget actually represents a commitment to shrink services and reduce deficits on the backs of those least able to afford the cost. Those on Ontario Works (OW) and ODSP will receive a 1% increase below the rate of inflation that will see them fall deeper into poverty. The vital Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit, that people used to obtain or retain housing, will not be restored. Low wage workers will see the minimum wage indexed to inflation but kept at a level that condemns them to working poverty. While the poor fall further behind, landlords are allowed to increase their rents at or above the rate of inflation and billions of dollars that the ‘cash strapped’ Government could use to reduce its deficit are handed to wealthy corporations in the form of tax breaks.
OPSEU (Ontario Public Service Employees Union) Joins on to the Raise the Rates Campaign!
The Raise the Rates Campaign represents a broad and growing consensus amongst community groups, unions and anti-poverty activists about social assistance in this province. Together we reject attempts to divide poor people on assistance between those on Ontario Works and those on Ontario Disability Support Program. We are united in this fight and building alliances with all those living in poverty, people working low-wage precarious jobs, and unionized workers.
As little as $10 a month can help us maintain our work across this city and it just got easier to give.
For close to 20 years the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty has been at the forefront of community based resistance to regressive social policy from all levels of government. We have helped inspire numerous groups across this country and continent, been studied in universities and college programs and most importantly we have time after time organized poor communities to stand up and take what’s theirs. To fight for their dignity and for justice.
Today we are engaged day to day in the fight against City Hall, Queen’s Park and Parliament Hill. Making sure that repairs are done in community housing, fighting for each and every entitlement on welfare and disability and working to win fundamental changes that will mean better housing, more to eat and better social programs.
All of this continues to be carried out on a shoestring budget. Year after year we scrape by on the generosity of our members and supporters, primarily by those who answer our emergency appeals for cash when we are on the brink of laying off staff or closing our office. Our monthly expenses are by no means outrageous. We pay our staff what we can, cover basic bills and operate a small office. Every month we are thousands of dollars short of covering our expenses.
Our goal is to change all of that by the end of this year. We are looking for all supporters of our work to pitch in and help support the struggle by becoming a part of our monthly sustainers program. Please only donate what you can. Five dollars helps. Ten dollars helps. And if you can afford to give more please do.
To become a monthly sustainer, send a void cheque with amount and which date of the month you'd prefer it to be processed to:
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
157 Carlton, # 206,
For more information call us at 416-925-6939 or email email@example.com.