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Ontario Coalition Against Poverty is a direct action anti-poverty organization that fights for more shelter beds, social housing, and a raise in social assistance rates.
poverty, homelessness, housing, social assistance, ontario works, odsp, anti-poverty. ocap. ontario coalition against poverty, shelters,
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Stop The Loss of Respite Sites: Urgent Action

Stop The Loss of Respite Sites: Emergency Action
Thursday, April 12 | 1pm | South-east corner of Dundas & Sherbourne

On April 15, the All Saints church respite site at Dundas and Sherbourne will shut down. The site is officially considered to be part of the Margaret’s respite centre, which is located in the same building. The closure will result in Margaret’s losing at least half of its 110 person capacity. This means, come April 15, at least 55 people presently staying at Margaret’s will be evicted.

Respite sites take in homeless people who cannot get into the City’s overloaded shelters. In February this year, following a months-long fight, council approved an extension of the City’s winter respite sites to the end of the year. It set aside $14 million to ensure that the over 750 people staying in the 8 respite sites and various volunteer-run overnight programs aren’t simply dumped back onto the streets come April 15 – the date these sites were originally scheduled to shut down. City management committed to publicly releasing a clear plan that would ensure people had a place to go. To-date, no such information has been communicated publicly.

The staggered closure of the volunteer-run Out of the Cold program has already resulted in the loss of 447 respite spaces, an average of 64 per night. By April 27, when the last Out of the Cold site shuts down, we will have lost 652 spaces, an average of nearly a 100 per night. The loss of at-least 55 spaces at Margaret’s will be an additional blow. In a context where it took a major fight and the death of nearly 100 homeless people to force a response to the shelter crisis, the City’s tardy approach to ensuring the continuation of the respite sites leads to only one conclusion. The delay is deliberate, they are banking on homeless people losing hope and reverting to sleeping rough in the ravines, under bridges, and on the streets. Respite service at substantially reduced levels might continue, but it will not be guaranteed. Such calculated disregard for the lives of homeless people must be challenged.

Join us next Thursday for a speak out and press conference to demand that the City replace the spaces lost with the closure of All Saints and the Out of the Colds. Given the concentration of homeless people in the downtown east, and the fact that shelters and respite sites in the neighbourhood are full, the replacement site must be opened in this area. Finally, the City must publicly release a clear plan for the operation of the respite sites for the remainder of the year. If you can, come with us following the action to city hall where we will make these same demands of Councillors responsible for shelter operations, at the Community Development and Recreation Committee meeting. #FightToWin

Speakers Series: Beyond #MeToo: Ending Violence Against Poor Women

Beyond #MeToo: Ending Violence Against Poor Women
Thursday, April 19 | 6pm – 8pm | CRC, 40 Oak St.
[Free event with meal, childcare, wheelchair access and tokens]
Facebook event | Speakers Series Audio Archive | Download Flyer

Speakers: Azeezah Kanji and Anna Willats

Azeezah Kanji is a legal analyst and writer based in Toronto. She is the director of programming at Noor Cultural Centre and a regular opinion writer for the Toronto Star, focusing on issues related to race, law, national security, and human rights.

Anna Willats has been an activist working on social justice issues, particularly violence against women and transgender folks, since 1982 in Toronto. She is currently a professor in the Assaulted Women’s and Children’s counsellor/Advocate Program at George Brown College.

Over the past few months, the #MeToo movement has brought down several prominent men accused of sexual harassment and violence against women. The movement has been successful in exposing the pervasiveness of this violence in our society, and has been rapidly endorsed by celebrities and politicians.

But does #MeToo address the concerns of poor women? Is its scope limited to exposing the harassment and violence perpetrated by famous men, or to the violence experienced by rich women? How does the movement respond to systemic violence against Indigenous and racialized women? What does the history of movements fighting violence against women teach us about similar struggles today? How have poor women fought back?

Join us for this important conversation to better understand the forces shaping #MeToo, and the history of poor women’s resistance to violence.

The monthly Speakers Series is where we gather to discuss issues that are critical to the success of poor people’s movements. It’s where we build our capacity to fight to win. 

Speakers Series: One of Us – Why Toronto’s Poor Should Welcome Refugees

One Of Us: Why Toronto’s Poor Should Welcome Refugees
Thursday, March 15 | 6pm – 8pm | CRC, 40 Oak St.
[Free event with meal, childcare, wheelchair access and tokens]
Facebook event | Speakers Series Audio Archive

Speakers: Speakers from No One Is Illegal-Toronto and OCAP to be announced soon

There is a pervasive sense that refugees and poor immigrants, particularly those without full immigration status, take resources away from the poor who were born in Canada. Many politicians  exploit this sentiment to sow division among the poor for personal gain. Even those politicians who may not be overtly racist, still imply that their failure (and in reality, refusal) to address poverty and homelessness is a result of a “refugee influx.”

Do these claims are any merit? Has the rise in refugees seeking asylum triggered the shelter crisis in Toronto? Does government support for refugees mean less support for poor citizens?

Join us to discuss and other important questions at this month’s Speakers Series. The Speakers will make the case for why we should welcome refugees and toss out our rulers. Join us for a meal at 6pm, and stay for the discussion.

Speakers: Maya Menezes, Emily Green and Yogi Acharya

Maya Menezes is an organizer with No One Is Illegal-Toronto. She works on issues from justice for non-status folks, to environmental protection and poverty reduction.

Emily Green is a kitchen relief worker in a shelter for refugee families, a position she has held for almost four years. In her front-line work, she has witnessed the crisis in Toronto’s shelters system, as well as some of the other challenges that newcomers to Toronto experience.
Yogi Acharya is an organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.

The monthly Speakers Series is where we gather to discuss issues that are critical to the success of poor people’s movements. It’s where we build our capacity to fight to win.

Speakers Series: The Overdose Crisis & the War on Drugs

The Overdose Crisis & the War on Drugs
Thursday, February 15
| 6pm-8pm | CRC, 40 Oak St.
[Free event with meal, childcare, wheelchair access and tokens]
Facebook event

Speakers: Zoe Dodd and Matt Johnson

Zoe Dodd is a harm-reduction worker and an organizer with the Toronto Overdose Prevention site.

Matt Johnson is a long time injection drug user and harm reduction worker. He is one of the organizers of the Overdose Prevention Site in Moss Park and continues to fight for an end to criminalization of people who use drugs.

In 2017, an estimated average of 333 people died every month from opioid related overdoses across Canada. In response to government inaction in the face of this lethal crisis, people involved in the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society setup an unsanctioned supervised injection site in Moss Park in August. Now, six months later, they still remain there, having saved hundreds of lives. Their defiant actions brought to into public focus this crisis of drug overdoses, which hits poor and homeless communities particularly hard. They forced the reluctant City administration to fast-track the opening of at-least 3 supervised injection sites.

Join us at the February Speakers to learn more about the underlying causes of the opioid crisis, its link to the so-called “war on drugs,” and the measures that still need to be won.

Where’s The Funds? Add 1500 Beds This Year!

Budget Day Rally and Action
Monday, February 12 | 9 am | City Hall, Bay/Queen
Meet just outside the main doors 
Download
: Poster | Flyer
Facebook Event

On February 12, City council will meet to finalize the budget for 2018. The lives of homeless people depend on the meeting’s outcome. The preliminary budget funds a maximum of 361 new shelter beds this year, less than a quarter of the 1500 that are necessary to deal with their severe shortage. If this preliminary budget passes, then the horror of misery and death homeless people have been subjected to continues. We cannot let that happen.

It is important to remember that poverty in Toronto outgrew its shelter system many years ago. It has been two decades since the city council was forced to confront this reality and make a commitment to never let its shelter occupancy exceed 90 per cent, above which spots cannot be guaranteed to those in need. Not only did they never meet that commitment, they also ignored repeated alarms sounded by homeless people and their allies about the worsening conditions.

The consequences of that neglect are unfolding before us. 94 homeless people died in 2017, a horrifying average of 2 every week. Recurrent outbreaks of infectious diseases in shelters have killed multiple people and made many sick. Even the respite centres, which serve as a sub-standard back-up to the overburdened shelter system are overcapacity, with over 700 people sleeping in dreadful conditions.

Mobilizations of homeless people and their allies amid record breaking cold temperatures this winter triggered widespread public outrage about the City’s handling of the homeless crisis. The Mayor was forced to relent and some key immediate measures, such as the extension of the respite centres until the end of the year, have been won (though the City is yet to release a plan outlining how it intends to do so). However, the underlying problem of the shortage of beds remains unaddressed.

On February 12, the fate of many people in our community rests in the hands of politicians who have shown themselves capable of ruthless disregard of the poor. The addition of 1500 beds this year is crucial to curb the crisis, alleviate suffering and preserve basic human dignity. Join us at City Hall that day to drive that point home and to remind councillors that we intend to fight to win.

Two things you can do before February 12:

  1. Call, write or visit your local councillor and tell them budget enough resources to add 1500 shelter beds this year. If you write to your councillor, cc us (ocap@tao.ca). You can find the councillor for your neighbourhood here.
  2. Help spread the word about the action on the 12th. Distribute this call-out, and the poster and flyer for the action within your networks. If you need printed copies, get in touch with us at 416-925-6939 or email us.

Basic Income Pamphlet Launch

Our allies at the Socialist Project have published writings by OCAP organizers on Basic Income as a pamphlet. It is being officially launched at a social they are organizing on Saturday, February 3rd. You can download the pamphlet here, but we encourage you to also come out to the social and get a free copy.

Below are the details:
Saturday, February 3 | 7 pm | Dooney’s Cafe, 866 Bloor St. West
Facebook Event

“The Socialist Project is throwing a social to celebrate the launch of its beautiful new website and the shiny new OCAP pamphlet Basic Income In The Neoliberal Age. Please come out to Dooney’s on Saturday February 3rd, have fun, and bring anyone who likes to talk politics and have a good time!”

Join us on January 24!

Join us Wednesday at 8:30 am at City Hall to Fight for Beds and Better Conditions.

Eight city councillors released an open letter last week calling on their fellow councillors to keep the respite centres open past April 15 and reconsider the motion to open at least 1000 permanent new shelter beds this year. Both are key demands of our upcoming action on Wednesday, January 24. Remarkably, Mayor John Tory and Councillor Joe Mihevc were among the signatories of the letter, an impressive about face just over a month after both of them colluded to defeat a similar motion back in early December.

This is a significant development, one that would not have been possible without our collective resistance, including the substantial support that Wednesday’s action has garnered. It is important to remember, however, that the fight is far from over. The motions still need to be passed by the majority of council, and necessary resources need to be allocated in the 2018 budget. It is more important now than ever to keep the pressure on the city to build shelter and improve conditions.

On Wednesday, we will also be demanding that the city address the appalling conditions in the sub-standard back-up facilities: warming centres, drop-ins, and volunteer-run overnight programs. These facilities lack adequate washrooms and lockers; additionally, reports of stressful, unsanitary conditions are commonplace. Yet, having nowhere else to go, over 700 people cram in nightly in these centres. Yesterday, reports emerged about a homeless man at the Moss Park Armoury being rushed to hospital after being in medical distress for over a day. Fellow residents at the armoury spoke of their repeated pleas to get him medical assistance being ignored, until his life was put in jeopardy.

Public outrage about the deadly crisis facing Toronto’s homeless may have compelled Mayor Tory to shift his position, but that means little unless it translates to action. In order for that to happen, we must let it be known, in no uncertain terms, that unless the very basic demands we put forward for preserving human life and dignity are met, this struggle will continue to escalate. Join us!

Homelessness Doesn’t End in April: Build Shelters!


Rally & Action
Wednesday, January 24
| 8:30 am | Toronto City Hall (Bay/Queen)
Meet just outside the main entrance

The Mayor meets with his executive committee on the 24th. His preliminary budget puts grossly insufficient funds towards addressing the shelter crisis, meaning the horror will continue for homeless people.
 
We have all been witness to the shameful scramble that characterized the City’s response to homelessness as cold weather gripped the city. Despite being warned about the worsening crisis within Toronto’s homeless shelters innumerable times, Mayor John Tory and the majority of city Councillors voted to defeat motions that would have initiated the addition of 1000 permanent new shelter beds and opened of the federal armouries in early December.
 
Extreme cold and public outrage forced Tory to back-peddle and open the Moss Park armoury in January, but the underlying problem of the severe shortage of shelter beds remains unaddressed. This means, come April 15, when the winter respite centres close down, over 650 people currently crammed into overcrowded warming centres, drop-ins, and volunteer-run overnight programs will simply be dumped back on to the streets.
 
Homeless people in Toronto are in crisis. 8 homeless people are dying every month. Emergency shelters, whether they serve women, men, youth, refugees, or families, are all packed full every single night, winter and summer. Even the sub-standard backup drop-ins are full, despite conditions within most of them being appalling.
 
The current situation demands the addition of at least 1500 permanent new shelter beds to guarantee a spot for everyone in need. The City’s plan, at-best, might add about 400 beds over 2018; an expansion that will soon be undermined by the impending closure of Seaton House. This means the crisis will persist, along with its lethal consequences.
 
We cannot allow the City Council to feign surprise about the predictable consequences of their actions. We cannot allow the City’s callous neglect to keep jeopardizing the lives and safety of homeless people.
 
We demand that the City Council:
 
1. Add at least 650 permanent new beds to the shelter system by April 15 to create space for those currently forced to stay in the respite centres. These centres must not be closed until every single person staying there is guaranteed a shelter bed. Furthermore, conditions within the respite centres must afford basic human dignity to its occupants.
2. Add at least 1500 permanent new shelter beds this year, primarily within the downtown core, close to TTC and other services, and in facilities that accommodate the needs of homeless people, particularly women and non-binary people.
 
3. Stop the closure of the hundreds of social housing units that still remain on track to be boarded up.
4. Budget enough resources to accomplish the above within the 2018 city budget.
 
5. Stop racist and disablist scapegoating of shelter users. The shelter crisis wasn’t created by refugees or mental health issues. This crisis is a direct result of the failure of all three levels of government to address the housing and income crisis facing poor people.