OCAP | Homelessness
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.
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Emergency Speak Out at the Peter Street Referral Centre

Wednesday, September 27 | 10am | 129 Peter Street
(
One block south of Queen and east of Spadina)

On Tuesday last week, the ongoing crisis of insufficient emergency shelter space for Toronto’s growing homeless population took a dangerous turn. The city-run Peter Street Referral Centre, a place of last-resort that tries to find shelter beds for homeless people, shut its doors at night even as people kept coming for help. On any given night up to 50 people are forced to spend the night in chairs and on the bare floors at the Centre, subsisting on cookies and juice, because shelters are overwhelmed and staff aren’t able to find them a bed. Last Tuesday, however, not only were there no beds to refer people to, there was no physical space left to let people into the building.

The situation at the Peter Street Referral Centre is reflective of the gross lack of shelter space for the city’s burgeoning homeless population; a fact that is also evidenced by the unprecedented demand for beds this summer, a season where sleeping rough doesn’t always equal death. The official nightly occupancy figures released by the City paint a bleak picture but actually understate the reality. The system is overwhelmed and at the point of breakdown. Even the two 24/7 drop-ins for women have been over-capacity and the location on Adelaide often has had to turn women away. With the shelters in this state and the cold weather looming ever close, it’s apparent that even the option of disgracefully cramming people into substandard out of the colds, warming centres and drop ins will fail to hold up under the strain.

Politicians and bureaucrats can no longer look away and underplay the problem. A system that has been horribly crowded and grossly inadequate is at the point of collapse. Shelter space must be opened. This Wednesday, advocates and people on the front lines will gather at the Referral Centre to speak to the urgency and enormity of the shelter crisis and demand action by City Hall. At least 1000 new shelter beds must be opened to meet the current demand, and in the interim, facilities like gymnasiums and the armories that meet basic shelter standards must be opened up to provide immediate respite to the homeless.

Join us!

 

 

Back-Off BIA: Private Policing of Public Space Won’t be Tolerated

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BIA security with Bob Kemp, “Streetscape Coordinator” for the BIA, in St.James Park

Watch the Video | Download Know Your Rights Poster
In the Media: CBC | City TV | Now Magazine

The St.Lawrence Market Business Improvement Area (the BIA) has hired private security that patrols the neighbourhood, and has become notorious for harassing poor and homeless users of St. James Park. The security guard ‘bans’ people from the area, enforces made-up rules (no sleeping in the park) and has become a symbol of fear, which is precisely the intent.

We learned about the situation mid-July from a currently homeless park user, Neil Mclellan, who called us while he was being threatened and illegally kicked off from the park gazebo by the guard. We notified the city, called the BIA and sent them a written letter to cease and desist from these practices. When the harassment continued, we issued a poster informing park users of their rights.

Instead of laying off, the BIA escalated the situation. They started confiscating posters OCAP had distributed to park users (which is theft) and threatened Neil with physical violence. Despite being told by the city to cease having security patrol the park, and interact with park users outside of the hours stipulated on their permit, the BIA continued with the status quo this Thursday.

So we are now releasing this statement and video publicly, with a warning to the BIA – back off and stop the illegal private policing of the park and the surrounding area, and the harassment of poor people. If you don’t immediately put an end to these illegal practices, we will start picketing all your member businesses, starting with the ones owned by your board of directors.

BBQ & Rally for Shelters & Housing

August2017BBQ
Saturday, August 19 | 12 noon | Allan Gardens, Sherbourne & Carlton
Free Food | Kids Welcome | Music | Facebook Event

The city tells us that emergency shelters aren’t the solution to homelessness and the escalating rates of homeless deaths, housing is. So shelters are kept underfunded and overcrowded. At the same time, the city is boarding up hundreds of public (Toronto Community Housing Corporation) housing units, at a time when the demand for them far outstrips supply. Thousands of families are facing displacement and thousands more languish on the subsidized housing waiting-list with wait-times that now stretch over a decade. Meanwhile market rents continue their upward spiral and upscale redevelopment projects continue pushing poor people out of the downtown core.

We intend to build a formidable fight capable of facing off against these marauding housing profiteers and their lackeys in government. These neighbourhoods are ours and we refuse to be pushed, priced or policed out! We demand the following:

  • Open 1000 new emergency shelter beds.
  • Stop the ongoing closure of TCHC units.
  • Protect the city’s stock of rooming houses.
  • Build decent, accessible, and affordable public housing now.

This summer has been an especially difficult one, we’ve lost a lot of people. Their lives have been lost not only to homelessness, but also to senseless policies of the so-called ‘war on drugs.’ So we come together, in the spirit of what Mother Jones once said, to mourn the dead and fight like hell for the living. Join us.

Changes to the HSF : Open Letter to the City Signed by 21 Organizations

HSFJustice-OctoberRally

Many of you have been a part of the struggle to change the discriminatory policies underlying the Housing Stabilization Fund (HSF). To-date we have written two reports (accessible here and here) documenting in detail the issues with the HSF and its management. The outrage sparked by Laura Bardeau‘s case and the subsequent mobilization led to series of changes being announced by the City in December last year. Some of these changes were implemented immediately, such as the abandoning of the discriminatory eligibility formula, whereas others, we were promised, would be designed in consultation with us and other community advocates and legal clinics.

The consultation did not happen and instead TESS merely notified us, by way of a poorly organized ‘information session’ on June 28, of the changes it had already designed and which would go into effect a mere 3 business days later (on July 4). Now a coalition of 18 organizations, OCAP included, have penned an open letter to the Mayor and members of the Community Development and Recreation Committee outlining the issues with the changes and the resolutions we are seeking. The letter appears below.

OCAP has also prepared our own assessment of all the changes to the HSF. You can download it here.
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TORONTO OMBUDSMAN ENQUIRY REPORT ON COLD WEATHER DROP IN SERVICES

xsm SLEEPOUT POSTER for web

What it Shows and What it Misses

The Toronto Ombudsman’s report opens by acknowledging that its enquiry was prompted by a CBC interview with Cathy Crowe, ‘a well known social activist and street nurse about Toronto’s cold weather response for people who are homeless.’ The interview dealt with inadequate levels of shelter provision and looked at the need for the federal armouries to be opened in order to respond to this. Given that the media interview that prompted the enquiry raised issues around the inadequacy of the overall shelter system, it’s curious that the Ombudsman chose to limit deliberations to the back-up cold weather drop-ins. In fact, it’s actually rather worrying that this choice was made because it happens to be a rather useful one for Shelter Support and Housing Administration (SSHA) officialdom and the agenda they are pursuing.
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Bringing the Crisis of Homelessness to John Tory’s Door-Step

Is OCAP Really Being ‘Unfair?’

sleepout poster-SoUnfair

On Saturday, April 22, at 7.00PM, OCAP will be back in front of Mayor John Tory’s luxury condo at Bloor and Bedford to challenge the homeless crisis in Toronto. This time, we will bed down and stay for the night. Tory has previously accused us of being ‘unfair’ by bringing the fight to his private residence. At least two City Council members have taken the same position publicly. Sections of the media have been aghast that we would behave in this way. This being so, we wanted to put the following points on the record.

  1. We are not challenging some inconvenience or mild injustice but the lethal abandonment of homeless people to the streets. The shelters are bursting at the seams, the City is failing to implement its own policies with regard to occupancy levels and the back-up warming centes and volunteer-run Out of the Cold facilities have closed for the year. Homeless people have died this winter for lack of adequate shelter, they have suffered hypothermia on the cold streets, and their health and dignity have been assaulted. City Council has cut homeless services in the midst of this situation and made it clear that the needs and survival of homeless people are valued much less than the objectives of austerity and upscale redevelopment.
  1. John Tory can’t plausibly deny that he is fully aware of the reality of the crisis on the streets of this City. The threadbare denials and excuses that he and his administrators have put forward would convince no serious observer. Homeless people and their advocates, front line workers, medical providers and religious leaders have all provided him with abundant and compelling evidence of the gravity of the situation. He knows but chooses not to act.
  1. If we were dealing with a Mayor who, in good faith, was seeking to find solutions and take vitally necessary actions to deal with the crisis, we would be taking a very different approach. However, we have learned from bitter experience that ‘going through the proper channels’ is to disappear into a maze of political evasion and bureaucratic delay. Those who tell us we should be going the route of polite discourse and restrained tactics, may be prepared to accept the suffering and misery of the homeless but we are not. We look to maximize the pressure on the Mayor and, if our home visits make him uncomfortable, so much the better.
  1. We think that coming to the front door of Tory’s luxury dwelling is far from ‘unfair’ and that, in fact, it is entirely fitting and just as a course of action. The building he lives in is known as the ‘Tower of Power.’ If he and his well-to-do and well-connected neighbours are mildly inconvenienced by the actions, the discomfort is nothing compared to the impact on human lives of the failure to provide basic shelter from the elements or shelter conditions that are remotely humane and decent. If Tory wants us to be more ‘reasonable,’ he can tell his political co-thinkers and developer friends that he will meet the very basic demands we put forward in response to a desperate and worsening crisis of homelessness.

We will be bedding down in front of John Tory’s condo on April 22 and we make no apologies for our actions. In this wealthy City, the fact that people lack even shelter space, is a shame and a disgrace and we intend to challenge that even in the face of high placed disapproval.

Sleep Out at John Tory’s: Shelter Now!

sm SLEEPOUT POSTER for webSaturday, April 22 | 7pm-7am | Bloor & Bedford [Outside St.George Station]
Facebook Event | Dinner, Rally & Performers: 7pm – 9pm | Breakfast served at 6am
Don’t Miss the Beginning, Stay As Long As You Can
[ASL Interpreter on-site from 7pm-9pm, St.George is an accessible station]

Watch the Video Trailer | Download Flyer | Is OCAP being ‘unfair?’

Update: Read our article in the Now Magazine documenting how the city siphoned millions of dollars away from homelessness and homelessness prevention programs during this time of crisis.

It has been a terrible winter for Toronto’s homeless.  The shelters have seen appalling levels of overcrowding and even the warming centres and drop ins have been hard pressed to deal with the numbers seeking a place of refuge.  The overcrowding has caused four deaths and homeless people have been hospitalized with hypothermia.

Throughout these dreadful months, Mayor John Tory and the bureaucrats at City Hall have refused to open additional space. Now, the warming centres and volunteer-run ‘Out of the Cold’ facilities will be closing for the year. There will be even fewer options available to people trying to survive on streets. The City must open enough new spaces immediately to ensure that the policy of not running the shelters above 90% occupancy is actually in effect. They must ensure that enough low barrier and harm reduction spaces are available so that people can actually access the shelter system.

At this critical time, we are going back to John Tory’s multi-million condo home for a sleep out to drive home the need for shelters for the homeless in a City that drips with wealth. We will set up at 7.00 with a meal, speakers and entertainment. Come out and stay for as long as you can to help us win the right to shelter for those Tory and his friends are abandoning to the streets


What to bring:
If you can, bring blankets, sleeping bags, and other things to keep yourself warm through the night. We’ll have sleeping bags with us for those who don’t have them. There will also be warm drinks and snacks throughout the night.

Contact us at ocap(at)tao.ca or call at 416-925-6939 for other accessibility concerns.

A Response to John Tory’s Continued Denial of the Homeless Shelter Crisis

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Last week, a twenty eight year old homeless indigenous man perished in Toronto, after staff at a drop in had to tell him that the facility was too overwhelmed to provide a place of shelter for the night.

For months, homeless people, advocates and service providers have been telling Mayor John Tory that the shelter system is hopelessly overcrowded and that a death was all but inevitable. We were so sure of this horrible reality in OCAP that we had a contingency plan to hold a memorial at Tory’s luxury condo in the event of a death. Last Sunday, we had to do just that.

Unbelievably, the response of the Mayor’s office to the tragedy has been to double down on the evasions. Rather than to open the federal armouries or some equivalent location, as the community had demanded, to try and save lives, Tory and his entourage have ducked and weaved to try and deflect the blame they can’t escape.

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