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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Response to Ford’s Social Assistance Reforms

Ford Government intensifies attack on Ontario’s poorest people

The social assistance reforms that the Ford Government announced today can well be described as the new Doug Ford Poor Laws. As expected, they’re making Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) significantly more restrictive and precarious.

The basic intention is to refine the system as a tool to push people into the lowest paying and most exploitative jobs on offer. It is entirely in line with the attack they have already carried on the minimum wage, workers’ rights, and job protections. Forcing people off social assistance while depressing working conditions in the midst of a housing crisis won’t move people out of poverty but will make the Progressive Conservative’s bankrolling base of business executives and owners even richer.

The reforms will divide people on social assistance into those deemed the most severely disabled and those who must join the scramble for jobs. The kind of “compassion” that severely disabled can expect from this Government is made clear from the fact that the social services Minister, Lisa McLeod, would offer no comment on whether any increases in social assistance rates can be expected over the next three years.

Those presently on ODSP will be grand-parented into the new system but new eligibility rules will use the more narrow federal definition of disability. Many who could get onto ODSP under the existing rules will be forced to try to live on OW, including having to look for work even when they are too unwell to do so.

All those who are deemed capable of working will be expected to comply with “individual action plans” and the Government’s “Open for Business” website will draw the most unscrupulous employers directly into the process. Local municipalities will be encouraged to compete with each other in the development of punitive and intrusive practices designed to hound people into scrambling for the worst jobs. The door is certainly open to the privatization of delivery and services.

The government also signalled that supplementary benefits accessed by people on social assistance will be moved from being mandatory to discretionary. These benefits will likely differ from municipality to municipality. So we’ll be left with a patchwork of benefits with no access to the Social Benefits Tribunal to appeal denials. Outright elimination of particular existing benefits remains a possibility.

People on OW will only be able to earn $300 monthly without claw backs, up from the current $200, but less than the $400 it was supposed to go up to this December. Earnings above $300 will be subject to a 75% claw back, which is worse than the current 50%. The earning exemption for ODSP changes to $6000 annually, but is again subject to the increased 75% claw back beyond that limit.

Over the next eighteen months the full viciousness of the Doug Ford Poor Laws will emerge but it is already clear that, for the Tories, social assistance is a weapon in their war on the poor.

Stick It To Ford: Defend Our Communities

Saturday, November 17 | 1pm | Deco Labels & Tags (28 Greensboro Drive)
Lunch Provided. Register for Buses Here.
Facebook Event

On November 17, the Ford Conservatives will further their gruesome vision for Ontario at their party convention. Their government “for the (rich) people” has already attacked social assistance, job protections, minimum wage, healthcare, education, and environmental safeguards. They’re not finished. In two weeks, they’ll announce a series of sweeping cuts to Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program.

Ford’s vision for Ontario is a grim one for ordinary people: where we are paid less but must pay more for services; where business executives and owners get richer by forcing the rest of us to work with fewer job and unemployment protections; where the rich unite in their quest to exploit and pit the rest of us against each other in a struggle to survive.

On November 17, we will demonstrate that attempts to “open Ontario for business” on this basis will be blocked. To make sure Ford gets the message, we’ll start with an action at Ford’s own business: Deco Labels and Tags.

It’s time to defend our communities. Join us.

Gathering Forces: Fighting Austerity Beyond Elections

Thursday, October 18 | 6pm – 8pm | CRC, 40 Oak St.
[Free event with meal, childcare, wheelchair access and tokens]
Facebook event | Download Flyer | Audio Archive

With the elections rigged in favour of the wealthy, the real power to successfully stop
cut backs rests with social movements. With dramatic cuts to social assistance, min wage, healthcare, transit, and more expected, it’s time to gather our forces.

So come hear from movements that are fighting to defend our people.

Speakers: John Clarke (OCAP), Anna Willats (RadTO & thecitywefightfor initiative), Em Carl (Toronto Overdose Prevention Society), Andrew Peters (No One Is Illegal-Toronto), Edgar Godoy (Ontario Health Coalition), and Anna Lermer (TTCRiders).

John Clarke is an organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, a poor people’s direct-action organization fighting to win since 1990.
Anna Willats is member of RadTO, which just launched the visionary thecitywefightfor platform for the kind of city we must fight to build, regardless of who wins the municipal elections.
Em Carl is a member of the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society, which has been engaged in a gutsy and lifesaving fight to address the overdose crisis.
Andrew Peters is a member of No One Is Illegal-Toronto – an immigrant justice organization that is mobilizing to block attempts by white supremacists Steve Bannon and David Frum to speak in Toronto.
Egdar Godoy is the campaigns manager at the Ontario Health Coalition, which is organizing a province-wide mobilization at Queens Park next week.
 
Anna Lermer is with the TTCRiders – an organization fighting to expand access to transit and stop its privatization.

 

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. 

Rally: Expropriate 214-230 Sherbourne!

Download Flyer | Download Poster | Facebook Event

214 – 230 Sherbourne are 7 adjacent properties located at the southwest corner of Dundas and Sherbourne. For at least 50 years, three big houses on this lot provided housing for poor people. About 10 years ago, two of the houses were demolished, leaving just one 30-room house whose residents were then pushed out.

A decade later the lot remains empty and the house vacant. Meanwhile, the church across from it struggles to shelter the escalating numbers of people dumped on the streets by Toronto’s deadly housing crisis. The neighbourhood desperately needs housing that poor people can afford. So when the properties were listed for sale earlier this year, OCAP mobilized to get the City to purchase them. But the owners took the properties off the market, preferring to sell to condo developers willing to pay more than the already inflated market price.

If the owners won’t sell to the City, the City must take the properties over – expropriate them – and build social housing. The owners still get paid but the end result is housing for poor people, and not another gentrifying condo. 27 organizations have signed an open letter calling on the City to expropriate. It’s time.

Join us on October 11, and let’s fight to win!

Speakers Series: Rent Strikes, Expropriations & More: Resisting Gentrification

Rent Strikes, Expropriations & More: Resisting Gentrification
Thursday, September 20 | 6pm – 8pm | CRC, 40 Oak St.
[Free event with meal, childcare, wheelchair access and tokens]
Facebook event | Download Flyer | Audio Archive

Bringing together struggles against gentrification unfolding in neighbourhoods in Toronto and Hamilton, this Speakers Series will profile successful models of resistance people are using to push back and win. Join us!

Speakers: Julia Manzo, Linda Habibi, Bjarke Risager, , and Gaetan Heroux

Julia Manzo is a resident of Parkdale, and one of the organizers of the successful rent strike in Parkdale last year. She is also a member of Parkdale Organize.

Linda Habibi is a tenant and strike captain in the Stoney Creek Towers in Hamilton, where tenants are currently on a rent strike. Details about their rent strike can be found here: facebook.com/hamiltontenantssolidarity/ and here: hamiltontenantssolidarity.ca

Bjarke Risager is an organizer with the Hamilton Tenants Solidarity Network.

Gaetan Heroux is a member of OCAP and has worked and fought for housing in the downtown east end of Toronto for over three decades.

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. 

Postponed: Press Conference to Respond to Vilification of Homeless People & Poor People Who Use Drugs

Update – Monday, July 23: Given the shooting on the Danforth last night, the press conference referenced below is being postponed to a later date.

Coalition of anti-poverty organizers, supervised injection and overdose prevention site workers, homeless service providers to respond to increasing vilification of homeless people & other poor people who use drugs

Press conference on Monday, July 23 at 10am at the corner of Dundas & Sherbourne

Speakers include: A.J. Withers (Ontario Coalition Against Poverty), Desmond Cole, Frank Coburn (Street Health), and representatives from the Moss Park Overdose Prevention Site

Toronto: There have been a series of lurid stories in the media recently of homeowners and businesses supposedly under attack by what the Toronto Sun’s Sue-Ann Levy calls “druggies.”

These articles further the position that supervised injection services (SIS) and overdose prevention sites (OPS) must be shut down and call for the return of policing programs that have been proven to be dangerous and racist. Echoing rhetoric of residents and business associations in gentrifying neighbourhoods, particularly in the downtown east end of Toronto, it is argued that SIS and OPS facilities encourage drug use and it is assumed, without any evidence, that the lack of such options would lead people to give up drug use.

“After letting the developers control and profit from the creation of upscale housing, after allowing public housing to crumble, after letting social assistance income decline substantially, and after failing to provide adequate shelter for the homeless for years, refugees have become a convenient target to blame for the problem. Now, the same interests are targeting poor and homeless people who use drugs, in a truly despicable move,” says A.J. Withers, organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP).

Homeless people, whether they use drugs or not, are on the streets because shelters and respite facilities are packed full, and conditions within most of them remain deplorable and stressful.

“The residents and business associations don’t want homeless people on the streets, but they don’t want shelters in their neighbourhoods either. What they want are policing measures that target and remove homeless people from sight, with no regard to where or how people end up. Such a dystopic vision for dealing with serious social issues begs to be challenged,” says Yogi Acharya, organizer with OCAP.

The aforementioned press conference, to be held on Monday, July 23 at 10am at the corner of Dundas and Sherbourne, will respond to these arguments, make the case for the continued funding and operation of the SIS and OPS facilities, oppose the reintroduction of programs like the misleadingly named Toronto Anti-Violence Strategy (TAVIS), and finally, call for the creation of adequate shelter and housing.

Media Contact:
A.J. Withers & Yogi Acharya

Stop Vilification of Poor People Who Use Drugs

Toronto is in the midst of a housing crisis that expresses itself most sharply in massive and growing homelessness. As the shelters overflow, the disaster that this creates interacts with an overdose crisis that continues to claim lives. This disaster is now poised to get even worse at the hands of the Doug Ford Government, with its readiness to implement social cutbacks and its hostility to life saving safe injection initiatives.

Those in power and their media mouthpieces love to point the finger of blame at those who suffer the effects of austerity and abandonment. After letting the developers control and profit from the creation of upscale housing, after allowing public housing to crumble, after letting social assistance income decline substantially and after failing to provide adequate shelter for the homeless for years, refugees have become a convenient target to blame for the problem. Now, the same interests are targeting poor and homeless people who use drugs, in a truly despicable move.

Many in the media, with the Toronto Sun leading the pack, have been running lurid stories of homeowners and businesses under attack by what the Sun’s Sue-Ann Levy calls “druggies.” Another piece in the Sun went so far as to call for the death penalty for those who sell drugs and the main objective of these hateful articles is to try and shut down supervised injection services and overdose prevention sites. Levy argues that such facilities only encourage drug use and simply assumes, without any evidence, that the lack of safe options would cause people to give up drug use. In fact, the opposite is true – research in countries around the world has consistently shown that providing people who use drugs with compassionate, evidence-based healthcare like supervised injection services improves their health and helps people who want treatment to access it.

There is no real need to spend much time refuting the threadbare and ignorant arguments of people like Levy. We are really dealing with a hate campaign to whip up local vigilantes and encourage the intense criminalization of people who use drugs and the outright abandonment of the homeless. Supervised injection services only enable people in poverty to have some of the supports people who use drugs and have money enjoy, and they are desperately needed in midst of the present lethal crisis. In place of the class war crackdowns and denial of shelter and services the Sun is working for, and that Doug Ford and others in power want to deliver, we call for the following:

  1. Raise social assistance rates in Ontario so that people can afford to stay housed.
  2. Stop boarding up public housing and create real social housing to meet the need that exists.
  3. Open enough homeless shelter space so that the system is not running above 90% capacity.
  4. Open shelters mainly in the central area where they’re most needed with an emphasis on low barrier facilities.
  5. End the criminalization of people who use drugs and address the poisoned drug supply with evidence-based, harm reduction measures
  6. Legalize and regulate all drugs, rapidly develop prescription heroin and hydromorphone programs in Ontario.
  7. Extend the funding of current overdose prevention sites and expand access to SIS and OPS sites.
  8. Politicians must stop providing legitimacy to gentrifying residents and business interests organizing against homeless people and poor drug users
  9. Treat the kind of articles that have appeared in the Sun as incitement to hatred rather than journalism.

OCAP is calling for a press conference on Monday, July 23 at 10am at the corner of Dundas and Sherbourne to support the continued operation of supervised injection sites, to oppose the re-introduction of programs like TAVIS, and to demand the creation of adequate shelter and housing.

Fight the Doug Ford Tories

Doug Ford is now Premier of Ontario and a hard right, class war Tory Government is in power. Our message is that their agenda of austerity, war on the poor, attacking workers’ gains, targeting migrants, gutting public services, racism, bigotry, environmental degradation and trampling on Indigenous rights, is inevitable only if we allow it to unfold without mounting the kind of real resistance that can bring it to a halt.

Comparisons are made to the Tory Governments in Ontario from 1995-2003. Let’s be clear that Ford represents something far worse. The international austerity agenda is far more advanced than during those years. We have also gone through fifteen years of ‘progressive’ Liberal cutbacks that have left their mark on public services like healthcare, ensured that people on social assistance are poorer than when the Tories left office and produced a housing and homeless crisis of terrible proportions. Frankly, there is very little flesh for Ford’s knife to cut into. It will be going into the bone.

When the Tories last held power, there was a powerful mobilization against them but it failed to stop them because it was held back by disunity and a failure to take things to the level necessary to win. A creature like Ford will not be stopped by moral arguments or token protest. A movement that creates serious economic disruption and a political crisis is what is needed. The Tory agenda must be blocked by a struggle that makes the Province ungovernable.

On June 16, Fight for $15 and Fairness will be rallying at the Ministry of Labour in Toronto. We should all work to build this action and use it as a springboard for Ontario wide resistance. OCAP is talking to allies about convening an Assembly to bring together those who want to fight back decisively. The most vital thing is that we must not let the Tories gain the initiative by remaining passive as they start their attacks.

Ontario is about to became a key site of struggle. We have the chance to demonstrate to the world that a vicious hard right austerity regime can be defeated by creating a model of resistance of enormous importance. Unless we want to go down in defeat at the hands of a gang of Tories headed up by a scandal ridden buffoon, we must be ready to fight to win and bring together a movement that can empty the workplaces and fill the streets.