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.
poverty, homelessness, housing, social assistance, ontario works, odsp, anti-poverty. ocap. ontario coalition against poverty, shelters,
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Three Reasons to Join Us at the Defeat Ford Rally

Placards to be used at the rally.

As you know, today we take the fight against austerity to Doug Ford’s doorstep, with a rally at his campaign headquarters. Here are three reasons why you should join us there:

1. Challenging Ford is important because he represents the most extreme form of the austerity agenda. We are equally convinced, however, that the day after the election, whatever its result and whoever forms the government, that the struggle against that agenda will have to continue.

2. If that struggle is against Ford, we will be fighting a hard right regime. If the NDP wins, from day one, big business will be working to push them to the right, and only a serious social mobilization will be able to counter this.

3. The argument that we should not take to the streets during the election for fear of “helping Ford,” will go over to insisting that we not act to pressure an NDP Government because that might hurt their chances of re-election. We can’t accept this and make clear that our fight is against austerity and the war on the poor in whatever form they are delivered.

There is still some room on the buses, so even if you haven’t registered, feel free to come to one of our bus pick up spots (at Sherbourne & Carlton or at St.George Station, Bedford exit) at 12:30pm. Buses leave at 1pm. We’ll have shwarma and falafel wraps available for people. The rally location is also accessible by TTC. See you there!

Defeat Ford: Taking the Fight To Doug’s Doorstep

Rally at Doug Ford’s Campaign Headquarters
Sat, June 2 | 2pm | Kipling Plaza, 2141 Kipling Avenue
Facebook Event | Reserve a seat on the bus
Flyer | Poster

Bus information: The rally location is accessible by the TTC, but it’s nice to get there together. We have two buses and two pick up locations – one outside St. George station (Bedford exit) and another at Allan Gardens (Sherbourne/Carlton). If these are on-route for you, then please sign up here and come with us. If not, we’ll see you there.

Doug Ford is a corrupt multi-millionaire whose party’s record is one of destroying Ontario’s public services, increasing poverty, and intensifying racism and bigotry. A Ford government promises corporate welfare and tax-breaks for the rich, and service cuts for the rest of us who depend on public hospitals, education, roads, transit, income support and decent jobs.

We believe the only way for the struggling people of this province to win is to build determined social movements capable of taking on whoever gets in power. Ford would take the ongoing attack on poor and working class people to a new level, and so a resistance movement powerful enough to confront and defeat him must be built.

Support for Ford is slipping but a hard-right government led by the Conservatives remains a serious possibility. So join us on June 2 to demonstrate opposition to Ford’s agenda and to give him a preview of the resistance that awaits him should he become Premiere of Ontario. #FightToWin.

 

Stop Scapegoating Refugees & Build Social Housing and Shelters

Faced with a rise in refugee claimants fleeing harrowing conditions of war in their countries of origin, and racism in the United States, politicians from all three levels of government are blaming the decades-old shelter crisis on people in desperate need of refuge. Erasing over 20 years of their own complicity in creating and entrenching homelessness, politicians  are playing political dodgeball over who should pay to shelter refugees. The fact that their political rhetoric is increasing bigotry and the potential for racist violence towards an already traumatized people seems to matter little.

Toronto is in the midst of a housing crisis that is a product of over two decades of municipal, provincial and federal refusal to build new public housing and co-ops, and to adequately maintain existing housing. All three levels of government permitted the unrestrained expansion of the private housing market – run by landlords, developers and property speculators – that uses homes as cash cows to be milked for profit. A whole generation of people has been priced out of homes, and almost half the renters in this city struggle to pay rent. Average rents in the city far exceed the entire income of those on social assistance.

Homelessness became a serious problem in the 1990s, and has worsened dramatically. The city’s emergency shelter system never kept pace with the rising demands and has faced a bed-shortage since the late 1990s. In 1998 City Council made a commitment to fix the bed shortage, but in the 20 years that have since passed, they refused to dedicate the resources to  make that happen. Meanwhile, the homeless death toll keeps rising, with at least 100 succumbing to the harshness of life on the streets in 2017. The informal tally maintained by volunteers at the Homeless Memorial since 1985 now exceeds a thousand dead.

For over two decades homeless people and housing advocates have fought tooth and nail for the expansion of shelters and public housing. These fights have forced a few life-saving victories: the creation of 24 hour women and trans drop-ins, respite centres, and the addition of a few new shelter beds. But with successive Mayors, Premiers and Prime Ministers relentlessly pushing service cuts and refusing to clamp down on the private housing market profiteers, the fights have largely prevented existing services from being lost entirely. They have not resulted in the sufficient expansion of shelters or the creation of housing that is affordable for poor and working class people.

Those in power rule by dividing and conquering. Poor and homeless people who were born in Canada, and those who have lived here a long time, should remember that our well-being has never mattered to such politicians. Mayor John Tory pushed through a 2.6% cut to shelters in the 2017 budget and actively sabotaged attempts to add 1000 beds to the system. When he campaigned to become Mayor in 2003, one of his campaign promises was to ban poor people from panhandling in the downtown core. Provincially,  first the Conservative government gutted social assistance, and then the Liberals ended the need-based cost-sharing agreements for shelters and homelessness services with municipalities. Federally, funding for building new social housing and coops was eliminated in the mid-nineties, in many ways initiating the crisis we see today. The “National Housing Strategy,” announced last year, doesn’t commit any major funding until after the next election, and will not lead to an expansion of rent-geared-to-income housing.

The only way for poor and homeless people in Toronto to win is by refusing to fall for the divisive traps politicians are setting for us. Most people in Canada today are immigrants, or are descendants of immigrants, and we must unite with the refugees who have been pushed out of their nations by politicians who share a lot in common with those who run ours. Let’s welcome refugees and build a united front powerful enough to win decent shelter and housing for us all. Fight To Win.

Partial Victory: Fred Victor Drop-In Update – Sign Revised Petition to Ensure Full Victory

Shortly following the launch of the petition and the open letter, we received a response from Fred Victor management indicating that the drop-in closure won’t proceed indefinitely as was previously indicated. The drop-in closure will be limited to four days, and it will reopen on Monday, May 28. We’re glad public pressure has ensured the critical drop-in does not shut down. Thanks to all those who shared and signed the petition.

However, management did not address the persistent problems of under-funding and under-staffing that have plagued the drop-in for quite some time. This means the drop-in will continue operating at half its original service duration and place continued strain on workers. So we are demanding that Fred Victor commit to reinstating the drop-in to its original four hour service duration and addressing the staff shortage by guaranteeing at least four full-time staff with relief worker support. The petition has been updated and available below. Please keep signing and sharing it. We also continue to call on the City and the Province to fund drop-in services adequately. We’ll keep you updated about additional actions, as necessary. #FightToWin

Open Letter to Fred Victor Management: Stop the Closure of the Open House Drop-In!

 

The following is an open letter to Mark Aston, CEO of Fred Victor, about the abrupt closure of the Open House Drop-in program on Tuesday, May 22. Instead of addressing the long-standing issues of under-staffing at the drop-in, management at Fred Victor decided to just end the program, cutting off a critical service to dozens of people in the neighbourhood. Such callous disregard for the lives of poor people in the neighbourhood and the needs of agency workers cannot be tolerated. Please sign the petition demanding that Fred Victor reinstate the drop-in and provide adequate staffing.

Dear Mark Aston,

We’ve learned that the Fred Victor Centre will be closing its Open House Drop-In program, located at 145 Queen Street East, indefinitely starting Tuesday, May 22. The sudden shutdown of this decades-old program was announced on Monday, May 14, just a week prior to the closing date. It’s shocking that you would choose such a course of action at a time when the shelter and opioid crisis are claiming the lives of at least 2 homeless people weekly.

The move appears to be a response to the on-going issue of understaffing at the drop-in. But Fred Victor management has been aware of these staffing shortages for quite some time. Around this time last year Fred Victor received multiple letters identifying significant concerns about deteriorating service and staffing levels at the drop-in.

Instead of responding to these concerns with demonstrable efforts to secure funding for adequate staffing, you chose first, to cut the drop-in hours in half, and, now, are eliminating the service completely. These actions demonstrate management’s disregard for the needs of both: the agency workers and service users.

The loss of the Open House Drop-In program will jeopardize the lives of people in an area that has been identified as a “priority neighbourhood” by the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network. Faced with such cuts and escalating homelessness, OCAP has been fighting to defend and expand homeless services in this city. We will not allow this key service in the neighbourhood to be lost. A petition addressed to you and the Fred Victor board of directors has been initiated, and we are prepared to mobilize further, if necessary.

We expect an urgent response from Fred Victor that will facilitate the continued operation of the drop-in and the reinstatement of its original four-hour service duration, with food provided, and operated with four full-time staff with relief worker support. The drop-in is an essential resource and every day that it remains closed and without resolution to staffing issues, people are at increased risk in the neighbourhood.

A copy of this letter is being sent to Wangari Muriuki, board chair at Fred Victor, Councillor Wong-Tam, Paul Raftis and Mary-Anne Bedard at SSHA, and Susan Fitzpatrick at the Toronto Central LHIN.

Sincerely,

Yogi Acharya, on behalf of the
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
157 Carlton St., Unit 201
Toronto, ON M5a 2K3

Petition: Stop the Closure of the Fred Victor’s Open House Drop-In Program

This sign was posted at the entrance to the Fred Victor Open House drop-in on May 14, just a week before the decades-old drop was suddenly scheduled to close.

Update: Shortly following the launch of the petition and the open letter, we received a response from Fred Victor management indicating that the drop-in closure won’t proceed indefinitely as was previously indicated. The drop-in closure will be limited to four days, and it will reopen on Monday, May 28. We’re glad public pressure has ensured the critical drop-in does not shut down. Thanks to all those who shared and signed the petition.

However, management did not address the persistent problems of under-funding and under-staffing that have plagued the drop-in for quite some time. This means the drop-in will continue operating at half its original service duration and place continued strain on workers. So we are demanding that Fred Victor commit to reinstating the drop-in to its original four hour service duration and addressing the staff shortage by guaranteeing at least four full-time staff with relief worker support. The petition has been updated, please keep signing and sharing it. We also continue to call on the City and the Province to fund drop-in services adequately. We’ll keep you updated about additional actions, as necessary. #FightToWin

To: Wangari Muriuki, Board Chair, and Mark Aston, CEO, of Fred Victor, Toronto. Aston is also the frequent spokesperson for the Toronto Alliance to End Homelessness.

Starting Tuesday, May 22, the Fred Victor Open House drop-in program at 145 Queen Street East is scheduled to close “until further notice.” The announcement was made on Monday, May 14, just a week prior to the sudden shut down of a decades-old drop in program. This service cut is happening in the midst of a deadly shelter and opioid crisis in the city that claimed at least 100 lives last year.  The drop-in provides a vital service in the neighbourhood and the community cannot afford to lose it.

We, the undersigned demand that the Fred Victor Centre stop the drop-in closure and find resources to reinstate the 4-hour drop-in, with food and adequate staffing to support the service.

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

What if Doug Ford wins?

We’re not suggesting in OCAP that the outcome of the impending Ontario election is settled or that any result is inevitable. However, we do feel that the possibility of a majority Tory government, led by Doug Ford, is serious enough that it would be wise to consider now what that would mean and how unions and social movements might respond to such an outcome.

We would be the first to agree that an austerity agenda has been at work during the years the Liberal party has been in government and that it will continue regardless of who wins the next election. However, a Ford government would be a hard right regime that could be expected to escalate the attack on workers and communities considerably.

There are obviously some comparisons to be made to the Harris Tory regime that held power from 1995 to 2003.  There was considerable resistance during those years but there are lessons that must drawn as well. When the Tories first took power, there was a kind of stunned demobilization that lost us time and momentum and, when the Days of Action strikes and mass protests got underway, as impressive as they were, there were serious limitations in how they were conducted. The object of the whole mobilization was never made clear. Was it all about trying to put moral pressure on the Tories or to create a social force that could actually stop them? At the same time, the events were sporadic and no plan to escalate to province wide shutdown was ever developed.

OCAP is proposing that organizations and union and community activists who think we should be ready for Ford, should meet, discuss and plan a fitting response should he take the election.  There will certainly be protests against the regressive measures his government would take but we are suggesting that we need a movement ready to fight fire with fire. The response to his attacks should be a working class common front that is ready to create a level of economic and political disruption powerful enough to force the Tories to retreat or to drive them from office. Ford would attack worker’s rights, the social infrastructure and the environment, fan the flames of racism and trample on Indigenous rights. The potential for a winning social mobilization against him is enormous but only if a lead is given.

We’re hoping that, we can bring together the basis for a kind of caucus for a real fightback that could influence union and community action and the course of the struggle. Please let us know if your organization or you, as an individual activist, would be interested in being part of this by emailing ocap@tao.ca.