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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As TCH homes are boarded up, Toronto’s homeless shelters are bursting at the seams

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Toronto Community Housing will board up roughly 425 homes this year because the money needed to carry out basic repairs has not been provided. Things are expected to get much worse next year and 7,500 homes are at risk of closure by 2023, with an additional 17,500 in critical condition. Read the CBC and Toronto Star‘s coverage of the issue.

As they close down vitally needed public housing, there are an astounding 177,000 people on the waiting list, with low vacancy rates and soaring rents shutting tenants out of the private market. At the same time, hundreds of Regent Park residents are at risk of not being able to return to their homes because funding to proceed with the third stage of the ‘revitalization’ of their community is not available. In this situation, the City’s homeless shelters are full to overflowing, with people forced to sleep on the streets, even in the depths of winter.

As the developers throw up ever more overpriced condos, the basic right to decent affordable housing is denied to tens of thousands of people. When we demand that City Hall adhere to its own policy and reduce shelter occupancy to a maximum level of 90%, the politicians and bureaucrats tell us that housing, and not shelters, are the solution. The obvious reality is that you can’t have a ‘housing first’ approach if you are not providing any housing and you certainly can’t do it if you are boarding up the inadequate supply of homes you could put people into.

With the shelter crisis at desperate levels and Mayor John Tory refusing to deal with the situation by opening up the federal armouries for the homeless, OCAP will soon be announcing action to bring the issue home to him and place the demand for shelter and real housing solutions before him.

Victory – City Forced to End HSF Discrimination

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We’ve won the fight to end the discrimination built into the Housing Stabilization Fund (HSF). Starting December 15, as long as someone is on social assistance, they will be eligible for HSF. The City will no longer count people’s disability benefits (such as the Special Diet), Canada Child Benefits, and their assets against them when applying for HSF.

The Toronto Employment and Social Services (TESS) announced the change at a City Council committee meeting on Tuesday, November 29. You can read their full report here. The change will have a major impact on all HSF applicants, but will particularly benefit  ODSP (disability social assistance) recipients  who faced a rejection rate of almost 50% last year.

We also forced the City to broaden the furniture people get under the HSF when they have bedbugs. This isn’t being expanded to all necessary furniture and household items as we demanded but will now include “soft furniture.” However, we don’t yet know when this portion of the policy will be implemented.

The struggle for HSF justice, however, isn’t over just yet. Some of the unjust parts of the policy remain intact (you can read about all of the problems with the HSF in our Left in the Lurch report). In addition to amending the eligibility criteria, TESS has signaled a bunch of other changes to the fund which currently have no details attached to them. These changes could be good, but they could also replicate the discrimination built into the HSF.

You can read our analysis of the proposed changes by downloading it here. Patricia Walcot, the General Manager of TESS said at the CDRC committee meeting on Tuesday that all changes will be in effect as of February 1. This means TESS will have to work out and release details about all proposed changes ahead of the January City Council meeting.

This has been a collective victory, including OCAP, Laura Bardeau who fought so hard for her rights, allied organizations, and the many people who wrote in or phoned city officials and came to protests.

We will be watching these changes closely and update you if we need to mobilize against them. #FightToWin

Rally & March for Homeless Shelters

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Thursday, December 15 | 4:00pm | Toronto City Hall Square
[Meal Provided] [Queen & Bay, near Osgoode or Queen station]
Note: Please let us know if you need ASL translation by December 10 by emailing or calling us.

Toronto’s homeless shelter system is bursting at the seams. This is a city that drips with wealth yet abandons homeless people to die on the streets or face conditions of brutal overcrowding that denies them basic dignity and jeopardizes their health.

All summer long homeless shelters have been packed, and now as we head into winter, there is real risk that even survival spaces like the Warming Centres and Out of the Cold facilities won’t be able to handle the overflow.

The City must stop cutting shelter beds in the central core, and open new space now if are to avoid tragedies this winter.

Join us for a rally & march to make sure the City opens desperately needed shelter space now.

Bursting at the Seams: Released

The Gala Premiere Screening of our new short film outside Mayor John Tory’s luxury condominium last night was a success. See media coverage on CityNewsToronto Sun, Now Magazine, and CP24. Also, some pictures from last night are available here and here.

The full video is also now online, please share it far and wide and join us in the streets to demand the City stop cutting shelter beds and open desperately needed new spaces.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnfNstiArQo&w=560&h=315]

Toronto’s Poor: A Rebellious History

Book Launch: Thursday, December 8 | 6:30 pm | St. Luke’s Church (353 Sherbourne)
Website | Facebook | Wheelchair accessible venue, Childcare available

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Join us for the launch of long-time OCAP member, Gaetan Heroux, and labour historian Bryan Palmer’s new book, Toronto’s Poor: A Rebellious History, documenting more than 180 years of poor people’s resistance in this City.

The book reveals the long and too often forgotten history of poor people’s resistance. It details how the homeless, the unemployed, and the destitute have struggled to survive and secure food and shelter in the wake of the many panics, downturns, recessions, and depressions that punctuate the years from the 1830s to the present. It is about men, women, and children relegated to lives of desperation by an uncaring system, and how they have refused to be defeated. In that refusal, and in winning better conditions for themselves, Toronto’s poor create the possibility of a new kind of society, one ordered not by acquisition and individual advance, but by appreciations of collective rights and responsibilities.

Written by a historian of the working-class and an anti-poverty activist, this rebellious history links past and present in an almost two-hundred year story of struggle and resistance, inspiring a sense of what can be accomplished when poor people fight to win.

Bursting at the Seams: Premiere

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Everyone’s Invited to the Gala Screening & Premiere of our New Short Film

Thursday, November 10 | Mayor John Tory’s Condo | 6:30pm
[Bedford & Bloor, Outside St. George Subway Station]
Food will be served before the screening

In collaboration with a few key allies, OCAP has made a short film on conditions of brutal overcrowding within Toronto’s homeless shelter system. We are going to show it outside the building where Mayor John Tory lives in somewhat better circumstances.

Watch the Film Trailer:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOL3bp9ue04&w=560&h=315]

As we move into winter, the homeless are being crammed into facilities where they face the most appalling conditions or are dumped onto the streets. The crisis is being compounded by a concerted drive by City Hall to move shelters out of the City core to make way for more upscale redevelopment.

Come out, see the film and support the fight for the right to shelter.

Note: One Bedford is just outside St. George subway station (accessible subway station).