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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.
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Media Release: OCAP to rally at Doug Ford’s Campaign Headquarters on Saturday, June 2

Toronto: The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), along with a coalition of grassroots organizations, is organizing a rally outside Doug Ford’s campaign headquarters at 2141 Kipling Avenue, this Saturday, June 2 at 2pm. Additional details about the rally are available on OCAP’s website at ocap.ca/defeat-ford-action.

“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. A Ford government would intensify the ongoing attack on poor and working class people, and so a resistance movement powerful enough to confront and defeat him must be built,” says John Clarke, organizer with OCAP, of the motivation behind the rally.

Support for Ford is slipping but a hard-right government led by the Conservatives remains a serious possibility. OCAP is no stranger to the Fords, having fought the Ford brothers’ attacks poor and homeless people during Rob Ford’s mayoralty at city hall. The current slew of corruption scandals, lies, bullying, and racism that has plagued Doug Ford’s election campaign is no surprise given his past record. It’s also a harbinger of worse to come should Ford actually become premier of Ontario.

“Much has been made about the lack of a costed platform by the Conservatives, but most people know what they they are concealing. A Ford government promises tax-breaks for corporations and the wealthy, and service cuts for the rest of us who depend on public hospitals, education, roads, transit, income support and decent jobs. That’s not the basis on which an election can be won, so they’re choosing deceit and empty populism,” says Chris Ramsaroop, migrant rights organizer and lifelong resident of North Etobicoke, the riding Ford is trying to win a seat in.

“We are equally convinced, however, that the day after the election, whatever its result and whoever forms the government, that the struggle against austerity will have to continue. 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. That’s precisely what we intend to build,” adds Clarke.

Confirmed speakers at the rally will include representatives from OCAP, the $15 and Fairness campaign, the Overdose Prevention Society, Health Providers Against Poverty, Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3903 (York University), and migrant justice activists.

Media Spokespersons:

John Clarke, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty & Chris Ramsaroop, Migrant justice activist and lifelong resident of Etobicoke

Updated Media Release: Stop the Loss of Respite Sites

City allowing respite spaces to be lost despite shelters being full and directive from council to maintain respite capacity

Press Conference at 1pm on Thursday, April 12, at south-east corner of Dundas & Sherbourne, the location of Margaret’s respite centre, which will lose at least half its capacity this Sunday. The earlier version of this media release can be found here.

Speakers: Gaetan Heroux (OCAP), Maggie Helwig (Priest, St. Stephen-in-the-Field Anglican Church), Maurice Adongo (Street Health), and Greg Cook (Sanctuary).

Toronto: On April 15, the All Saints church respite site, officially considered to be part of Margaret’s, and located at Dundas and Sherbourne, will shut down. The impending closure will result in Margaret’s losing over half of its 110 person capacity, forcing 60 people to relocate, but no one knows where to.

Until today the City had not released a plan for the operation of respite sites post April 15, the day these sites were originally scheduled to shut down. This morning, a day ahead of the planned protest, the City publicly announced that it will be retaining six of its eight respite centres, and replacing two – the Better Living Centre and 348 Davenport Road. An average of 93 spaces lost nightly through the closure of the volunteer-run Out of the Cold program will not be replaced.

“There are two problems with the City’s plan. First, respite service is being cut by almost 250 spaces, even as the deadly shelter crisis persists. The cut includes 60 spaces at Margaret’s, located at Dundas and Sherbourne, where the need for homeless shelters is dire. Secondly, the City is forcing an dreadful choice on homeless people. They must either travel far out of the downtown core, leaving behind support networks, services and related infrastructure, or stay behind and revert to surviving on the streets. Many will ‘choose’ the latter,” says Yogi Acharya, organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.

The spreadsheet demonstrating the loss of nearly 250 respites spaces is attached. It can also be downloaded here.

The intent behind the extension of the respite sites was to ensure that over 700 people staying in the 8 winter respite sites and various volunteer-run overnight programs aren’t simply dumped back onto the streets. Homeless people and advocates will be gathering outside of Margaret’s as planned tomorrow to demand that the City immediately pursue and open a replacement respite site in the downtown east and follow through with the addition of at least 1000 new shelter beds this year.

Media Spokespersons: Gaetan Heroux & Yogi Acharya, OCAP

Media Release: Stop the Loss of Respite Sites

City allowing respite spaces to be lost despite shelters being full and directive from council to maintain respite capacity

Press Conference at 1pm on Thursday, April 12, at south-east corner of Dundas & Sherbourne, the location of Margaret’s respite centre, which will lose at least half its capacity this Sunday.

Speakers: Gaetan Heroux (OCAP), Maggie Helwig (Poverty Reduction Committee, Anglican Diocese), Maurice Adongo (Street Health), Greg Cook (Sanctuary), two more to be confirmed.

Toronto: On April 15, the All Saints church respite site, officially considered to be part of Margaret’s, and located at Dundas and Sherbourne, will shut down. The impending closure will result in Margaret’s losing at least half of its 110 person capacity, forcing at least 55 people to relocate, but no one knows where to. The City has failed to release a plan for the relocation and has not secured a replacement site in the neighbourhood. In response to repeated email requests to reveal where the City expects people to go, management at Shelter, Support and Housing Administration would only say that current occupants of Margaret’s would be “offered alternative space within the shelter system or respite sites.”

“People are in respite sites because they can’t get into overloaded shelters. The severe shortage of shelters was the precise reason why the operation of respite sites was extended to the end of the year. In this context, claiming that shelter space can now be magically found is dishonest, especially when every single shelter sector continues to remain full. If shelter space was that readily available, why wasn’t it offered before? As for respite sites, the only one with sufficient capacity is the Better Living Centre, half-way across the City. But even that site is facing closure, at-most a month later, with no plans publicly announced for where people staying there will go,” says Gaetan Heroux, member of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP).

The intent behind the extension of the respite sites was to ensure that over 700 people staying in the 8 winter 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 close. City management committed to publicly communicating a clear plan that would ensure people would not be robbed of even the most bare-bones shelter from the elements the respite sites provide. No such plan has been released to-date.

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.

At the action on April 12, homeless advocates will be demanding that the City immediate pursue and open a replacement respite site in the downtown east and follow through on the adding of at least 1000 new shelter beds this year to deal with the deadly shelter crisis.

Media Spokespersons: Gaetan Heroux & Yogi Acharya, OCAP

Media Release: Budget Day Action on Feb 12

Mayor John Tory’s “just right” budget will guarantee continued misery for the homeless

Budget day rally and action at City Hall on Monday, February 12, starting at 9am, to demand that council approve 1500 new shelter beds, and add at-least 1000 this year, to alleviate the deadly crisis plaguing homeless people in Toronto.

Toronto: The preliminary budget championed by Mayor John Tory adds a maximum of 361 new shelter beds this year. That’s less than a quarter of the 1500 that are necessary to guarantee a bed for everyone in need. The 361 number also includes 81 transitional housing beds, which won’t be available on an emergency basis, reducing the tally of new shelter beds to 280. With the shelter system packed to capacity, over 700 people are currently forced to stay the back-up system of sub-standard respite centres.

“The Mayor’s plan guarantees that the majority of those without a bed today won’t have one even a year from now. This means that the deadly housing and shelter crisis that claimed 94 lives in 2017 will continue,” says Yogi Acharya, organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.

If the preliminary budget is approved, the addition of 1,000 beds to the shelter system will be spread over three years, with a significant caveat. The expansion can only proceed if necessary funds are allocated in the 2019 and 2020 budgets. But even if the money is approved and the total number of homeless people doesn’t grow in that time, shelter occupancy will still be above 90% in 2021. This means hundreds of people will continue to not be able to secure a bed on a given night. But when you consider the reality that homelessness is likely to grow over the next three years, the inadequacy of the current proposal becomes even more jarring. Add to the equation the impeding closure of Seaton House, the largest men’s shelter downtown, and cause for alarm is clear.

The 2018 budget essentially contains the same inadequate plan Tory pushed through at the council meeting in early December, when he lobbied councillors to defeat motions to add 1,000 beds and open the armouries. The move triggered widespread outrage as extreme cold gripped Toronto in late December, further jeopardizing the lives of hundreds of homeless people who had nowhere to go.

Under pressure, the City scrambled to open respite space, demand for which continues to stay dangerously high. Mobilizations by homeless people and their allies resulted in the budget committee agreeing to extend respite service to the end of the year. But the underlying problem of the severe shortage of shelter beds remains unaddressed.

Recognizing the magnitude and urgency of the situation, some councillors have publicly stated their support for the addition of 1,000 beds this year. However, the Mayor has made it clear he won’t be supporting any changes to the proposed budget, calling it “just right.”

“Mayor ‘Goldilocks’ Tory may be prepared to accept continued misery for homeless people as ‘just right,’ but no decent person can. Such callous disregard for the lives of the poorest people in this city must, and will be challenged,” adds Acharya.

Media Spokesperson:

Yogi Acharya, Organizer, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty