UPDATE: OCAP Wins Fight for 24 Hour Women and Trans* Drop-In Spaces! All Charges Against November 25 Arrestees Withdrawn!

Dear friends and allies,

Today we are happy to announce two important updates on the fight for 24 hour women and trans* drop-ins in Toronto:

1) Most importantly, we have WON 24 hour drop-ins in Toronto! Funds for the women & trans* drop-ins were passed during this year’s budget process. The 2015 Operating Budget for shelter, housing and support, as approved by City Council last week, includes new funding of $2,250,000 in 2015 for new 24 hour drop-in services for women and trans* people, increasing to $3,000,000 in 2016 and beyond. Spaces are confirmed and it is only a matter of weeks before we will see the drop-ins opened (more info on specific opening dates and locations to be sent out soon). We are proud of the work we have done and what we accomplished together with our allies during this collective struggle. We have drawn attention to the violence that street involved women face and the need for increased services for people who are homeless in Toronto. This is an important victory - services like these save lives.

2) This morning all charges were withdrawn against all 5 OCAP women who took part in the action on November 25th. In return the women agreed to provide 30 hours of community service.

Many people faced arrests during the long and hard fight for Warming Centres and 24 hour drop-ins. On November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Toronto Police used violence and misogynistic language during the arrest of 5 OCAP women. The officer in charge that day was notorious Toronto cop, Charles Stern. Stern has previously been accused of violence, especially against sex working women. In 1997 OCAP had a poster campaign about Stern. It was no mistake that he was brought in to arrest the OCAP women and that he was the most violent of them all.

The fight for safety and shelter is not over. In a city where wealth is abundant, it is unacceptable that we must fight for bare minimum necessities like 24 hour drop-ins, Warming Centres and Emergency Shelters. While the city is quick to approve millions of dollars to host the Pan Am Games, including $3.8 million just to light up the Bloor Viaduct, we must fight tooth and nail for essential services. Once again the lives of poor people, especially women and trans folks, are not seen as important. We must continue our fight to ensure that the drop-ins remain adequately funded, sex-work positive, harm reduction focused, trans*-inclusive and welcoming to all.

Poverty, homelessness and the chronic lack of safe, affordable and accessible housing is at a state of crisis and, in many ways, perpetuates violence against women. Sex-workers and women of colour are facing major attacks under the Harper government and systemic violence against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirits is on-going. We must continue to fight back as feminists and allies.

We will once again co-host Reclaim the Streets in Summer 2015 – a march that began after the murder of an indigenous woman at Sherbourne and Shuter, Carolyn Connolly. This will be the 7th year of the women-led march.

We’d like to thank everyone for their support - for joining rallies, delegations, actions and deputations and for making donations for legal defence. Money raised will be also be used for legal defence and future organizing in the Downtown East, including Reclaim the Streets.

See you on the streets - smash patriarchy.

-OCAP women

Image description: Picture of exterior of Shelter, Support and Housing Administration office occupied by OCAP women on Nov. 25 2014. The brick facade is covered in posters with the names of women who've died on the streets of Toronto and, from the window, an occupier looks out smiling