OCAP | OCAP Updates
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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Speakers Series Resumes in January

Our monthly Social Justice Speakers Series will be taking a break in December and resuming on Thursday, January 18. The Speakers Series happens on the third Thursday of every month from 6pm to 8pm at the CRC, located at 40 Oak Street. It’s where we gather to discuss issues that are critical to the success of poor people’s movement. It’s where we build our capacity to fight to win.

We’ll have information about the January session up on the website by the end of this month.

Statement on the Dec 6 Council Vote on Responding to the Shelter Crisis

In a show of callous disregard towards the lives of homeless people, city council voted yesterday to reject the proposals made by the Community Development and Recreation Committee (CDRC) on November 20 that included the immediate opening of the federal armouries and the addition of at least 1000 new shelter beds. With a few notable exceptions, most councillors cast their support behind the counter-proposal announced by Mayor John Tory this past Sunday. In doing so, they made decisions that will leave most homeless people in crisis, do little to alleviate overcrowding in shelters, and, in all likelihood, continue the horrifying trend of 8 homeless people dying every month.

The proposals championed by Tory are the result of a series of compromises brokered by Councillor Joe Mihevc with an administration that is opposed to dedicating the level of resources the situation demands. However, in his sorry attempts to gain favour with a conservative Mayor, Mihevc not only voted against his own prior motion to add a thousand beds but also sabotaged an attempt by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam to open the armouries. This last move was particularly troubling because it came following an announcement by the federal government that it is prepared to negotiate the use of the armouries as a temporary homeless shelter, should the City request it. Wong-Tam’s motion to get the City to put in that request gained support, but ultimately failed 17-25, with Mihevc and the Mayor voting against.

The motions that passed closely echoed the announcement made by the Mayor over the weekend. They call on City staff to assess the possibility of opening up to 400 spaces across existing shelters, motel rooms and a drop-in centre. Furthermore, they asks City staff to attempt to open 3 shelters, originally scheduled to open in 2019, sometime next year.

There are two fundamental problems with these proposals:

1. They do not provide immediate respite for the majority of homeless people

Unlike the armouries, which have the infrastructure to provide shelter beds to hundreds of people, and could be opened within a matter of days, the proposals that passed do not guarantee the expansion of beds in the coming weeks, or even months. The City is relying on cramming beds in already overcrowded existing shelters. Most shelters have already been through this process before and are already packed. Further crowding, if even possible, will dramatically increase the risk of infectious diseases, infestations and violence. The City also plans to rely on more motel beds which may benefit homeless families but won’t help single people – who form the largest section of the homeless population. Lastly, the City’s proposed new drop-in space, even if opened relatively quickly, would not provide beds or adequate washroom facilities.

This means the majority of the homeless will remain in a situation very similar to the one they are in now – forced to either sleep rough or crowd into survival spaces like the drop-ins which are not equipped to serve as shelters. These proposals will not prevent harm this winter or make a substantive impact on the current shelter crisis.

2. A year from now, we still won’t have sufficient beds

While any addition of permanent beds in the current situation marks an improvement, unless a certain threshold is crossed, the crisis will persist. That threshold today is the addition of at least 1000 beds which will bring the system closer to guaranteeing a spot for everyone in need. The proposal that passed yesterday promises to add an estimated 300 new beds over the next year. That would be better than nothing, but it will not satisfy the need, and still leave hundreds with nowhere to go.

Another point worth addressing is the careless scapegoating of refugees that characterized debate at Council yesterday. The Mayor and a number of councillors blamed refugees’ use of shelters for the pressures on the system. They cited the fact that refugee shelter use has gone up 15% over the past year. While the increase in shelter use is undeniable, the conclusion is utterly unjustified. The current shelter crisis is a product of the worsening housing crisis, low social assistance rates, declining incomes, and the ongoing failure of council to address the shortage of shelter spaces. Shelter use has increased dramatically across all sectors since 2015. The percentage of refugees in the shelter system is comparable to years past. Their numbers were simply artificially low under the Harper regime because of its regressive immigration policies. Blaming refugees for a crisis that all three levels of government are responsible for creating is reprehensible, can only increase xenophobic violence, and must be viscerally opposed.

Yesterday was also the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Homeless women and trans people in Toronto continue to deal with a situation where shelters serving them are full every single night, jeopardizing the lives and safety of the many who are left without a bed. Decisions council made yesterday will not result in any immediate change in that situation.

What transpired at council yesterday was perhaps not unexpected, but made a few things clear. No longer can the City claim that the shelter system is not in trouble. The Mayor and Council are clearly willing to tolerate high levels of human suffering, but the ongoing resistance by homeless people and allies has forced a response. The problem is that the response is a grossly inadequate one and people’s lives are on the line. So let it be clear to the Mayor and his lackeys that this fight will escalate and that we intend to win the measures that are necessary, including the rapid opening of the armouries.

Shelter Now: Fill City Council For Vote on Adding 1000 Shelter Beds


Tuesday, December 5
| 8:30am – Breakfast, 9:00am – Rally, 9:30am – Go into Council Meeting
City Hall, Nathan Phillips Square, in front of ‘Toronto’ sign
Facebook Event

Toronto’s homeless shelter system has been dangerously overfull for a very long time, with dire consequences.  70 homeless people died in the first 9 months of this year, many not even reaching the age of 50. The City has thus far refused to add enough shelter capacity and chosen to cram people into warming centres and volunteer-run out of the cold facilities, but even those are overburdened.

Now, following a long fight, the council committee responsible for shelters recently voted unanimously to recommend to City Council that it open 1000 new shelter beds. It also voted 4-1 to call on Mayor Tory to declare a state of emergency and open up the armouries to shelter people this Winter. Both measures are urgently needed and will save lives.

City council will vote on both of these recommendations on December 5 and we need to be there. It is by rallying together that we can win what we need. Join us.

 

 

January Speakers Series

Thursday, January 18 | 6pm-8pm | CRC, 40 Oak St.
[Free event with meal, childcare, wheelchair access and tokens]

The speaker and topic to be announced closer to the event.

 

The monthly Speakers Series is where we discuss issues critical to the success of poor people’s movements. It’s where we build our capacity to fight to win.

There will be no December Speakers Series.

Three Things To Remember For The National Housing Day Of Action

Three things to keep in mind as you get ready to join us at the National Housing Day of Action:

1. Recent media reports have indicated that the National Housing Strategy may contain plans to build 100,000 “affordable” units over 10 years. But affordability has been conveniently redefined to mean at or just below average market rent, which isn’t affordable to anyone who is low-income and increasingly, even middle income.

2. Media reports also suggest the creation of a rental supplement, which has two problems. First, it puts money in the pockets of private landlords in an inflated rental market instead of ensuring low-income people have access to secure and stable housing that they can afford. Second, this program isn’t expected to roll out for another 2-3 years, keeping it consistent with the trend of promising solutions in the future while giving up nothing now.

3. Justin Trudeau will be in town today to unveil the National Housing Strategy this afternoon. The location chosen for the announcement – the Lawrence Heights Redevelopment Project, a site where 1200 social housing units are being replaced by private developers for the price of allowing them to build over 4000 for-profit units and retail space within the same development – speaks volumes for the real beneficiaries of the National Housing Strategy.

See you @ Noon at Allan Gardens.

Toronto: National Housing Day of Action

Rally & March | Part of nation-wide actions demanding public housing
Wednesday, November 22 | 12 Noon | Allan Gardens (Sherbourne/Carlton)
[Lunch Provided | Access Van on-site | ASL-English Interpretation]
Facebook Event | Simultaneous Actions: Montreal, Quebec City, Sherbrooke, London, Edmonton, Vancouver & others

The Liberal record on housing is a treacherous one. As public housing in our city literally crumbles to the ground, the Liberals are getting ready to announce their ‘National Housing Strategy’ on November 22. But the money has already been committed and it gives us a great big nothing.

Consider this: By 2019 – the end of their electoral term – the Trudeau Liberals will have spent less than 3% of the $11 billion they promised for affordable housing, allocating a big $0 to renewing federal, provincial and territorial partnerships in housing and increasing social housing by a meaningless 0.2%. Even if they are reelected, their current plan has them spending just a third of that money by 2022, making the whole spending plan unjustifiably back-loaded and reliant on them being re-elected a third time.

The motive is clear – the Liberals hope to gain favour through deception. They’re promising help in the ever elusive future while holding us hostage now as we lay besieged by a housing crisis they created.

Social housing has been on a downward spiral since the Chrétien Liberals eliminated new housing funding and downloaded the responsibility to the provinces 21 years ago. Vacancy rates in social housing now sit at zero and wait-lists in Toronto and other cities have grown so large that people on average have to wait for over a decade for a unit to become available. Meanwhile, even as most people’s real incomes drop, speculation in the private housing market has elevated rents to absurd heights. The combination of the two factors, coupled with poor provincial rent control, has sent poverty and homelessness rates soaring.

We all deserve affordable public housing and we must fight to win it. So on November 22, we’ll be joining with groups across the country to demand that the Trudeau Liberals:

1. Spend 100% of the $11.2 billion announced in the March 2017 budget within the next two years to respond to the crisis of social housing plaguing the country.

2. Renew federal subsidies to low-income tenants in existing social housing (co-op, nonprofit and public).

3. Build new social housing units with rent-geared-to income subsidies that are affordable to people living on social assistance and old age pension.

4. Eliminate homelessness and prioritize needs of those in precarious housing situations, especially marginalized groups including on and off-reserve Indigenous communities, recent immigrants, racialized communities, lone parent families and single seniors, women fleeing violence, disabled people, youth, people on social assistance, and the working poor.

Join us!

Endorsed by: CUPE-Ontario, Toronto Drop-In Network, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Advocacy Centre for Tenants-Ontario, Right To Housing Coalition, Tenants for Social Housing, Older Women’s Network, Toronto Raging Grannies, Communist Party of Canada (Ontario), Council of Canadians, Housing Action Now!, Front d’Action Populaire En Réaménagement Urbain, Réseau SOLIDARITÉ Itinérance du Québec, Carnegie Community Action Project, Vancouver Tenants Union, DTES SRO Collaborative.

Part of the National Housing Day of Action, see Facebook and Website.

Speakers Series: Social Housing – Don’t Board It Up, Build It Up!

Social Housing: Don’t Board it Up, Build it Up!
Thursday, November 16 | 6pm-8pm | CRC, 40 Oak St.
[Free event with meal, childcare, wheelchair access and tokens]
Facebook Event

Speakers: Beric German, Gaetan Heroux & Yogi Acharya

 

Beric is a long-time anti-poverty activist, a member of OCAP and, previously, the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee.

Gaetan has been organizing against poverty and homelessness for nearly three decades and is  the author of Toronto’s Poor: A Rebellious History.

Yogi is an organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.

  • What is the history of public housing in Canada?
  • How has it come under attack?
  • How can we win it back?

Join us as we discuss these and other important questions that will help us understand the current housing crisis and talk about the upcoming National Housing Day of Action.

The monthly Speakers Series is where we discuss issues critical to the success of poor people’s movements. It’s where we build our capacity to fight to win.

Nov 22: Join the National Housing Day of Action


A call for groups across the country to organize & support actions demanding public housing

There is a severe shortage of social housing in Canada, a direct result of the federal government’s failure to fund new housing projects over the last 24 years, and its gradual strangling of funding to maintain the existing housing stock. The situation has reached a point where buildings are literally crumbling for the want of repairs and thousands of units are being boarded up. Vacancy rates are at zero and wait-lists in major urban centres have grown so large that many people have to wait for over a decade for a unit to become available.

Meanwhile, even as most people’s real incomes drop, speculation in the private housing market has elevated rents to absurd heights. The combination of the two factors, coupled with poor provincial rent control, has sent poverty and homelessness on an upward spiral. Housing has been transformed from a basic human need to a commodity that is bought and sold solely for maximizing profit.

Rather than deal with the crisis, the federal Liberals are playing tricks. In this year’s budget, the Trudeau government announced a plan to spend $11 billion on affordable housing. But as others have pointed out, the announcement is mere smoke and mirrors. First, the money will be spent over 11 years. Second, the spending plan is unjustifiably backloaded. In the two years the Liberals have left before the next election, they will spend less than 3% of that pledged amount, at best increasing existing social housing stock by 0.2%, and will allot a big fat $0 to renewing federal, provincial and territorial partnerships in housing. In keeping with the Liberal record, they promised a mountain but aren’t even delivering a mole hill.

Let’s not be fooled by this Liberal treachery. We all deserve decent affordable public housing and we must fight to win it. So this November 22, the National Housing Day, we are calling on groups across the country to join together and demand that the Liberals spend 100% of that $11.2 billion within their current mandate, on building and fixing social housing. We urge groups to endorse this call and organize local actions on November 22 that respond to the social housing needs in your communities. Our basis of unity is our resolve to win the following demands and a commitment to respect local autonomy of actions taken and tactics used.

We demand that the Trudeau Liberals:

  • Spend 100% of the $11.2 billion announced in the March 2017 budget within the next two years to respond to the crisis of social housing plaguing the country.
  • Renew federal subsidies to low-income tenants in existing social housing (co-op, nonprofit and public).
  • Build new social housing units with rent-geared-to income subsidies that are affordable to people living on social assistance and old age pension.
  • Eliminate homelessness and prioritize needs of those in precarious housing situations, especially marginalized groups including on and off-reserve Indigenous communities, recent immigrants, racialized communities, lone parent families and single seniors, women fleeing violence, disabled people, youth, people on social assistance, and the working poor.

Join us!

An invitation from:
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP)Ontario
Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU)Quebec
Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP)British Columbia

If you endorse this call to action and can organize an action locally, let us know by emailing us at ocap@tao.ca.