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.
poverty, homelessness, housing, social assistance, ontario works, odsp, anti-poverty. ocap. ontario coalition against poverty, shelters,
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HSF Casework Victory

endhsfdiscrimination

A lot of the work that OCAP does is  direct action casework –  working alongside individuals to get what they need when welfare or ODSP unjustly deny them.

Last week someone called our office and told us that he was being denied the Housing Stabilization Fund (you can read about our work on the fund here, here and here). He currently lives in Toronto and had to move here recently for medical reasons. However, he was unable to move his stuff when he came. Now, his old landlord is threatening to throw away all of his possessions. The City’s Housing Stabilization Fund (HSF) policy is that it will only give you money for moving if it’s within the GTA – he moved from further away.

That HSF is supposed to help people meet emergency housing needs and losing all of your possessions counts.  Each person has a maximum amount that they are entitled to. 

In spite of our raising this with City Councilors, staff, writing reports, deputing and protesting about it, the city has refused to put in any disability accommodation process for people. The HSF policy is arbitrary. For example, they give you $500 for a bed if you had bed bugs even if you need an adjustable bed because of a disability.  The City of refuses  accommodate disabled people when the arbitrary policies end up being discriminatory. Because he had to move here for health reasons, the GTA moving rule discriminates against him on the grounds of disability. 

We told Toronto Employment and Social Services (TESS):

As we have established this necessary disability accommodation, we will now turn to the question of undue hardship. As  TESS should be aware (although past individual and systemic disability discrimination makes it clear that its knowledge of disability human rights law is lacking), TESS has a duty to accommodate on the grounds of disability unless there is an undue hardship. Given that this move will cost less than many moves within the GTA, there is no undue hardship for TESS to provide [him] with the HSF. Additionally, as the HSF has had a surplus of approximately $3.5 million each year since the program began, it is difficult to fathom that there could be an undue hardship in allocating [him] this entitlement.

We demand that you grant [his] HSF application promptly.  All of his possessions could be discarded any day. Failure to provide him with the funds will result in public action and much deserved hardship. 

We sent the letter through regular channels but also sent it to the big bosses in Toronto’s welfare bureaucracy.

We won!

On the heels of our report that exposed the mismanagement of the HSF, we got this man the money he needed to rescue his possessions from his former home.

The fact that we were prepared to take (and indeed have taken) direct action played no small part in securing this victory. What is significant about this case is that, for the first time that we know of, the City has been forced to provide disability accommodation to someone trying to access the fund.

We will keep fighting to make the HSF a more fair and better benefit and ensure that people get what they need! If you have been unjustly denied the HSF, get in touch.

If you are poor or an ally and want to fight for social justice, get involved.

Speakers Series: I, Daniel Blake – Movie Screening

I,Daniel BlakeThursday, May 18 | 6pm | CRC (40 Oak Street) | Facebook Event
[Free Event with a meal, childcare, wheelchair access and tokens]
Watch the Film Trailer

Join us for our monthly speakers series focusing on topics central to poor people’s issues and organizing. A new topic is presented every month and all events are open to the public. Come on out, invite your friends and please share widely!

This month we are excited to screen I, Daniel Blake, the newest movie by the renowned film-maker Ken Loach. The film chronicles the calculated brutality of the social assistance systems in the UK, which parallel those in place here in Ontario.

Stay for the post-film conversation, details to be announced soon.

Bringing the Crisis of Homelessness to John Tory’s Door-Step

Is OCAP Really Being ‘Unfair?’

sleepout poster-SoUnfair

On Saturday, April 22, at 7.00PM, OCAP will be back in front of Mayor John Tory’s luxury condo at Bloor and Bedford to challenge the homeless crisis in Toronto. This time, we will bed down and stay for the night. Tory has previously accused us of being ‘unfair’ by bringing the fight to his private residence. At least two City Council members have taken the same position publicly. Sections of the media have been aghast that we would behave in this way. This being so, we wanted to put the following points on the record.

  1. We are not challenging some inconvenience or mild injustice but the lethal abandonment of homeless people to the streets. The shelters are bursting at the seams, the City is failing to implement its own policies with regard to occupancy levels and the back-up warming centes and volunteer-run Out of the Cold facilities have closed for the year. Homeless people have died this winter for lack of adequate shelter, they have suffered hypothermia on the cold streets, and their health and dignity have been assaulted. City Council has cut homeless services in the midst of this situation and made it clear that the needs and survival of homeless people are valued much less than the objectives of austerity and upscale redevelopment.
  1. John Tory can’t plausibly deny that he is fully aware of the reality of the crisis on the streets of this City. The threadbare denials and excuses that he and his administrators have put forward would convince no serious observer. Homeless people and their advocates, front line workers, medical providers and religious leaders have all provided him with abundant and compelling evidence of the gravity of the situation. He knows but chooses not to act.
  1. If we were dealing with a Mayor who, in good faith, was seeking to find solutions and take vitally necessary actions to deal with the crisis, we would be taking a very different approach. However, we have learned from bitter experience that ‘going through the proper channels’ is to disappear into a maze of political evasion and bureaucratic delay. Those who tell us we should be going the route of polite discourse and restrained tactics, may be prepared to accept the suffering and misery of the homeless but we are not. We look to maximize the pressure on the Mayor and, if our home visits make him uncomfortable, so much the better.
  1. We think that coming to the front door of Tory’s luxury dwelling is far from ‘unfair’ and that, in fact, it is entirely fitting and just as a course of action. The building he lives in is known as the ‘Tower of Power.’ If he and his well-to-do and well-connected neighbours are mildly inconvenienced by the actions, the discomfort is nothing compared to the impact on human lives of the failure to provide basic shelter from the elements or shelter conditions that are remotely humane and decent. If Tory wants us to be more ‘reasonable,’ he can tell his political co-thinkers and developer friends that he will meet the very basic demands we put forward in response to a desperate and worsening crisis of homelessness.

We will be bedding down in front of John Tory’s condo on April 22 and we make no apologies for our actions. In this wealthy City, the fact that people lack even shelter space, is a shame and a disgrace and we intend to challenge that even in the face of high placed disapproval.

Speakers Series: The Trouble with the Housing Bubble

Housing BubbleThursday, April 20 | 6pm | CRC (40 Oak Street) | Facebook Event
[Free Event with a meal, childcare, wheelchair access and tokens]

Join us for our monthly speakers series focusing on topics central to poor people’s issues and organizing. A new topic is presented every month and all events are open to the public. Come on out, invite your friends and please share widely!

April’s topic is: The Trouble with the Housing Bubble

– What are the reasons behind the current housing crisis?

– How are people fighting evictions and exploitative landlords?

– What are our rights as tenants?

Join us for a conversation over good food as we strategize around these and other questions to build the fight for public and affordable housing.

Speakers: Gideon Kalman-Lamb & Kelly Bentley

Gideon is a PhD candidate in political science at York University, where he studies the political economy of capitalism, socioeconomic inequality, and housing.

Kelly is a long-time housing activist and tenant-rights organizer.

Come for the meal at 6pm and stay for what promises to be a a very informative and engaging session!

What Basic Income Means for Disabled People

by AJ Withers and John ClarkeBI andDisability

Disabled people in Ontario are much more likely to experience poverty than non-disabled people. Many have to live on sub poverty payments under the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) or the even more wretched income provided by Ontario Works (OW). Those that are in this situation are confronted by an ongoing process of surveillance, invasion of their privacy and moral policing. Those disabled people who are working, because of systemic discrimination, are less likely to be receiving living wages and are far more likely to be precariously employed. As anti poverty organizers, we fully understand the anger and desperation that such a situation generates.

On this basis, it is easy to see how, at first glance, there are aspects of a Basic Income (BI) approach that could be found attractive by disabled people. The promise of a somewhat higher payment, provided without the kind of intrusive element that presently exists, would seem to represent a step forward. However, we think it’s important to ask why the Liberal Government would suddenly support a new approach that would mean considerably increased costs. Why would a Government that has driven down the adequacy of benefit rates and cut programs for disabled people want to reverse course so dramatically? BI can look very alluring but we are convinced that, In reality, it will mean a degrading of the already inadequate ‘social safety net’ that will make things dramatically worse for disabled people. READ MORE

Basic Income: A Way Forward for the Left?

BIDebate-April2017
Thursday, April 13 | 6:30pm-8:30pm (Doors Open 6pm) | OISE Auditorium
On Facebook | ASL Provided | Wheelchair Accessible | Next to St.George Station
Free & open to the public | Download Flyer

The idea of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) has been championed by both progressives and conservatives. Not everyone on the left, however, is behind the idea. Is the UBI a means of redistributing wealth, attacking poverty and protecting workers from technological displacement? Or will basic income serve to advance an agenda of austerity and privatization?

Join us on April 13th as we begin to debate these important questions. The debate will feature two speakers speaking in favour of the left support for Basic Income and two against.

Featuring:
John Clarke, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP)
Josephine Grey, Low Income Families Together (LIFT)
Jessica Sikora, OPSEU Local 586
Guy Caron, MP (NDP) and Federal Leadership Candidate

Moderator: Avi Lewis, The Leap
Opening remarks: Kikélola Roach, Unifor Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice & Democracy, Ryerson University

***
In the spirit of The Leap Manifesto’s call for ‘vigorous debate about the introduction of a universal basic income,’ this interactive event is for anyone trying to figure out whether basic income should be a priority demand for progressives.

Hosted in partnership with: OCAP, OPIRG-Toronto, OPSEU Local 586, Ryerson Centre for Policy Innovation and Public Engagement, The Leap, Unifor Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy.

Sleep Out at John Tory’s: Shelter Now!

sm SLEEPOUT POSTER for webSaturday, April 22 | 7pm-7am | Bloor & Bedford [Outside St.George Station]
Facebook Event | Dinner, Rally & Performers: 7pm – 9pm | Breakfast served at 6am
Don’t Miss the Beginning, Stay As Long As You Can
[ASL Interpreter on-site from 7pm-9pm, St.George is an accessible station]

Watch the Video Trailer | Download Flyer | Is OCAP being ‘unfair?’

Update: Read our article in the Now Magazine documenting how the city siphoned millions of dollars away from homelessness and homelessness prevention programs during this time of crisis.

It has been a terrible winter for Toronto’s homeless.  The shelters have seen appalling levels of overcrowding and even the warming centres and drop ins have been hard pressed to deal with the numbers seeking a place of refuge.  The overcrowding has caused four deaths and homeless people have been hospitalized with hypothermia.

Throughout these dreadful months, Mayor John Tory and the bureaucrats at City Hall have refused to open additional space. Now, the warming centres and volunteer-run ‘Out of the Cold’ facilities will be closing for the year. There will be even fewer options available to people trying to survive on streets. The City must open enough new spaces immediately to ensure that the policy of not running the shelters above 90% occupancy is actually in effect. They must ensure that enough low barrier and harm reduction spaces are available so that people can actually access the shelter system.

At this critical time, we are going back to John Tory’s multi-million condo home for a sleep out to drive home the need for shelters for the homeless in a City that drips with wealth. We will set up at 7.00 with a meal, speakers and entertainment. Come out and stay for as long as you can to help us win the right to shelter for those Tory and his friends are abandoning to the streets


What to bring:
If you can, bring blankets, sleeping bags, and other things to keep yourself warm through the night. We’ll have sleeping bags with us for those who don’t have them. There will also be warm drinks and snacks throughout the night.

Contact us at ocap(at)tao.ca or call at 416-925-6939 for other accessibility concerns.

Speakers Series: Fighting Back in the Age of Trump

trump-protestThursday, March 16 | 6pm | CRC (40 Oak Street) | Facebook Event
[Free Event with a meal, childcare, wheelchair access and tokens]

*****
Join us for our monthly speakers series focusing on topics central to poor people’s issues and organizing. A new topic is presented every month and all events are open to the public. Come on out, invite your friends and please share widely!

This month’s topic is: Fighting Back in the Age of Trump
– What does the Trump victory mean for poor people’s struggles here?
– How can he be defeated?
– If Trump is our enemy, is Trudeau our friend?

Join us for a conversation over good food as we strategize around these and other questions to build a movement of capable of stifling the rise of Trump and all that his ilk stand for.

Speakers: Zabia Afzal & John Clarke

Zabia is community organizer in the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood and PhD student at York University.

John is organizer at the OCAP.

Come for the meal at 6pm and stay for what promises to be a a very informative and engaging session!