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,
blog,paged,paged-5,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,select-theme-ver-4.1,menu-animation-underline,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.1.1,vc_responsive

Changes to the HSF : Open Letter to the City Signed by 21 Organizations


Many of you have been a part of the struggle to change the discriminatory policies underlying the Housing Stabilization Fund (HSF). To-date we have written two reports (accessible here and here) documenting in detail the issues with the HSF and its management. The outrage sparked by Laura Bardeau‘s case and the subsequent mobilization led to series of changes being announced by the City in December last year. Some of these changes were implemented immediately, such as the abandoning of the discriminatory eligibility formula, whereas others, we were promised, would be designed in consultation with us and other community advocates and legal clinics.

The consultation did not happen and instead TESS merely notified us, by way of a poorly organized ‘information session’ on June 28, of the changes it had already designed and which would go into effect a mere 3 business days later (on July 4). Now a coalition of 18 organizations, OCAP included, have penned an open letter to the Mayor and members of the Community Development and Recreation Committee outlining the issues with the changes and the resolutions we are seeking. The letter appears below.

OCAP has also prepared our own assessment of all the changes to the HSF. You can download it here.



What it Shows and What it Misses

The Toronto Ombudsman’s report opens by acknowledging that its enquiry was prompted by a CBC interview with Cathy Crowe, ‘a well known social activist and street nurse about Toronto’s cold weather response for people who are homeless.’ The interview dealt with inadequate levels of shelter provision and looked at the need for the federal armouries to be opened in order to respond to this. Given that the media interview that prompted the enquiry raised issues around the inadequacy of the overall shelter system, it’s curious that the Ombudsman chose to limit deliberations to the back-up cold weather drop-ins. In fact, it’s actually rather worrying that this choice was made because it happens to be a rather useful one for Shelter Support and Housing Administration (SSHA) officialdom and the agenda they are pursuing.

Tomorrow: Speakers Series: Poverty & Disability

Thursday, July 20 | 6pm | CRC (40 Oak Street) | Facebook Event
[Free Event with a meal, childcare, wheelchair access and tokens]
[ASL-English Interpretation Provided]

Is disability biological, or is it created and reinforced by society? Why are some disabled people considered more deserving than others? Do non-disabled people have a role to play in disabled people’s struggles?

Join us as we discuss these and other questions that look at the connections between disability and poverty in our society, and what that means for our struggles.

Speaker: A.J. Withers, author and organizer
A.J. Withers is a long time disability and anti-poverty organizer with OCAP. They are the author of Disability Politics and Theory, stillmyrevolution.org, and the forthcoming book A Violent History of Benevolence: Interlocking Oppression and the Moral Economies of Social Working (with Chris Chapman).

The monthly speakers series focuses 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!

Speakers Series: Canada’s War on the Poor: At Home & Abroad

Thursday, June 15 | 6pm | CRC (40 Oak Street) | Facebook Event
[Free Event with a meal, childcare, wheelchair access and tokens]

Hardly anyone who attends the Speakers Series will be surprised that Canada’s benevolent self-image crumbles when confronted with reality. But exactly what the carefully crafted ‘Canadian’ brand masks is worth discussing. The June Speakers Series will do just that, unraveling along the way the connections between the war on the poor at home and abroad.

Speaker: Todd Gordon

Todd is the author of Imperialist Canada and co-author of Blood of Extraction: Canadian Imperialism in Latin America. He is also a member of the Toronto New Socialists and is involved in the Organizing Committee Against Islamophobia.

The monthly speakers series focuses 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!

HSF Casework Victory


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.