OCAP | Homeless shelters
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: 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

Stop The Loss of Respite Sites: Urgent Action

Stop The Loss of Respite Sites: Emergency Action
Thursday, April 12 | 1pm | South-east corner of Dundas & Sherbourne

On April 15, the All Saints church respite site at Dundas and Sherbourne will shut down. The site is officially considered to be part of the Margaret’s respite centre, which is located in the same building. The closure will result in Margaret’s losing at least half of its 110 person capacity. This means, come April 15, at least 55 people presently staying at Margaret’s will be evicted.

Respite sites take in homeless people who cannot get into the City’s overloaded shelters. In February this year, following a months-long fight, council approved an extension of the City’s winter respite sites to the end of the year. It set aside $14 million to ensure that the over 750 people staying in the 8 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 shut down. City management committed to publicly releasing a clear plan that would ensure people had a place to go. To-date, no such information has been communicated publicly.

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. In a context where it took a major fight and the death of nearly 100 homeless people to force a response to the shelter crisis, the City’s tardy approach to ensuring the continuation of the respite sites leads to only one conclusion. The delay is deliberate, they are banking on homeless people losing hope and reverting to sleeping rough in the ravines, under bridges, and on the streets. Respite service at substantially reduced levels might continue, but it will not be guaranteed. Such calculated disregard for the lives of homeless people must be challenged.

Join us next Thursday for a speak out and press conference to demand that the City replace the spaces lost with the closure of All Saints and the Out of the Colds. Given the concentration of homeless people in the downtown east, and the fact that shelters and respite sites in the neighbourhood are full, the replacement site must be opened in this area. Finally, the City must publicly release a clear plan for the operation of the respite sites for the remainder of the year. If you can, come with us following the action to city hall where we will make these same demands of Councillors responsible for shelter operations, at the Community Development and Recreation Committee meeting. #FightToWin

Speakers Series: One of Us – Why Toronto’s Poor Should Welcome Refugees

One Of Us: Why Toronto’s Poor Should Welcome Refugees
Thursday, March 15 | 6pm – 8pm | CRC, 40 Oak St.
[Free event with meal, childcare, wheelchair access and tokens]
Facebook event | Speakers Series Audio Archive

Speakers: Speakers from No One Is Illegal-Toronto and OCAP to be announced soon

There is a pervasive sense that refugees and poor immigrants, particularly those without full immigration status, take resources away from the poor who were born in Canada. Many politicians  exploit this sentiment to sow division among the poor for personal gain. Even those politicians who may not be overtly racist, still imply that their failure (and in reality, refusal) to address poverty and homelessness is a result of a “refugee influx.”

Do these claims are any merit? Has the rise in refugees seeking asylum triggered the shelter crisis in Toronto? Does government support for refugees mean less support for poor citizens?

Join us to discuss and other important questions at this month’s Speakers Series. The Speakers will make the case for why we should welcome refugees and toss out our rulers. Join us for a meal at 6pm, and stay for the discussion.

Speakers: Maya Menezes, Emily Green and Yogi Acharya

Maya Menezes is an organizer with No One Is Illegal-Toronto. She works on issues from justice for non-status folks, to environmental protection and poverty reduction.

Emily Green is a kitchen relief worker in a shelter for refugee families, a position she has held for almost four years. In her front-line work, she has witnessed the crisis in Toronto’s shelters system, as well as some of the other challenges that newcomers to Toronto experience.
Yogi Acharya is an organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.

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

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

Homelessness Doesn’t End in April: Build Shelters!


Rally & Action
Wednesday, January 24
| 8:30 am | Toronto City Hall (Bay/Queen)
Meet just outside the main entrance

The Mayor meets with his executive committee on the 24th. His preliminary budget puts grossly insufficient funds towards addressing the shelter crisis, meaning the horror will continue for homeless people.
 
We have all been witness to the shameful scramble that characterized the City’s response to homelessness as cold weather gripped the city. Despite being warned about the worsening crisis within Toronto’s homeless shelters innumerable times, Mayor John Tory and the majority of city Councillors voted to defeat motions that would have initiated the addition of 1000 permanent new shelter beds and opened of the federal armouries in early December.
 
Extreme cold and public outrage forced Tory to back-peddle and open the Moss Park armoury in January, but the underlying problem of the severe shortage of shelter beds remains unaddressed. This means, come April 15, when the winter respite centres close down, over 650 people currently crammed into overcrowded warming centres, drop-ins, and volunteer-run overnight programs will simply be dumped back on to the streets.
 
Homeless people in Toronto are in crisis. 8 homeless people are dying every month. Emergency shelters, whether they serve women, men, youth, refugees, or families, are all packed full every single night, winter and summer. Even the sub-standard backup drop-ins are full, despite conditions within most of them being appalling.
 
The current situation demands the addition of at least 1500 permanent new shelter beds to guarantee a spot for everyone in need. The City’s plan, at-best, might add about 400 beds over 2018; an expansion that will soon be undermined by the impending closure of Seaton House. This means the crisis will persist, along with its lethal consequences.
 
We cannot allow the City Council to feign surprise about the predictable consequences of their actions. We cannot allow the City’s callous neglect to keep jeopardizing the lives and safety of homeless people.
 
We demand that the City Council:
 
1. Add at least 650 permanent new beds to the shelter system by April 15 to create space for those currently forced to stay in the respite centres. These centres must not be closed until every single person staying there is guaranteed a shelter bed. Furthermore, conditions within the respite centres must afford basic human dignity to its occupants.
2. Add at least 1500 permanent new shelter beds this year, primarily within the downtown core, close to TTC and other services, and in facilities that accommodate the needs of homeless people, particularly women and non-binary people.
 
3. Stop the closure of the hundreds of social housing units that still remain on track to be boarded up.
4. Budget enough resources to accomplish the above within the 2018 city budget.
 
5. Stop racist and disablist scapegoating of shelter users. The shelter crisis wasn’t created by refugees or mental health issues. This crisis is a direct result of the failure of all three levels of government to address the housing and income crisis facing poor people.