OCAP | Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
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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Defeat Ford: Taking the Fight To Doug’s Doorstep

Rally at Doug Ford’s Campaign Headquarters
Sat, June 2 | 2pm | Kipling Plaza, 2141 Kipling Avenue
Facebook Event | Reserve a seat on the bus
Flyer | Poster

Bus information: The rally location is accessible by the TTC, but it’s nice to get there together. We have two buses and two pick up locations – one outside St. George station (Bedford exit) and another at Allan Gardens (Sherbourne/Carlton). If these are on-route for you, then please sign up here and come with us. If not, we’ll see you there.

Doug Ford is a corrupt multi-millionaire whose party’s record is one of destroying Ontario’s public services, increasing poverty, and intensifying racism and bigotry. A Ford government promises corporate welfare and tax-breaks for the rich, and service cuts for the rest of us who depend on public hospitals, education, roads, transit, income support and decent jobs.

We believe the only way for the struggling people of this province to win is to build determined social movements capable of taking on whoever gets in power. Ford would take the ongoing attack on poor and working class people to a new level, and so a resistance movement powerful enough to confront and defeat him must be built.

Support for Ford is slipping but a hard-right government led by the Conservatives remains a serious possibility. So join us on June 2 to demonstrate opposition to Ford’s agenda and to give him a preview of the resistance that awaits him should he become Premiere of Ontario. #FightToWin.

 

Stop Scapegoating Refugees & Build Social Housing and Shelters

Faced with a rise in refugee claimants fleeing harrowing conditions of war in their countries of origin, and racism in the United States, politicians from all three levels of government are blaming the decades-old shelter crisis on people in desperate need of refuge. Erasing over 20 years of their own complicity in creating and entrenching homelessness, politicians  are playing political dodgeball over who should pay to shelter refugees. The fact that their political rhetoric is increasing bigotry and the potential for racist violence towards an already traumatized people seems to matter little.

Toronto is in the midst of a housing crisis that is a product of over two decades of municipal, provincial and federal refusal to build new public housing and co-ops, and to adequately maintain existing housing. All three levels of government permitted the unrestrained expansion of the private housing market – run by landlords, developers and property speculators – that uses homes as cash cows to be milked for profit. A whole generation of people has been priced out of homes, and almost half the renters in this city struggle to pay rent. Average rents in the city far exceed the entire income of those on social assistance.

Homelessness became a serious problem in the 1990s, and has worsened dramatically. The city’s emergency shelter system never kept pace with the rising demands and has faced a bed-shortage since the late 1990s. In 1998 City Council made a commitment to fix the bed shortage, but in the 20 years that have since passed, they refused to dedicate the resources to  make that happen. Meanwhile, the homeless death toll keeps rising, with at least 100 succumbing to the harshness of life on the streets in 2017. The informal tally maintained by volunteers at the Homeless Memorial since 1985 now exceeds a thousand dead.

For over two decades homeless people and housing advocates have fought tooth and nail for the expansion of shelters and public housing. These fights have forced a few life-saving victories: the creation of 24 hour women and trans drop-ins, respite centres, and the addition of a few new shelter beds. But with successive Mayors, Premiers and Prime Ministers relentlessly pushing service cuts and refusing to clamp down on the private housing market profiteers, the fights have largely prevented existing services from being lost entirely. They have not resulted in the sufficient expansion of shelters or the creation of housing that is affordable for poor and working class people.

Those in power rule by dividing and conquering. Poor and homeless people who were born in Canada, and those who have lived here a long time, should remember that our well-being has never mattered to such politicians. Mayor John Tory pushed through a 2.6% cut to shelters in the 2017 budget and actively sabotaged attempts to add 1000 beds to the system. When he campaigned to become Mayor in 2003, one of his campaign promises was to ban poor people from panhandling in the downtown core. Provincially,  first the Conservative government gutted social assistance, and then the Liberals ended the need-based cost-sharing agreements for shelters and homelessness services with municipalities. Federally, funding for building new social housing and coops was eliminated in the mid-nineties, in many ways initiating the crisis we see today. The “National Housing Strategy,” announced last year, doesn’t commit any major funding until after the next election, and will not lead to an expansion of rent-geared-to-income housing.

The only way for poor and homeless people in Toronto to win is by refusing to fall for the divisive traps politicians are setting for us. Most people in Canada today are immigrants, or are descendants of immigrants, and we must unite with the refugees who have been pushed out of their nations by politicians who share a lot in common with those who run ours. Let’s welcome refugees and build a united front powerful enough to win decent shelter and housing for us all. Fight To Win.

Partial Victory: Fred Victor Drop-In Update – Sign Revised Petition to Ensure Full Victory

Shortly following the launch of the petition and the open letter, we received a response from Fred Victor management indicating that the drop-in closure won’t proceed indefinitely as was previously indicated. The drop-in closure will be limited to four days, and it will reopen on Monday, May 28. We’re glad public pressure has ensured the critical drop-in does not shut down. Thanks to all those who shared and signed the petition.

However, management did not address the persistent problems of under-funding and under-staffing that have plagued the drop-in for quite some time. This means the drop-in will continue operating at half its original service duration and place continued strain on workers. So we are demanding that Fred Victor commit to reinstating the drop-in to its original four hour service duration and addressing the staff shortage by guaranteeing at least four full-time staff with relief worker support. The petition has been updated and available below. Please keep signing and sharing it. We also continue to call on the City and the Province to fund drop-in services adequately. We’ll keep you updated about additional actions, as necessary. #FightToWin

Speakers Series: Defeating Doug Ford

Defeating Doug Ford
Thursday, May 17 | 6pm – 8pm | CRC, 40 Oak St.
[Free event with meal, childcare, wheelchair access and tokens]
Facebook event | Speakers Series Audio Archive

The upcoming provincial election in June could put Doug Ford in power. If that happens, attacks on poor and working class people will escalate sharply. Defeating his aggression is possible with planning, appropriate actions, and by drawing lessons from our past.

There are obvious comparisons to be made to the Mike Harris Tory regime that held power from 1995 to 2003. When they first took power, there was a stunned demobilization that lost us time and momentum and, when the Days of Action strikes and mass protests got underway, as impressive as they were, there were serious limitations in how they were conducted.

Let’s talk now so we are prepared to #FightToWin, no matter who takes power. Join us!

Speakers: John Clarke and Megan Whitfield

John Clarke is an organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and has been active in poor people’s movements since 1983.

Megan Whitfield is the president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers’ (CUPW) Toronto local. CUPW played a pivotal role in the resistance to the Mike Harris Tories in the 90s.

Read OCAP’s full statement on the implications of a Doug Ford victory here.

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. 

Updated 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. The earlier version of this media release can be found here.

Speakers: Gaetan Heroux (OCAP), Maggie Helwig (Priest, St. Stephen-in-the-Field Anglican Church), Maurice Adongo (Street Health), and Greg Cook (Sanctuary).

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 over half of its 110 person capacity, forcing 60 people to relocate, but no one knows where to.

Until today the City had not released a plan for the operation of respite sites post April 15, the day these sites were originally scheduled to shut down. This morning, a day ahead of the planned protest, the City publicly announced that it will be retaining six of its eight respite centres, and replacing two – the Better Living Centre and 348 Davenport Road. An average of 93 spaces lost nightly through the closure of the volunteer-run Out of the Cold program will not be replaced.

“There are two problems with the City’s plan. First, respite service is being cut by almost 250 spaces, even as the deadly shelter crisis persists. The cut includes 60 spaces at Margaret’s, located at Dundas and Sherbourne, where the need for homeless shelters is dire. Secondly, the City is forcing an dreadful choice on homeless people. They must either travel far out of the downtown core, leaving behind support networks, services and related infrastructure, or stay behind and revert to surviving on the streets. Many will ‘choose’ the latter,” says Yogi Acharya, organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.

The spreadsheet demonstrating the loss of nearly 250 respites spaces is attached. It can also be downloaded here.

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. Homeless people and advocates will be gathering outside of Margaret’s as planned tomorrow to demand that the City immediately pursue and open a replacement respite site in the downtown east and follow through with the addition of at least 1000 new shelter beds this year.

Media Spokespersons: Gaetan Heroux & Yogi Acharya, OCAP

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

Speakers Series: Beyond #MeToo: Ending Violence Against Poor Women

Beyond #MeToo: Ending Violence Against Poor Women
Thursday, April 19 | 6pm – 8pm | CRC, 40 Oak St.
[Free event with meal, childcare, wheelchair access and tokens]
Facebook event | Speakers Series Audio Archive | Download Flyer

Speakers: Azeezah Kanji and Anna Willats

Azeezah Kanji is a legal analyst and writer based in Toronto. She is the director of programming at Noor Cultural Centre and a regular opinion writer for the Toronto Star, focusing on issues related to race, law, national security, and human rights.

Anna Willats has been an activist working on social justice issues, particularly violence against women and transgender folks, since 1982 in Toronto. She is currently a professor in the Assaulted Women’s and Children’s counsellor/Advocate Program at George Brown College.

Over the past few months, the #MeToo movement has brought down several prominent men accused of sexual harassment and violence against women. The movement has been successful in exposing the pervasiveness of this violence in our society, and has been rapidly endorsed by celebrities and politicians.

But does #MeToo address the concerns of poor women? Is its scope limited to exposing the harassment and violence perpetrated by famous men, or to the violence experienced by rich women? How does the movement respond to systemic violence against Indigenous and racialized women? What does the history of movements fighting violence against women teach us about similar struggles today? How have poor women fought back?

Join us for this important conversation to better understand the forces shaping #MeToo, and the history of poor women’s resistance to violence.

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. 

What if Doug Ford wins?

We’re not suggesting in OCAP that the outcome of the impending Ontario election is settled or that any result is inevitable. However, we do feel that the possibility of a majority Tory government, led by Doug Ford, is serious enough that it would be wise to consider now what that would mean and how unions and social movements might respond to such an outcome.

We would be the first to agree that an austerity agenda has been at work during the years the Liberal party has been in government and that it will continue regardless of who wins the next election. However, a Ford government would be a hard right regime that could be expected to escalate the attack on workers and communities considerably.

There are obviously some comparisons to be made to the Harris Tory regime that held power from 1995 to 2003.  There was considerable resistance during those years but there are lessons that must drawn as well. When the Tories first took power, there was a kind of stunned demobilization that lost us time and momentum and, when the Days of Action strikes and mass protests got underway, as impressive as they were, there were serious limitations in how they were conducted. The object of the whole mobilization was never made clear. Was it all about trying to put moral pressure on the Tories or to create a social force that could actually stop them? At the same time, the events were sporadic and no plan to escalate to province wide shutdown was ever developed.

OCAP is proposing that organizations and union and community activists who think we should be ready for Ford, should meet, discuss and plan a fitting response should he take the election.  There will certainly be protests against the regressive measures his government would take but we are suggesting that we need a movement ready to fight fire with fire. The response to his attacks should be a working class common front that is ready to create a level of economic and political disruption powerful enough to force the Tories to retreat or to drive them from office. Ford would attack worker’s rights, the social infrastructure and the environment, fan the flames of racism and trample on Indigenous rights. The potential for a winning social mobilization against him is enormous but only if a lead is given.

We’re hoping that, we can bring together the basis for a kind of caucus for a real fightback that could influence union and community action and the course of the struggle. Please let us know if your organization or you, as an individual activist, would be interested in being part of this by emailing ocap@tao.ca.