OCAP | Shelter Crisis
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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Petition: Stop the Closure of the Fred Victor’s Open House Drop-In Program

This sign was posted at the entrance to the Fred Victor Open House drop-in on May 14, just a week before the decades-old drop was suddenly scheduled to close.

Update: 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, 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

To: Wangari Muriuki, Board Chair, and Mark Aston, CEO, of Fred Victor, Toronto. Aston is also the frequent spokesperson for the Toronto Alliance to End Homelessness.

Starting Tuesday, May 22, the Fred Victor Open House drop-in program at 145 Queen Street East is scheduled to close “until further notice.” The announcement was made on Monday, May 14, just a week prior to the sudden shut down of a decades-old drop in program. This service cut is happening in the midst of a deadly shelter and opioid crisis in the city that claimed at least 100 lives last year.  The drop-in provides a vital service in the neighbourhood and the community cannot afford to lose it.

We, the undersigned demand that the Fred Victor Centre stop the drop-in closure and find resources to reinstate the 4-hour drop-in, with food and adequate staffing to support the service.

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

Feb 13 Budget Update: Victory & The Fight Ahead

Around 10 pm last night, we secured a significant victory in the fight for shelters. Council voted 34-8 in favour of a motion to make the necessary funds to build 1,000 shelter beds available this year.

Mobilizations of homeless people and their allies, like the one we had yesterday, have forced the City and the Mayor to dramatically shift positions. In a span of a few months, they went from downplaying the seriousness of the crisis, to acknowledging there was one; from refusing to open necessary respite sites, to opening 8 this winter; from planning to shut down the respite sites in April to budgeting money to keep them open until the end of the year; and finally, from refusing to budget money for 1,000 beds this year to doing so last night.  It’s a testament to the power of fighting back.

That said, the victory, at least at this stage, is incomplete. The motions that passed don’t commit the city to add 1,000 beds this year. The motions call on the City to “make all reasonable efforts (emphasis added) to expedite the expansion of permanent shelter beds by 1,000 in 2018.” This means the fight must now shift to making sure the City follows through. Further, given that no new shelters are likely to open until the latter part of the year, over 700 people will continue to stay in respite centres. The conditions within these centres are dreadful and they must be addressed immediately.

As we build the struggle ahead, we want to take a moment to honour the memory of all those we’ve lost to poverty and homelessness, and to express our gratitude to and solidarity with all those who continue to show up to fight like hell for the living. Let us commit to making sure we get not only the necessary shelter beds, but also housing that poor people can afford. Join us, and let us fight to win.

New Video: No Respite

We took a hidden camera into 3 respite sites. Here are the appalling conditions that we found! Come out tomorrow to tell City Council that their plan to ensure that we don’t have enough shelter beds for years longer and places like these remain their primary “solution” is unacceptable. Watch the video:

 

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.