OCAP | COVID-19
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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For Immediate Release – October 23, 2020

The Toronto Overdose Prevention Society, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and 14 homeless applicants are disappointed in Judge Schabas’s decision to not grant the injunction.

Yesterday’s decision by Justice Schabas has granted the City the right to clear encampments across Toronto amidst an escalating second wave of COVID-19 and a continued lack of safe housing options.

Since March, over 1000 people have been living in parks in large encampments throughout the City. The encampments signify a lack of shelter and housing options for people. Front-line workers and advocates have been raising the alarm for months about the continuing difficulty in finding shelter or housing options. Additionally, people are afraid to live in congregate settings due to the continued COVID risk, and those unable to secure shelter or housing, are forced to move in to tents in parks. “Many of these encampments are located near services that offer lifesaving supports that people rely on for their survival, like supervised injection services, overdose prevention sites, and healthcare. We are concerned with people being evicted or displaced to places far away from these services. We are dealing with a housing crisis, a global pandemic and an overdose crisis which has doubled since COVID. We are involved in this case because we don’t want people to die.” says Zoë Dodd, co-organizer with the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society.

Instead of providing housing, or basic survival-level needs for people living in the encampments such as access to toilets, washrooms or drinking water, the City surveils and polices encampments. This decision justifies an approach to homelessness based on criminalization through the enforcement of bylaws, instead of consultation and human rights.

In a statement released by the City of Toronto regarding the injunction, the City claims that there is a lack of drinking water, access to showers and washrooms. These are all services the City could provide. Many of the encampments are co-located next to community centres such as in Moss Park, Trinity Bellwoods, and Alexandra Park. Advocates have been asking for the washroom and shower facilities in these community centres to be opened since March.

Parks are public spaces, people who are homeless are also members of the public. The entire City has come together to make adjustments because of COVID. We have bars and restaurants using public spaces, like sidewalks and roads. We have people experiencing homelessness erecting tents in parks because they have nowhere else to go.

The City’s winter plan will not create enough adequate shelter and housing spaces to accommodate the number of people outside and it doesn’t address what encampment residents have been asking for. “People in encampments have made it clear that they need to be close to their supports and community for essential health and safety – overdose deaths increase when people are away from vital supports. Many encampment residents have said they are too scared to move in to a shelter sharing space with others, while COVID cases increase. The facts on the ground are undeniable – shelters remain unsafe to most. No matter how many times you call central intake, there are not enough beds, and people are expected to be shuffled around from one precarious or dangerous situation to the next. This is beyond a state of crisis, we need rapid housing and safe options immediately.” says Randi Sears from the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.

Suitable accommodations also mean that people are more likely to stay in those locations. People have returned to encampments because the shelters were out of the City, away from their community and supports. People have also been discharged from programs for incidents such as missing curfew or not returning one night. With nowhere to go, they have had to move back in to encampments. “I was in a hotel, and then I was kicked out. Having nowhere to go and unable to get in to another hotel, I had to get a tent and move back in to the park.” says one Moss Park encampment resident.

People living in parks already live through the difficulties of living without privacy and security, adequate services and in the cold. Now, they will also have to fear being evicted, ticketed, and arrested for living outside. The injunction would not have stopped the ongoing police harassment, but it would restrict the weapons the City has to work with. “We’re not surprised that we lost, we’re used to being targeted by police and the laws treating us badly. But this hearing bought time, though police harass us daily, we weren’t being pushed out to move elsewhere.” Derrick Black, applicant living in Moss Park.

We are currently discussing with lawyers our next steps, weighing our options. We hope in the meantime that the City does not evict people from parks who have nowhere to go, only displacing the problem of unaffordable housing to the next location. One thing is clear – political action is needed to address this ongoing crisis in our city.

Expropriate 214-230 Sherbourne! Rally at Allan Gardens this coming Saturday!


Location: Allan Gardens
Saturday October 24
Time: 11am

For the 11th year in a row 214-230 Sherbourne sits empty! It should be social housing!

We have a plan! ocap.ca/214-230-development-proposal

In 2019, we showed the City of Toronto how 260 units of publicly-owned rent-geared-to-income housing could be built on this land.

Join us to demand the city expropriate 214-230 Sherbourne now! Winter is coming. No More Homeless Deaths.

Meet at Allan Gardens followed by a short march.

Speakers from:
Jane Finch Action Against Poverty
OCAP
& more

Food will be provided. COVID protocols will be followed. Please wear a mask, keep 2 meters apart. PPE and hand sanitizer will be provided if needed. Please stay home if you have any symptoms or have recently traveled.

Please contact us for specific accessibility needs.

Poster design by: @rosemary.snell

Action Alert: Stop the Eviction of the Moss Park Encampment

Update: We won a reprieve from eviction through the tenacity of the residents of Moss Park, community organizing and legal action combined. But we need to keep up the pressure. Please Phone/Email/Tweet this week to say you support people in all the encampments and want housing for all!

Phone/Tweet/Email Zap Action Today!

#StopEncampmentEvictions #HousingForAll

Mayor Tory: 416-397-2489 – mayor_tory@toronto.ca @JohnTory

Giuliana Carbon: 416-338-7205 – giuliana.carbon@toronto.ca

*Sample Tweet/scripts below*

In the midst of multiple deadly crises: the COVID-19 pandemic, the overdose crisis and the housing crisis, the City of Toronto is at the ready to evict yet another group of people who have been living in a public park together. The City has served people living in the Moss Park Encampment an eviction notice for tomorrow and threatened this group of homeless people with $10,000 fines and the destruction of their property.

We need your help today to tell the Mayor and Deputy City Manager that the community will not tolerate this attack on homeless people.

Fourteen residents of various encampments, along with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) and the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society (TOPS) are filing suit against the City of Toronto to prevent the eviction of all encampments without the provision of adequate and acceptable accommodation. Aware of the lawsuit, the City has decided to go ahead with the lawsuit anyway.

Derrick Black, Moss Park Encampment resident and named applicant says: “I don’t like how they deal with people in the park. The enforcement is too much. I’m not moving until I get housing. I’m tired of the promises.”

Toronto’s shelter system has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 617 positive COVID cases have been confirmed in city shelters, with 38 different outbreaks across shelter sites leading to at least 4 deaths. The hotel-shelters people are offered space in are inadequate for those remaining in the park. Three of the named Applicants in the litigation have abandoned their hotel-shelter rooms because they found the conditions unacceptable. Hotel-shelter rooms are often far from where they have been living and where their necessary supports are, taking 1 to 2 hours by transit, to return to the area. The hotel-shelters are run like shelters, don’t permit visitors, can have curfews as early as 9 pm and create the conditions for overdose to occur. There have been at least two fatal overdoses in these hotels.

The City is justifying the eviction of Moss Park on the grounds of “health and safety” even though the United Nations and the Center for Disease Control have said it is unsafe to dismantle encampments in the context of COVID-19.

What to say when you call/email:

I support the people in the encampments who have been living there for months. If you are concerned about “health and safety” you should supply water, washroom facilities, and fire safety equipment –  not displace people. Displacing people goes against what both the CDC and UN recommend because it is safer for people in encampments to stay where they are unless they are being housed. Hotel-shelters that are far from their communities and services and that have restrictive rules are not safe for all people. The city should be consulting with homeless people as to what housing will work for them. Homeless people should never have had to sue the city simply to stay in tents in a park because there is no safer place to go; this signals a widespread failure on the part of the City. Stop the eviction of Moss Park immediately! Supply all of the encampments with the amenities the residents say they need to be healthier and safer.

 

Sample Tweet 1:

I support the people in the #encampments. @JohnTory stop the eviction of Moss Park Encampment now! The shelters are full and often unsafe and the motel-shelters often full and not appropriate for many people. #StopEncampmentEvictions #HousingForAll

 

Sample Tweet 2

#StopEncampmentEvictions. @JohnTory don’t evict Moss Park Encampment. If you are really concerned about “health and safety,” give people water, washrooms and fire safety equipment. Don’t displace them in contravention of #CDC and #UN guidelines and basic human decency.

Take 3 minutes to help stop the unjust and unsafe eviction of the Moss Park Encampment. 

Photo by Doug Johnson-Hatlem

Speak Out: Homeless Rights & Housing for all

Wednesday, July 22 at 11 am | Peter St. Referral Centre | 129 Peter St. (at Richmond)

The state of homelessness continues to grow and reach bigger crisis levels in the City of Toronto.

With the added problem of COVID, the situation is rapidly deteriorating.  The shelter system capacity has been cut in half and has not been replaced adequately by hotels or housing.  Including all of the backup respite sites, there has still been a loss of over 500 spaces.  The Peter St. referral centre remains closed and there is nowhere to refer people to for safe space as the shelters are both full and hazardous to people’s health.  The only housing being built in the City remains unaffordable and inaccessible, while the Province is moving to make thousands more homeless through Bill 184 and by lifting the moratorium on evictions.

For the well over a thousand people already sleeping on the streets and in the parks there is no where else to go.  Still they face threat of displacement and criminalization by the City.  Instead of providing basic needs for people to live like housing, the City continues to invest over $1.1 billion a year into racist, violent policing.

Call out the City and demand action to confront this crisis we are facing.

 

We demand the City:

  1. Social Housing Now: the City do whatever it takes to buy, expropriate, build social housing now to deal with homelessness (including expropriating 214-230 Sherbourne Ave immediately).
  2. Defund the Police: the City defund the police 50% now and fund basic needs and services such as hotels and housing.
  3. No Shelter and Housing Cuts: no cuts to the housing and shelter budget
  4. Encampment Eviction Moratorium: the City reimplement the moratorium on all encampment relocations and evictions and it be kept in place for the duration of the pandemic and a minimum of 12 months.
  5. Hotels and Housing for All: End the use of congregate living settings and ensure everyone has a private room and bathroom. Lift restrictive rules in existing and future hotel; and, new units need to be opened in the downtown core.
  6. Moratorium on Tenant Evictions: the Mayor to use his emergency powers to implement a moratorium on tenant evictions.
  7. Stop Bill 184: the City call on the Province of Ontario to stop Bill 184 and the creation of more homelessness.

Speakers:

John Clarke – Ontario Coalition Against Poverty

Desmond Cole – Activist, Journalist, Author

Zoe Dodd – Toronto Overdose Prevention Society

Greg Cook – Shelter Housing Justice Network and Outreach Worker at Sanctuary

ALSO- Speaker from Parkdale Organize
http://parkdaleorganize.ca/

Connecting Our Struggles: Online Rally

Thursday July 9th, 2 pm – 3:30 pm.

As the status quo is crumbling – people are making a new world. This zoom rally says, enough is enough – we will connect our struggles and build a better world. Hear from activists in Grassy Narrows, from those supporting homeless encampments and undocumented folks, from sex worker organizing and from the movement against racist policing.

To register and get the zoom link, email digitalrally@protonmail.com. Bring signs for the rally, and be ready to yell at your computer. Or simply watch on this Facebook event page. The pandemic has given us more reason than ever to connect our struggles.

Speakers:

Greg Cook or Doug Johnson Hatlem will speak from the Encampment Support Network

Nigel Bariffe is a community organizer and an elementary teacher with the TDSB, Nigel is Board chair of the Urban Alliance on Race relations, board member of the Toronto Community Benefits Network and is trying to make the world a better place.

Elene Lam is the Founder and Executive Director of Butterfly (Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Networks). She has been involved in sex workers, labour, migrant, gender and racial justice movement for over 20 years. She is a PhD candidate at McMaster University.

Chrissy Isaacs is from Grassy Narrows Nation.

Mac Scott is an anarchist who works in the law go figure. He is currently organizing during Covid around migrant justice and access to health care for migrants. He has had 6 clients test positive and one die from CoVid. He works with OCAP and NOII and in his free time loves his family, cider, science fiction and bad suits not necessarily in that order.

At the end of the rally, we encourage those of you who can, to support these struggles in some direct way – call your councillor, poster your neighbourhood, send funds, chalk a wall, rally, march or scream out your window. We will add campaign links to the page.

News Conference on COVID-19 Response

This morning (Monday, March 23), OCAP and Shelter and Housing Justice Network organized a news conference to call for the urgent implementation of critical measures necessary to mitigate the deadly impacts of COVID-19 on homeless people, those on social assistance, and on those whose lives are being saved by the overdose prevention sites.

The full news conference is below. Media coverage is here: CP24 | CTV

The speakers made a case for the following:

  1. Rapid and dramatic increase in shelter spaces, particularly motel or hotel rooms accessible to homeless people to ease overcrowding in existing emergency centres and allow for social distancing and physical isolation. The expansion must include new drop-in spaces to compensate for the closure of lunch programs, coffee shops, and municipal facilities like libraries and community centres which has near-eliminated infrastructure homeless people for food, indoor space, and sanitation.
  2. An immediate boost to social assistance rates to compensate for the loss of food programs, soup kitchens, and the cost of self-quarantining; extending coverage to people without immigration status.
  3. Expanded access to safer opioid prescribing programs, overdose prevention sites and making witnessed injection and harm reduction support available at quarantine facilities; ensuring access to personal protective equipment at overdose prevention sites and working with people who use drugs to prevent further escalation in overdoses and overdose related deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic.