OCAP | Homelessness
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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Poster Campaign: #BackOffBigots

OCAP has launched a poster campaign to encourage solidarity in the downtown east
Build Inclusive Communities | #BackOffBigots

Toronto: The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) has launched a poster campaign encouraging residents of Toronto’s downtown east neighbourhood to support healthcare and shelter services for the area’s low income residents. The poster also has a message for the seemingly small but vocal group of wealthier residents who have been aggressively campaigning to have those services shut down: back off.

“The downtown east belongs to all those who live here. It is not the exclusive playground of the area’s wealthier residents, even though some of them want it to be,” says Gaetan Heroux, a community worker and OCAP member who has spent over three decades working with poor and homeless people in the area.

In recent months, the resident group, which controls the Cabbagetown South Residents’ Association, has escalated its campaign against two critical services homeless people in the area rely on: the Street Health community clinic, and the Margaret’s homeless respite centre.

The Association already successfully lobbied the Ford government to terminate provincial funding for the Street Health’s overdose prevention site. The site saved 52 lives in its first year of operation. Not satisfied, the Association is now collaborating with the notorious Toronto Sun columnist Sue Ann Levy in its campaign to have the clinic and the homeless site either shut down or relocated to another part of the city.

Sue Ann Levy has since published a series of columns denigrating poor and homeless people in the area and attacking the clinic and homeless respite as “enablers” of disorder in the neighbourhood. The articles feature anecdotal, and often unsubstantiated, claims from residents that caricature homeless people as dirty, drug addicted and dangerous. Levy also takes pictures of homeless people and posts them on Twitter, often with degrading commentary.

“Dundas and Sherbourne is in a crisis caused by Toronto’s deadly housing crisis and rising poverty. Its victims are not the property owners in the area. Its victims are the poor and homeless people who deal with the relentless strain caused by the shortage of shelter space, crushing poverty, and the hopelessness of the housing market. To attack the two life-support services they rely on shows a vicious disregard for their lives,” says Yogi Acharya, an organizer with OCAP.

“The City can transform Dundas and Sherbourne into a vibrant neighbourhood by building rent-geared-to-income housing and expanding social services. Such a transformation would include the area’s most marginalized people and result in a healthy inclusive community. Spreading bigotry and suspicion only escalates tensions and divides the community further. We’re asking people to choose the former,” adds Heroux.

A Development Proposal For 214-230 Sherbourne: Launch

Wednesday, July 3 | 9am | City Hall, Outside Committee Room 1 (2nd floor)
Toronto Star article
Press conference at 9am, deputations to Planning and Housing Committee at 9:30am

Following months of work, the collaboration between OCAP, the Open Architecture Collaborative Toronto (OACTo), and allied academics and activists has achieved its goal: creating a development proposal with the potential to radically transform Dundas and Sherbourne for the benefit of its most vulnerable residents, rather than at their expense.

Hand-scaled model of the development proposal.

Join us tomorrow to support the launch of the final report, to unveil the hand-scaled model of the proposed development, and to demand that council start by expropriating the properties.

The proposal lays out plans for building between 150 to over 260 units of publicly-owned rent-geared-to-income units to house poor and homeless people at 214-230 Sherbourne Street, a series of seven vacant properties steps from the southwest intersection of Dundas and Sherbourne. The final design for the site was informed by design feedback sessions organized in the Regent Park and the Dundas and Sherbourne area, with nearly 100 people offering feedback on four aspects of the development proposal: overall building form, ground floor programs, public space qualities, and domestic space qualities.

214-230 Sherbourne have been a historic part of Toronto’s poor and working class people living and dying at Dundas and Sherbourne. We will fight to make sure these properties will also be part of their future. Join us.

It Begins: Expropriate 214-230 Sherbourne

Thursday, June 13 | 1pm-3pm | 230 Sherbourne St.
Rally at Dundas & Sherbourne, followed by march to city hall.
Facebook Event | Lunch Provided

The housing crisis has a solution: the City must break ground to build new rent-geared-to-income housing. But it refuses to do so, even as people die homeless and properties lie vacant.

So join us for a ground breaking action at 214-230 Sherbourne, and then march with us to City Hall to reclaim the homes occupied by poor and working class people for generations.

214 – 230 Sherbourne are 7 adjacent properties located at the southwest corner of Dundas and Sherbourne. For 50 years, houses on this lot provided homes for poor people. 10 years ago, two of those houses were demolished, leaving just one 30-room house standing.

A decade later the lot remains empty and the house abandoned. The owners want to sell, but to private condo developers. That’s not housing poor people in the neighbourhood can afford. So the City must step in and take over those properties – expropriate them – and build social housing.

On June 13, we’ll start that process. 27 organizations have signed a letter calling on the city to expropriate. Join us.

Expropriate 214-230 Sherbourne: Community Planning

Thursday, May 16 | 6pm-8pm | CRC, 40 Oak Street
[Free event with meal, childminding, wheelchair access and tokens]
Facebook Event | Download Flyer | Download Poster

The City can tackle homelessness by building rent-geared-to-income housing. At Dundas and Sherbourne, there is vacant land and we have a plan. We need your help in shaping it and your involvement in the fight to win it. Here are the details:

We’ve teamed up with planners and architects to create a model for public housing that can be built at 214-230 Sherbourne. With your help, we can finalize the design and fight for its implementation.

214 – 230 Sherbourne are 7 adjacent properties located at the southwest corner of Dundas and Sherbourne. For 50 years, houses on this lot provided homes for poor people. 10 years ago, 2 of those houses were demolished, leaving just one 30-room house standing.

A decade later the lot remains empty and the house abandoned. Meanwhile, the number of people left homeless in the area continues to swell. The neighbourhood desperately needs housing that poor people can afford.

27 organizations have signed a letter demanding the City acquire these properties. If the owners refuse to sell to the City, the City must take the properties over – expropriate them – to build social housing. Join us.

FAQ, For Dinner With A View

A response to some frequently asked questions about Dinner With A View:

Why are you doing the action on April 5?

We’re doing it because in our City homeless people living under the Gardiner with no heat are evicted. Meanwhile pop-up restaurants serving ritzy dinners in heated domes under that same highway are granted permits. Such brazenness begs a challenge and we’re happy to oblige.

Why take issue if the homeless camp wasn’t located at the Bentway?

There were multiple homeless camps under the Gardiner this past winter – from Jarvis in the east-end to Spadina in the west-end – and the City evicted them. For years, homeless people and advocates have also been calling for the City to open up the armouries as temporary shelter. The pop-up restaurant sits at the doorstep of the Fort York armoury.

Is the action unfair to the people who paid for a novel dining experience?

On the one hand you have homeless people whose tents were demolished and who were evicted with nowhere else to go. On the other hand you have people with sufficient disposable income to splurge over $550 on a single meal and who’re facing the possibility of their luxurious dining spectacle being tainted. The answer to who the situation is unfair to is clear.

Put another way, did the restaurant patrons personally evict the homeless from the under the Gardiner? No. Is their chichi dining experience close to where people people were often hungry and cold, crass? Yes. Do they deserve to be mocked for their obliviousness to the suffering around them? Absolutely.

But isn’t your beef with the City?

Yes, particularly with Mayor John Tory and his backers on Council who’ve allowed Toronto’s housing crisis to turn deadly. They deserve our wrath and we must demand that they build adequate emergency shelters and rent-geared-to-income housing.

Why not go to City Hall?

We have enough trespass tickets from City Hall to prove we go there often and have also slept-out outside one of Mayor Tory’s multi-million dollar homes. On Friday, April 12 at 1pm we’re going to Metro Hall to demand the City keep homeless respite sites open, expropriate a vacant property, and build rent-geared-to-income housing. We invite everyone to join us there too.

There are many fancy restaurants in Toronto, why single this one out?

You got us. Boorishness by the wealthy shouldn’t be tolerated anywhere. Our society desensitizes us to poverty and we accept outlandish things as normal. Luxury dining domes under the Gardiner would be a new frontier in this desensitization, and we intend to not cross it.

Dinner With A View…Of The Rich

Friday, April 5 | 6:30pm | The Bentway (250 Fort York Blvd.)
Facebook Event

What does $550 get you in Toronto you ask? The creators of a pop-up restaurant have the answer. A chichi dinner for 4 under the Gardiner in a little heated dome designed to look like a terrarium and furnished for comfort. They call it “Dinner with a View.”

What sort of view you ask? Well, not of the homeless camp, obviously. The City demolished that and evicted the people living there two weeks ago, remember?

What are we going to do it about you ask? You ask a lot of questions, but we’ll tell you. We’re inviting you to join us for a free 3-course dinner under the Gardiner.

Our chefs aren’t Top Chef Canada winners, but they do win at human decency. Together we’ll eat, be lively, and take in the view of the brazenness of the wealthy and the brutality of the city.

Bring your noisemakers and email us your music requests. While you’re at it, email Mayor Tory (mayor_tory@toronto.ca) and tell him we need adequate shelters and rent-geared-to-income housing.

First We Visit QE, Then We Take Metro Hall

Tuesday, April 9 | 7pm | Queen Elizabeth Respite Site (185 Princes’ Blvd)
Rally & Community Meal

Friday, April 12 | 1pm | Metro Hall (55 John Street)
Rally. Lunch Provided

The City is shutting down the homeless respite site at the Queen Elizabeth (QE) building mid-April. The 200 people who stay there don’t know where they are supposed to go next.

Plans are also in place to end respite service at 545 Lakeshore W and 354 George St. this spring. Over 300 people stay at the two sites. 500 other homeless people are facing eviction from a city-rented motel. With remaining respites, drop-ins and shelters full, homeless people have nowhere to go but back to the streets.

The City says it has a “comprehensive plan,” for respite users but hasn’t provided any details. We need those details given the City also said it would have 3 respite domes open by January. Only one opened, and the City still can’t commit to a date for opening the other two.

We need adequate shelters and rent-geared-to-income housing. Mayor Tory’s plans build neither. This deadly housing crisis demands action: first, we visit QE (on April 9), then we take Metro Hall (April 12). Join us.

Response to Ford’s Social Assistance Reforms

Ford Government intensifies attack on Ontario’s poorest people

The social assistance reforms that the Ford Government announced today can well be described as the new Doug Ford Poor Laws. As expected, they’re making Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) significantly more restrictive and precarious.

The basic intention is to refine the system as a tool to push people into the lowest paying and most exploitative jobs on offer. It is entirely in line with the attack they have already carried on the minimum wage, workers’ rights, and job protections. Forcing people off social assistance while depressing working conditions in the midst of a housing crisis won’t move people out of poverty but will make the Progressive Conservative’s bankrolling base of business executives and owners even richer.

The reforms will divide people on social assistance into those deemed the most severely disabled and those who must join the scramble for jobs. The kind of “compassion” that severely disabled can expect from this Government is made clear from the fact that the social services Minister, Lisa McLeod, would offer no comment on whether any increases in social assistance rates can be expected over the next three years.

Those presently on ODSP will be grand-parented into the new system but new eligibility rules will use the more narrow federal definition of disability. Many who could get onto ODSP under the existing rules will be forced to try to live on OW, including having to look for work even when they are too unwell to do so.

All those who are deemed capable of working will be expected to comply with “individual action plans” and the Government’s “Open for Business” website will draw the most unscrupulous employers directly into the process. Local municipalities will be encouraged to compete with each other in the development of punitive and intrusive practices designed to hound people into scrambling for the worst jobs. The door is certainly open to the privatization of delivery and services.

The government also signalled that supplementary benefits accessed by people on social assistance will be moved from being mandatory to discretionary. These benefits will likely differ from municipality to municipality. So we’ll be left with a patchwork of benefits with no access to the Social Benefits Tribunal to appeal denials. Outright elimination of particular existing benefits remains a possibility.

People on OW will only be able to earn $300 monthly without claw backs, up from the current $200, but less than the $400 it was supposed to go up to this December. Earnings above $300 will be subject to a 75% claw back, which is worse than the current 50%. The earning exemption for ODSP changes to $6000 annually, but is again subject to the increased 75% claw back beyond that limit.

Over the next eighteen months the full viciousness of the Doug Ford Poor Laws will emerge but it is already clear that, for the Tories, social assistance is a weapon in their war on the poor.