Update – Monday, July 23: Given the shooting on the Danforth last night, the press conference referenced below is being postponed to a later date.
Coalition of anti-poverty organizers, supervised injection and overdose prevention site workers, homeless service providers to respond to increasing vilification of homeless people & other poor people who use drugs
Press conference on Monday, July 23 at 10am at the corner of Dundas & Sherbourne
Speakers include: A.J. Withers (Ontario Coalition Against Poverty), Desmond Cole, Frank Coburn (Street Health), and representatives from the Moss Park Overdose Prevention Site
Toronto: There have been a series of lurid stories in the media recently of homeowners and businesses supposedly under attack by what the Toronto Sun’s Sue-Ann Levy calls “druggies.”
These articles further the position that supervised injection services (SIS) and overdose prevention sites (OPS) must be shut down and call for the return of policing programs that have been proven to be dangerous and racist. Echoing rhetoric of residents and business associations in gentrifying neighbourhoods, particularly in the downtown east end of Toronto, it is argued that SIS and OPS facilities encourage drug use and it is assumed, without any evidence, that the lack of such options would lead people to give up drug use.
“After letting the developers control and profit from the creation of upscale housing, after allowing public housing to crumble, after letting social assistance income decline substantially, and after failing to provide adequate shelter for the homeless for years, refugees have become a convenient target to blame for the problem. Now, the same interests are targeting poor and homeless people who use drugs, in a truly despicable move,” says A.J. Withers, organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP).
Homeless people, whether they use drugs or not, are on the streets because shelters and respite facilities are packed full, and conditions within most of them remain deplorable and stressful.
“The residents and business associations don’t want homeless people on the streets, but they don’t want shelters in their neighbourhoods either. What they want are policing measures that target and remove homeless people from sight, with no regard to where or how people end up. Such a dystopic vision for dealing with serious social issues begs to be challenged,” says Yogi Acharya, organizer with OCAP.
The aforementioned press conference, to be held on Monday, July 23 at 10am at the corner of Dundas and Sherbourne, will respond to these arguments, make the case for the continued funding and operation of the SIS and OPS facilities, oppose the reintroduction of programs like the misleadingly named Toronto Anti-Violence Strategy (TAVIS), and finally, call for the creation of adequate shelter and housing.
A.J. Withers & Yogi Acharya