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.