OCAP | Homeless encampments
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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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

Homeless Encampments: Open Letter to Mayor Tory

Dear Mayor Tory and Toronto City Council,

The pandemic has been utterly devastating to homeless communities in Toronto. Congregate living arrangements in packed shelters continue to leave thousands of homeless people exposed and the City has failed to open up sufficient housing units and hotel rooms. A lawsuit was necessary for the City to agree to implement basic physical distancing standards in all its respites and shelters – which still has yet to take place. People staying in the homeless shelter system contract COVID-19 at a rate of 19 times that of Toronto’s housed population.*

The situation has forced hundreds, likely well over a thousand people, to seek protection in tents outdoors. Despite this, you’ve reversed a prior moratorium and are now actively clearing homeless encampments.

We call on you to follow the advice of international health experts by immediately ending the dismantling of homeless encampments and open up vacant housing units or hotel rooms for homeless people. Moving forward, we further call on you not to worsen the already pre-COVID shelter crisis by implementing deadly austerity measures; rather, to have the foresight to recognize low income housing as an urgent health need and create more units.

The shelters are full. Homeless people and front-line workers experience the inability to access beds on a daily basis.

The City is using “health and safety” as an excuse to destroy the encampments but the United Nations and the Center for Disease Control both say it is unsafe to do this. The CDC says:

  • If individual housing options are not available, allow people who are living unsheltered or in encampments to remain where they are.
    • Clearing encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community and break connections with service providers. This increases the potential for infectious disease spread.

It outlines supports the City should be putting in place instead – like ensuring people have washroom access. The US National Law Centre on Homelessness and Poverty says:

preserving individuals’ ability to sleep in private tents instead of mass facilities through repealing—or at least pausing enforcement of—ordinances banning camping or sleeping in public would ensure people can more safely shelter in place, maintain social distancing, and reduce sleep deprivation. Encampments should be provided with preventative solutions—like mobile toilets, sanitation stations, and trash bins—to further reduce harm.

Instead, the City says it has a policy of guaranteeing people “indoor placement” for people who are evicted from the encampments. There are two serious problems with this claim. The first is that this has not been the case in several instances. The second is that these are often shelter or respite placements; they put people right back into the conditions they left.

The City’s COVID-19 strategy has been a disaster for homeless people in Toronto. While the pandemic was unavoidable, the current crisis in Toronto’s shelter system was not. Years of austerity have ensured that our City has insufficient low income housing and emergency housing.

The crisis that homeless people are currently in is largely the result of decisions made by City Council. In the coming months, moving into a potentially unprecedented series of evictions, you can learn from your mistakes and pass a budget that not only refuses to cut shelter and housing but recognizes the urgent public health need for more low income housing and commits funds for more rent-geared-to-income units.

Again, this is what we need:

Today: a moratorium on encampment evictions.

Urgently: a permanent housing unit or a hotel unit for every single person in the shelter system.

In the budget: More housing and shelter, not less!

Failure to implement these measures will result in public action.

With the utmost sincerity,
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
157 Carlton St #201
Toronto, ON. M5A 2K3
416 925 6939
ocap.ca | @OCAPtoronto | facebook.com/OcapToronto

* While there are higher rates of testing in some shelters than in the general public, people staying in shelters test positive for COVID-19 at 1.8 times rate of all those tested in Ontario (https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ontario-records-323-new-covid-19-cases-amid-record-number-of-tests-completed-in-single-day-1.4961672 ).   Based on COVI-19 data for May 29, 2020 from: https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-latest-city-of-toronto-news/covid-19-status-of-cases-in-toronto/; July 2018 population data from: https://www.toronto.ca/city-government/data-research-maps/toronto-at-a-glance/; Toronto shelter population as of May 24th, provided to plaintiffs as per settlement agreement: https://ccla.org/toronto-must-defend-homeless/.