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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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.

Rapid & Dramatic Shelter and Drop-in Expansion Necessary

Rapid and dramatic increase in shelter and drop-in space needed to slow COVID-19 spread and curb deadly consequences for Toronto’s homeless

Chronic overcrowding in Toronto’s shelters, respites and drop-in sites make social distancing and physical isolation impossible. Inability to implement the critical public health measures in the context of the current pandemic make these spaces even more dangerous to the health of homeless people, the workers that serve them, and the broader public.

Compounding the problem, recent closures and scaling back of drop-ins, food programs, coffee shops, and municipal facilities like libraries and community centres has drastically reduced the infrastructure homeless people rely on for food, indoor space and sanitation.

It is imperative that enough spaces be added to the emergency homeless shelter system to allow for adequate physical separation between people, and when required, isolation. It is also imperative that drop-in spaces with access to food and washrooms be opened.

With most city buildings closed to the public, the City has immediate access to multiple spaces (community centres, city hall, metro hall, armouries, and more) that can be repurposed to alleviate crowding in emergency homeless centres and provide relief to the many who cannot access the shelter system.

The City has announced it will add 200 spaces by the end of this week but the shelter system needs at least 10 times the number of spaces to bring occupancy levels down to manageable levels. This shortage is a product of over two decades of neglect and it has left little room to manage sudden crises such as the one we now face.

In order to avert the catastrophic possibility of a rapid spread of COVID-19 in the emergency homeless spaces, the City must dramatically increase spaces homeless people can access and do it fast. This means adding well beyond 200 spaces this week and drastically ramping up that capacity in the coming days. Drop-in spaces providing food, bathrooms, showers and telephone access must be part of this expansion because homeless people unable to access shelters have nowhere left to go.

For years, the powerful in this City have abandoned poor and homeless people to a life of misery. They must not be allowed to do so any longer.

Open Letter to Mayor Tory: Call Off the Homeless Sweeps

The letter below was issued by the Shelter and Housing Justice Network on Friday, January 3, 2020. There will be a press conference to address the situation on Monday, January 6 at Noon at Lawren Harris park (Rosedale Valley Rd & Park Rd).

Dear Mayor John Tory,

The Parks, Forestry and Recreation department has said it will be dismantling homeless encampments in the Rosedale valley on January 7, 2020.

There is no justification for these sweeps in the midst of a deadly shortage of shelter space in the city. People are camped outside in the bitter cold because the housing crisis rages on unchecked and the City’s shelter system is overwhelmed. Conditions within these emergency centres are difficult and often unsafe because of chronic overcrowding, short-staffing and a general lack of necessary resources. The private market is such that even those able to access the housing allowance find it impossible to find a place to rent.

Forcibly dismantling homeless encampments – be they under the Gardiner or in the Rosedale valley – is nothing more than an attempt to make homelessness invisible rather than addressing the problem. In the absence of adequate shelter or housing, the encampments just rise up once again. Despite having seen this time and again, the administration continues to subject homeless people to the ritualized humiliation and hardship of being displaced and having their belongings confiscated, only to then be informed that the emergency system is full.

You must call off these brutal sweeps, starting with the one planned for January 7, and focus City resources on adding sufficient shelter spaces and building publicly owned rent-geared-to-income housing. That’s the only way to make sure no one has to resort to sleeping under bridges and in the ravines of this wealthy city. Our network will be mobilizing around the upcoming sweep and will challenge attempts at evicting people that your administration has effectively abandoned to the streets.

Sincerely,

Rafi Aaron, Interfaith Coalition to Fight Homelessness
Yogi Acharya and Cat Chhina, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
Greg Cook, Sanctuary Outreach
Cathy Crowe, Street Nurse
Bob Rose

on behalf of the Shelter and Housing Justice Network

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.

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.

Gathering Forces: Fighting Austerity Beyond Elections

Thursday, October 18 | 6pm – 8pm | CRC, 40 Oak St.
[Free event with meal, childcare, wheelchair access and tokens]
Facebook event | Download Flyer | Audio Archive

With the elections rigged in favour of the wealthy, the real power to successfully stop
cut backs rests with social movements. With dramatic cuts to social assistance, min wage, healthcare, transit, and more expected, it’s time to gather our forces.

So come hear from movements that are fighting to defend our people.

Speakers: John Clarke (OCAP), Anna Willats (RadTO & thecitywefightfor initiative), Em Carl (Toronto Overdose Prevention Society), Andrew Peters (No One Is Illegal-Toronto), Edgar Godoy (Ontario Health Coalition), and Anna Lermer (TTCRiders).

John Clarke is an organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, a poor people’s direct-action organization fighting to win since 1990.
Anna Willats is member of RadTO, which just launched the visionary thecitywefightfor platform for the kind of city we must fight to build, regardless of who wins the municipal elections.
Em Carl is a member of the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society, which has been engaged in a gutsy and lifesaving fight to address the overdose crisis.
Andrew Peters is a member of No One Is Illegal-Toronto – an immigrant justice organization that is mobilizing to block attempts by white supremacists Steve Bannon and David Frum to speak in Toronto.
Egdar Godoy is the campaigns manager at the Ontario Health Coalition, which is organizing a province-wide mobilization at Queens Park next week.
 
Anna Lermer is with the TTCRiders – an organization fighting to expand access to transit and stop its privatization.

 

The monthly Speakers Series is where we gather to discuss issues that are critical to the success of poor people’s movements. It’s where we build our capacity to fight to win.