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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Open Letter Sent to City!

ONTARIO COALITION AGAINST POVERTY
An Open Letter To Mayor John Tory, the Affordable Housing Committee, and City Council

Subject: Expropriation of 214-230 Sherbourne  for the purpose of conversion into social housing as described in: A Community Driven Proposal for Public Housing: submitted by Open Architecture Toronto

 

Despite Toronto’s on-going homelessness disaster, a pandemic,  the imminent threats of mass evictions being created by rent arrears / Bill 124, ongoing displacement by gentrification , 1.1% vacancy rates and rising rents  we hear only silence on the housing proposal we submitted in 2019.  Why?  Our community is asking! Unsafe, homeless and precariously housed people are asking.  Even worse- they are dying.  Waiting for a home, or fighting not to lose one!

Are you aware of how your silence betrays and undermines our East End community’s efforts to obtain affordable housing?  How do we explain the hypocrisy of your promises to create housing solution responses to homelessness and then witness you walking away from our community-driven Sherbourne St. Housing Development opportunity!    Housing is not built on paper.  It requires all kinds of spades in the ground.

 

The City of Toronto Act defines your responsibility;  ‘’The City has the responsibility and authority to provide any service or thing that the City considers necessary or desirable to the public.”

We want to remind you that the City of Toronto Act gives it very specific power related to Expropriations.  “The City has the power to acquire land under this or any other Act that includes the power to expropriate land in accordance with the Expropriation Act.“  

There were 12 expropriations made in 2019. None of them was in support of housing.

The City can access valuable land.  We have defined what is necessary for, and desirable for, the low-income public of our East End Community.  But, the City of Toronto, which has the power to ex

 

propriate, does not use it. Why? There are vacant lands and abandoned buildings in neighborhoods all across this City, held for years by investors and developers in pursuit of real estate profits.  Many of these holdings will never be used to serve the primary need of low- income communities for safety, health, and a home.  Their focus is on housing for profit, and not housing as a human right.  You have known this for years.  We are compelled to observe that your support for profit focused condo developers is in perfect alignment with your negligence of low income and homeless people, who cannot find a place to live. We say. erve the people.  All of the people. 

We do not accept your current excuse, “The City has no standard policy to govern the acquisition / expropriation of properties for low income housing”.  This is no reason to ignore the goal of building  social housing.  It closes the door on working with our community, or pursuing creative approaches.   Pushing our proposal into the waiting rooms of Create Toronto and the Affordable Housing Office, may satisfy some highly paid bureaucrats that meaningful work is being done.  But It does not satisfy us. Or resolve the need of our people for housing.

They are exhausted, running in a civic and government sponsored homeless marathon:  it’s milestones – exclusion, poverty, disrespect, denial and betrayal. Do what is just and right.  

EXPROPRIATE AND BUILD NOW!

Govern yourselves accordingly,
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty

                                                             

 

 

OCAP Supports the AIR-Encampment

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty condemns any attempts or threats to forcibly remove encampments of people from Nathan Philips Square. Since June 19, the Afro-Indigenous Rising Collective and supporters have been peacefully protesting in place at Nathan Philips Square against centuries of colonial and state condoned police violence against Indigenous and African-Canadian communities.

The City of Toronto is saying that the encampments are putting health and safety at risk when, in fact, police brutality against Black and Indigenous peoples puts their health, their safety, and their lives at risk every day.

At the same time, the City deliberately ignores the health and safety of hundreds of homeless people by putting their lives at risk in their refusal to provide safe environments, forcing them to live in crowded shelters where social distancing is impossible to achieve. The reality is that the City politicians and officials are refusing to acknowledge the protesters’ demands to defund/abolish police – demands echoed by thousands of people in anti-racism protests across the world following the murder of George Floyd in the US.

The continued existence of this encampment flies boldly in the face of the City’s efforts to ignore protesters demands. They are hoping that “out of sight-out of mind” will enable their efforts to ignore all demands to defund/abolish police. The City’s concerns that the square is a “public space” that should be shared by all, clearly denies the rights of protesters to share this space. The protesters have been ordered to take down their encampment or face charges of trespassing and $10,000 fines. OCAP supports the right of this Collective to camp in Nathan Phillips square without harassment or threats from the City of Toronto. We support their demands to defund the police and to redirect funds into communities.

Breaking: Homeless advocates, doctors, nurses, and frontline workers staging physically-distanced protest

Primary livestream: facebook.com/OcapToronto/
Backup (in case primary doesn’t work): Zoom | Meeting: 959 1291 4833, PW: 011150

Toronto: With at least 30 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Toronto’s overcrowded and under resourced shelters, respites and drop-ins, the time to prevent catastrophic consequences for homeless people and shelter staff is running out.

“In a span of two weeks since the first case surfaced, we’ve seen the virus spread to at least seven different homeless facilities, most with congregate living arrangements. Photographic and testimonial evidence from existing facilities indicates that operators cannot implement public health standards necessary to prevent the spread of the COVID-19. Over two weeks ago, the City proudly announced that they had procured 1200 hotel rooms but they have filled less than half of those to date,” says Jessica Hales, nurse practitioner who works with homeless people in the city’s downtown east end.

A memo from the City to shelter operators sent following the latest outbreak of COVID-19 at the Willowdale Welcome Centre, indicates that the City still has no clear timeline for when it will move homeless people into hotels. It also states the City has not even tried to procure unused student residences at shuttered colleges and universities (see here and here).

“The City has nearly 5,000 people crammed into existing homeless facilities. Thousands more are sleeping outside in tents because they can’t get into shelters. But the City’s goal this week–a full month after this crisis began–is to have just 550 rooms filled. Thousands of rooms are needed to move homeless people out of danger. Board of health chair Joe Cressy agrees, saying we need ‘one person, one room, one home,’ but the City isn’t anywhere near that and has no discernible plan to get there,” says Cathy Crowe, street nurse and homeless advocate.

“The situation is at a breaking-point. Over 300 doctors and nurse practitioners are calling for immediate COVID-19 outreach testing, physical distancing in all shelters and respites, and the rapid movement of people into hotels, housing and residences. Without this we fear there will be preventable deaths and outbreaks with broad public health implications,” says Dr. Michaela Beder, one of the 313 doctors and nurse practitioners who released an open letter to the Mayor yesterday demanding immediate and rapid action.

“We’ve tried polite persuasion, we’ve produced evidence of dangerous conditions, we’ve held news conferences, but the City still isn’t taking it seriously. So now we’re putting ourselves on the line to demand the City rapidly move homeless people into hotels or housing. Time is not on our side and we can’t just watch homeless people get sick and die. The city must act now,” says Yogi Acharya, organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.

The City must commit to a rapid and reliable timeline to accomplish the following:

1. Move all homeless people into hotel rooms or housing.

2. Open day shelters to provide access to food, washrooms, showers, laundry, telephones and service referrals.

3. Implement regular and accessible sentinel surveillance mobile or onsite COVID-19 testing at all shelters, respites, and at daytime and 24 hour drop-ins.

4. Connect all homeless facilities to health care workers to ensure effective and accurate screening.

5. Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to shelter residents exhibiting symptoms and all staff working at homeless facilities.

6. Enable harm reduction services, including witnessed injection, within all hotels and isolation sites.

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.