OCAP | Mayor John Tory
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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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.

Stop Scapegoating Refugees & Build Social Housing and Shelters

Faced with a rise in refugee claimants fleeing harrowing conditions of war in their countries of origin, and racism in the United States, politicians from all three levels of government are blaming the decades-old shelter crisis on people in desperate need of refuge. Erasing over 20 years of their own complicity in creating and entrenching homelessness, politicians  are playing political dodgeball over who should pay to shelter refugees. The fact that their political rhetoric is increasing bigotry and the potential for racist violence towards an already traumatized people seems to matter little.

Toronto is in the midst of a housing crisis that is a product of over two decades of municipal, provincial and federal refusal to build new public housing and co-ops, and to adequately maintain existing housing. All three levels of government permitted the unrestrained expansion of the private housing market – run by landlords, developers and property speculators – that uses homes as cash cows to be milked for profit. A whole generation of people has been priced out of homes, and almost half the renters in this city struggle to pay rent. Average rents in the city far exceed the entire income of those on social assistance.

Homelessness became a serious problem in the 1990s, and has worsened dramatically. The city’s emergency shelter system never kept pace with the rising demands and has faced a bed-shortage since the late 1990s. In 1998 City Council made a commitment to fix the bed shortage, but in the 20 years that have since passed, they refused to dedicate the resources to  make that happen. Meanwhile, the homeless death toll keeps rising, with at least 100 succumbing to the harshness of life on the streets in 2017. The informal tally maintained by volunteers at the Homeless Memorial since 1985 now exceeds a thousand dead.

For over two decades homeless people and housing advocates have fought tooth and nail for the expansion of shelters and public housing. These fights have forced a few life-saving victories: the creation of 24 hour women and trans drop-ins, respite centres, and the addition of a few new shelter beds. But with successive Mayors, Premiers and Prime Ministers relentlessly pushing service cuts and refusing to clamp down on the private housing market profiteers, the fights have largely prevented existing services from being lost entirely. They have not resulted in the sufficient expansion of shelters or the creation of housing that is affordable for poor and working class people.

Those in power rule by dividing and conquering. Poor and homeless people who were born in Canada, and those who have lived here a long time, should remember that our well-being has never mattered to such politicians. Mayor John Tory pushed through a 2.6% cut to shelters in the 2017 budget and actively sabotaged attempts to add 1000 beds to the system. When he campaigned to become Mayor in 2003, one of his campaign promises was to ban poor people from panhandling in the downtown core. Provincially,  first the Conservative government gutted social assistance, and then the Liberals ended the need-based cost-sharing agreements for shelters and homelessness services with municipalities. Federally, funding for building new social housing and coops was eliminated in the mid-nineties, in many ways initiating the crisis we see today. The “National Housing Strategy,” announced last year, doesn’t commit any major funding until after the next election, and will not lead to an expansion of rent-geared-to-income housing.

The only way for poor and homeless people in Toronto to win is by refusing to fall for the divisive traps politicians are setting for us. Most people in Canada today are immigrants, or are descendants of immigrants, and we must unite with the refugees who have been pushed out of their nations by politicians who share a lot in common with those who run ours. Let’s welcome refugees and build a united front powerful enough to win decent shelter and housing for us all. Fight To Win.

Updated Media Release: Stop the Loss of Respite Sites

City allowing respite spaces to be lost despite shelters being full and directive from council to maintain respite capacity

Press Conference at 1pm on Thursday, April 12, at south-east corner of Dundas & Sherbourne, the location of Margaret’s respite centre, which will lose at least half its capacity this Sunday. The earlier version of this media release can be found here.

Speakers: Gaetan Heroux (OCAP), Maggie Helwig (Priest, St. Stephen-in-the-Field Anglican Church), Maurice Adongo (Street Health), and Greg Cook (Sanctuary).

Toronto: On April 15, the All Saints church respite site, officially considered to be part of Margaret’s, and located at Dundas and Sherbourne, will shut down. The impending closure will result in Margaret’s losing over half of its 110 person capacity, forcing 60 people to relocate, but no one knows where to.

Until today the City had not released a plan for the operation of respite sites post April 15, the day these sites were originally scheduled to shut down. This morning, a day ahead of the planned protest, the City publicly announced that it will be retaining six of its eight respite centres, and replacing two – the Better Living Centre and 348 Davenport Road. An average of 93 spaces lost nightly through the closure of the volunteer-run Out of the Cold program will not be replaced.

“There are two problems with the City’s plan. First, respite service is being cut by almost 250 spaces, even as the deadly shelter crisis persists. The cut includes 60 spaces at Margaret’s, located at Dundas and Sherbourne, where the need for homeless shelters is dire. Secondly, the City is forcing an dreadful choice on homeless people. They must either travel far out of the downtown core, leaving behind support networks, services and related infrastructure, or stay behind and revert to surviving on the streets. Many will ‘choose’ the latter,” says Yogi Acharya, organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.

The spreadsheet demonstrating the loss of nearly 250 respites spaces is attached. It can also be downloaded here.

The intent behind the extension of the respite sites was to ensure that over 700 people staying in the 8 winter respite sites and various volunteer-run overnight programs aren’t simply dumped back onto the streets. Homeless people and advocates will be gathering outside of Margaret’s as planned tomorrow to demand that the City immediately pursue and open a replacement respite site in the downtown east and follow through with the addition of at least 1000 new shelter beds this year.

Media Spokespersons: Gaetan Heroux & Yogi Acharya, OCAP

Stop The Loss of Respite Sites: Urgent Action

Stop The Loss of Respite Sites: Emergency Action
Thursday, April 12 | 1pm | South-east corner of Dundas & Sherbourne

On April 15, the All Saints church respite site at Dundas and Sherbourne will shut down. The site is officially considered to be part of the Margaret’s respite centre, which is located in the same building. The closure will result in Margaret’s losing at least half of its 110 person capacity. This means, come April 15, at least 55 people presently staying at Margaret’s will be evicted.

Respite sites take in homeless people who cannot get into the City’s overloaded shelters. In February this year, following a months-long fight, council approved an extension of the City’s winter respite sites to the end of the year. It set aside $14 million to ensure that the over 750 people staying in the 8 respite sites and various volunteer-run overnight programs aren’t simply dumped back onto the streets come April 15 – the date these sites were originally scheduled to shut down. City management committed to publicly releasing a clear plan that would ensure people had a place to go. To-date, no such information has been communicated publicly.

The staggered closure of the volunteer-run Out of the Cold program has already resulted in the loss of 447 respite spaces, an average of 64 per night. By April 27, when the last Out of the Cold site shuts down, we will have lost 652 spaces, an average of nearly a 100 per night. The loss of at-least 55 spaces at Margaret’s will be an additional blow. In a context where it took a major fight and the death of nearly 100 homeless people to force a response to the shelter crisis, the City’s tardy approach to ensuring the continuation of the respite sites leads to only one conclusion. The delay is deliberate, they are banking on homeless people losing hope and reverting to sleeping rough in the ravines, under bridges, and on the streets. Respite service at substantially reduced levels might continue, but it will not be guaranteed. Such calculated disregard for the lives of homeless people must be challenged.

Join us next Thursday for a speak out and press conference to demand that the City replace the spaces lost with the closure of All Saints and the Out of the Colds. Given the concentration of homeless people in the downtown east, and the fact that shelters and respite sites in the neighbourhood are full, the replacement site must be opened in this area. Finally, the City must publicly release a clear plan for the operation of the respite sites for the remainder of the year. If you can, come with us following the action to city hall where we will make these same demands of Councillors responsible for shelter operations, at the Community Development and Recreation Committee meeting. #FightToWin

Feb 13 Budget Update: Victory & The Fight Ahead

Around 10 pm last night, we secured a significant victory in the fight for shelters. Council voted 34-8 in favour of a motion to make the necessary funds to build 1,000 shelter beds available this year.

Mobilizations of homeless people and their allies, like the one we had yesterday, have forced the City and the Mayor to dramatically shift positions. In a span of a few months, they went from downplaying the seriousness of the crisis, to acknowledging there was one; from refusing to open necessary respite sites, to opening 8 this winter; from planning to shut down the respite sites in April to budgeting money to keep them open until the end of the year; and finally, from refusing to budget money for 1,000 beds this year to doing so last night.  It’s a testament to the power of fighting back.

That said, the victory, at least at this stage, is incomplete. The motions that passed don’t commit the city to add 1,000 beds this year. The motions call on the City to “make all reasonable efforts (emphasis added) to expedite the expansion of permanent shelter beds by 1,000 in 2018.” This means the fight must now shift to making sure the City follows through. Further, given that no new shelters are likely to open until the latter part of the year, over 700 people will continue to stay in respite centres. The conditions within these centres are dreadful and they must be addressed immediately.

As we build the struggle ahead, we want to take a moment to honour the memory of all those we’ve lost to poverty and homelessness, and to express our gratitude to and solidarity with all those who continue to show up to fight like hell for the living. Let us commit to making sure we get not only the necessary shelter beds, but also housing that poor people can afford. Join us, and let us fight to win.