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OCAP | OCAP Updates
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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A Housing Platform for Poor and Working people

OCAP denounces all federal parties’ insufficient attempts at prioritizing ‘affordable’ housing in the upcoming election.

“Affordable” is a misnomer, it is weak-willed political jargon, intended to be vague. What we need is more not-for-profit housing: safe, quality social housing, a serious investment in the housing co-operative model, and the deprivatization of long-term care. We need housing designed for people, not profit.

Housing has been an issue for poor people for decades. As federal parties unveil a platform mainly supportive to help middle-income earners, it is obvious that poor and working people’s needs are not anywhere in mind. Most of the platform points from all major political parties focus on homeownership, once again leaving renters, under-housed, and unhoused persons out of the conversation.

Accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, there are hundreds of thousands of people at risk of being evicted and forced onto the streets. No federal party makes mention of any solution to this. Instead, all parties offer too little, too late, and fail across the board to center those in dire need. After years of neglect from all levels of government, we need emergency action, that prioritizes a safe place to live for every member of the country, including migrants and undocumented peoples.

This housing crisis has been manufactured by developers and governments who have, by design, allowed the slow supply of specific types of housing, and sustained a bubble of prices that only top income earners can perforate. Since 1993, the federal government has stopped investing in social housing across Canada. What we see today is the effects of a long-term and calculated effort to neglect and invisibilize our most vulnerable, consolidate profits into developer’s hands, and further the neoliberal agenda.

Condominium developers continue to run amok, while other models of housing are forgotten. Greedy landlords and real estate developers continue to profit at the expense of poor and working people simply needing a place to live. Shame on the federal government for allowing this crisis to happen in the first place and shame on their lack of action now.

We are in unprecedented times, with hundreds of thousands of people across the country behind in rent and eligible for eviction. Our shelter systems are full and overcrowded. After being sued, the government was forced to look to hotels and other interim solutions in response to the pandemic. We have thousands of people living in encampments across the country, being forcefully and violently evicted by police, with nowhere else to go.

The population in shelters is increasingly made up of migrants left without status due to huge problems based on race, class, gender, sexuality, and disability in Canada’s immigration system. This population has special needs, none of which are even touched on in any of the platforms.

The housing platforms of all major political parties fall grossly short of the change that is needed to support the right to housing.

Our governments at all levels are complicit in this crisis, and we demand long-term sustainable solutions that secure the right to housing for people at all income levels.

Our Housing Platform Demands:

  • A commitment to 1 million new social housing units, nationwide, to be built by 2025
  • An ongoing funding commitment to municipalities comparable to rates adjusted for inflation before funding cuts in 1993 for the maintenance and creation of social housing going forward
  • The facilitation of new housing cooperatives in every city, in the amount to house all those waitlisted and meet ongoing demand by 2026
  • An increase in taxes for those who own more than two properties
  • A 20% vacancy tax for empty and unused properties for up to 3 years
  • The expropriation of empty and unused buildings sitting for over 3 years to create more not-for-profit housing options
  • Stronger policies that support the rights of tenants, including rent forgiveness for pandemic arrears
  • Redefine the term “Affordable” to reflect deeply affordable housing based on income and not in contrast to market rent
  • Focus on shifting the financialization of property to providing housing for all who require shelter
  • End the for-profit model for long-term care facilities and ensure dignified and safe housing for all, at every stage of life.

OCAP Statement regarding Encampment Clearing at Trinity Bellwoods

OCAP Denounces the Repressive Violence in Clearing Unhoused People from Trinity Bellwoods Park

June 22, 2021
On the morning of June 22, 2021, hundreds of Toronto Police Service officers (TPS) and privately contracted security officers descended on Trinity Bellwoods Park to remove houseless people living in tents with tenuous promises of shelter or by force if necessary. Residents of Toronto mobilized to prevent the unnecessary and heartless removal of those residing in the park without any other safe place to live. Police erected fencing around the perimeter of the park, boxing in residents and supporters, effectively “kettling” those in attendance and preventing further supporters from entering the area.
This was a planned coordination of excessive force on the part of the City of Toronto (CoT) and the TPS to demonstrate power and intimidate residents and supporters. The police used escalation tactics, threatened fines, arrests, and the removal of residents and supporters. Resources were at no shortage to the TPS as hundreds of mounted police, plain clothes officers, riot cops and corporate security were present to control the movement of 20-25 encampment residents.
Under the guise of “restoring” the park, the City of Toronto is faking concern for encampment residents by spreading misleading and unfounded anxiety such as “fire risks” and other threats to safety which could be mitigated by working with those living in encampments rather than by forceful evictions. The more likely motivation for displacing encampment residents who are seeking safe alternatives to the unsafe and overcrowded shelter system is to remove the visibility of poverty from increasingly gentrified neighbourhoods for the perceived comfort of those living in nearby luxury condo developments.
The show of force by the city in the effort to remove unhoused people from the only safe refuge they have found in the midst of a pandemic, as the housing crisis is not only unacceptable and callous but gravely contradicts public health standards. Displacing people while offering no true alternatives is cruel, traumatizing, and unnecessary. The tactics being used by the city and its police forces are not a solution to the issues that create these encampments and only serve to dehumanize residents and protestors alike. The city of Toronto must stop these violent and unwarranted evictions and focus on true solutions and alternatives in regards to safety and housing by working with the community rather than escalation of the ongoing war on the poor and unhoused. We applaud the resistance shown by the community, residents, and supporters, and condemn the predatory and discriminatory actions of TPS and CoT.
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP)


Defund, Disarm the Police
Stop Greedy Landlords – put an end to evictions
Demand immediate increase in Rent Geared to Income Housing
Demand and Enforce “Use It or Lose It” policies and by-laws
Expropriate Land and Buildings left for-profit and speculation
Demand Safe Injection Spaces and Safe Drug Supply
Expand Drop-In and Health Services in Our Neighbourhoods.

OCAP Denounces Expanded Police Powers: Overreach of Police Enforcement Will Not Solve the COVID Crisis.

Although the province has partially walked back it’s statement on empowering police to perform “random” street checks under the new covid restrictions, police powers to stop and question individuals have still increased under the guise of suspicion of participation in an organized public event or social gathering.
Any increased powers afforded to the police will be utilized to further harass and intimidate targeted individuals and communities with sanctioned impunity.

Doug Ford’s incompetence and negligence has resulted in a catastrophic rise in cases of COVID-19 resulting in the unnecessary illness and death of thousands of Ontario residents. Yet, the Ford government is determined to continue placing profits before people while refusing to enact public health measures which could aid in the reduction of Covid transmission and infections.

What we are seeing is the cumulative results of the Ford government failing to listen to health professionals and take the correct action necessary to curb the spread. In light of losing control of the situation, the Ford government has created more anxiety and confusion in the public leading them to misplace their fear and anger on individuals, instead of the factories, essential businesses, and congregate settings where the infection continues to run rampant because employees cannot properly isolate or take time off because they lack life-saving benefits and sick pay.

Restricting the basic rights and freedoms of residents is not going to improve this situation, it will only make matters worse. Police do not make communities safer, they serve to criminalize the poor, racialized and otherwise vulnerable and marginalized communities, including creating increased fear for those forced to be out on the streets, in transit, or unable to stay in one place during this time. Communities do not need more policing, they need labour protections and safe and adequate housing.

In order to avoid the inevitable abuse of police powers under the recent expansion of pandemic restrictions, we demand the Ford government immediately:
Remove the expanded overreach of police authority to stop, question, or card individuals under the new lockdown restrictions, regardless of supposed discretionary suspicion
Reallocate police resources to health and social services overburdened by the explosion of COVID cases
Implement permanent, seamless employer and provincially paid sick days for essential and vulnerable workers
Improve equitable vaccination availability and access in high-risk communities, including non status migrant and homeless populations

It is impossible to police ourselves out of this pandemic. Increasing punitive measures onto vulnerable and marginalized people will do nothing to improve public health outcomes. Shifting responsibility onto individuals without giving the necessary supports to follow public health guidelines is callous and offensive. The blame for the current state of public health lays firmly at the feet of the Ford government, not the people of Ontario.


Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
April 19, 2021

National Housing Day 2020: A crisis like we have never seen, housing is a public health emergency 

As we approach National Housing Day on November 22nd, the shelter and housing crisis in our City is unlike anything we have ever seen before. 

COVID-19 has amplified this crisis as more people lose income and struggle to survive. The provincial and municipal governments refuse to institute a moratorium on evictions, paving the way for new waves of evictions. Shelters are full, and remain sites of fear for a perfect storm for COVID transmission as conditions do not allow for distancing or enough personal space. Encampments have grown in every park across the city, and communities of people in tents are staring down the approaching cold weather with no real alternatives. All levels of government have failed miserably to house people. We see drops in the bucket, tiny Bandaids on a giant wound. The City of Toronto recently opened up the Better Living Centre as a respite site, complete with dystopian cell-like glass cubes  – no privacy, no respect for the dignity of poor people in our city, no offer of one person one room, nor enough beds for everyone who needs them right now. 

Overdose deaths have nearly doubled since last year. Doubled. We are seeing the collision of the housing/shelter crisis with an overdose crisis and the results are catastrophic. Communities are losing people – loved ones, friends – at a shocking and horrific rate. This grief and trauma cannot be measured. 

We need housing and we need it now. Not trickled down half measures, but bold, determined, full access – HOUSING. Immediately. 

In the spring we fought for access to hotels and housing as an alternative to overcrowded shelters. We won some spaces in hotels, but that has proved to be, once again, a drop in the bucket, and with a dangerous lack of adequate harm reduction supports on-site. A few weeks ago we marched again on 214-230 Sherbourne, an empty property and abandoned building in the middle of one of the hardest-hit neighborhoods, to demand it be expropriated and immediately converted to housing, which the city had promised to do. 

As we head into another winter. As COVID-19 cases rise dramatically, it feels like entire communities are left on deflating lifeboats. Who will get a chance to survive?

Today, we renew our support for the 6 Demands for Immediate Action created by Encampment Support Network:

  1. Invest in actually affordable housing Obtain vacant buildings to convert into housing. Create 10, 000 units of rent-geared to income housing in the next 24 months 
  2. Immediately enforce an eviction moratorium
  3. Immediately end the criminalization of encampments and issue a moratorium on clearing encampments: No one should be ticketed or harassed by police or security for living in the park
  4. All shelter and supportive housing sites must be user-friendly and include robust overdose prevention and harm reduction services as well as robust covid safety measures 
  5. Until there is enough permanent, safe, dignified, and affordable housing, immediately ensure enough emergency shelters (with COVID safety measures). That means 2000 more rooms before winter comes
  6.  Immediately provide winter survival gear for those in encampments, including fire safety gear, sleeping bags, access to food and water, winter clothing, and heaters.

Many people across Toronto and beyond are organizing and resisting – from supporting the encampments to blocking evictions – poor and working-class people who are defending themselves, supporting each other, and organizing. 

In the same way, there can be no half-measures from the government, there can be no half-measures in our organizing as we fight for what poor and working-class people need to survive in this critical moment. If you are not already in the struggle – join it. Join a neighbourhood anti-eviction committee with Parkdale Organize or People’s Defence, join the Encampment Support Network, join Jane Finch Action Against Poverty, join OCAP, or fight where you are. Let’s work together, let’s organize, let’s win. 

 

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty 

November 22, 2020

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

                                                             

 

 

For Immediate Release – October 23, 2020

The Toronto Overdose Prevention Society, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and 14 homeless applicants are disappointed in Judge Schabas’s decision to not grant the injunction.

Yesterday’s decision by Justice Schabas has granted the City the right to clear encampments across Toronto amidst an escalating second wave of COVID-19 and a continued lack of safe housing options.

Since March, over 1000 people have been living in parks in large encampments throughout the City. The encampments signify a lack of shelter and housing options for people. Front-line workers and advocates have been raising the alarm for months about the continuing difficulty in finding shelter or housing options. Additionally, people are afraid to live in congregate settings due to the continued COVID risk, and those unable to secure shelter or housing, are forced to move in to tents in parks. “Many of these encampments are located near services that offer lifesaving supports that people rely on for their survival, like supervised injection services, overdose prevention sites, and healthcare. We are concerned with people being evicted or displaced to places far away from these services. We are dealing with a housing crisis, a global pandemic and an overdose crisis which has doubled since COVID. We are involved in this case because we don’t want people to die.” says Zoë Dodd, co-organizer with the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society.

Instead of providing housing, or basic survival-level needs for people living in the encampments such as access to toilets, washrooms or drinking water, the City surveils and polices encampments. This decision justifies an approach to homelessness based on criminalization through the enforcement of bylaws, instead of consultation and human rights.

In a statement released by the City of Toronto regarding the injunction, the City claims that there is a lack of drinking water, access to showers and washrooms. These are all services the City could provide. Many of the encampments are co-located next to community centres such as in Moss Park, Trinity Bellwoods, and Alexandra Park. Advocates have been asking for the washroom and shower facilities in these community centres to be opened since March.

Parks are public spaces, people who are homeless are also members of the public. The entire City has come together to make adjustments because of COVID. We have bars and restaurants using public spaces, like sidewalks and roads. We have people experiencing homelessness erecting tents in parks because they have nowhere else to go.

The City’s winter plan will not create enough adequate shelter and housing spaces to accommodate the number of people outside and it doesn’t address what encampment residents have been asking for. “People in encampments have made it clear that they need to be close to their supports and community for essential health and safety – overdose deaths increase when people are away from vital supports. Many encampment residents have said they are too scared to move in to a shelter sharing space with others, while COVID cases increase. The facts on the ground are undeniable – shelters remain unsafe to most. No matter how many times you call central intake, there are not enough beds, and people are expected to be shuffled around from one precarious or dangerous situation to the next. This is beyond a state of crisis, we need rapid housing and safe options immediately.” says Randi Sears from the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.

Suitable accommodations also mean that people are more likely to stay in those locations. People have returned to encampments because the shelters were out of the City, away from their community and supports. People have also been discharged from programs for incidents such as missing curfew or not returning one night. With nowhere to go, they have had to move back in to encampments. “I was in a hotel, and then I was kicked out. Having nowhere to go and unable to get in to another hotel, I had to get a tent and move back in to the park.” says one Moss Park encampment resident.

People living in parks already live through the difficulties of living without privacy and security, adequate services and in the cold. Now, they will also have to fear being evicted, ticketed, and arrested for living outside. The injunction would not have stopped the ongoing police harassment, but it would restrict the weapons the City has to work with. “We’re not surprised that we lost, we’re used to being targeted by police and the laws treating us badly. But this hearing bought time, though police harass us daily, we weren’t being pushed out to move elsewhere.” Derrick Black, applicant living in Moss Park.

We are currently discussing with lawyers our next steps, weighing our options. We hope in the meantime that the City does not evict people from parks who have nowhere to go, only displacing the problem of unaffordable housing to the next location. One thing is clear – political action is needed to address this ongoing crisis in our city.

Expropriate 214-230 Sherbourne! Rally at Allan Gardens this coming Saturday!


Location: Allan Gardens
Saturday October 24
Time: 11am

For the 11th year in a row 214-230 Sherbourne sits empty! It should be social housing!

We have a plan! ocap.ca/214-230-development-proposal

In 2019, we showed the City of Toronto how 260 units of publicly-owned rent-geared-to-income housing could be built on this land.

Join us to demand the city expropriate 214-230 Sherbourne now! Winter is coming. No More Homeless Deaths.

Meet at Allan Gardens followed by a short march.

Speakers from:
Jane Finch Action Against Poverty
OCAP
& more

Food will be provided. COVID protocols will be followed. Please wear a mask, keep 2 meters apart. PPE and hand sanitizer will be provided if needed. Please stay home if you have any symptoms or have recently traveled.

Please contact us for specific accessibility needs.

Poster design by: @rosemary.snell