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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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Poster Campaign: #BackOffBigots

OCAP has launched a poster campaign to encourage solidarity in the downtown east
Build Inclusive Communities | #BackOffBigots

Toronto: The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) has launched a poster campaign encouraging residents of Toronto’s downtown east neighbourhood to support healthcare and shelter services for the area’s low income residents. The poster also has a message for the seemingly small but vocal group of wealthier residents who have been aggressively campaigning to have those services shut down: back off.

“The downtown east belongs to all those who live here. It is not the exclusive playground of the area’s wealthier residents, even though some of them want it to be,” says Gaetan Heroux, a community worker and OCAP member who has spent over three decades working with poor and homeless people in the area.

In recent months, the resident group, which controls the Cabbagetown South Residents’ Association, has escalated its campaign against two critical services homeless people in the area rely on: the Street Health community clinic, and the Margaret’s homeless respite centre.

The Association already successfully lobbied the Ford government to terminate provincial funding for the Street Health’s overdose prevention site. The site saved 52 lives in its first year of operation. Not satisfied, the Association is now collaborating with the notorious Toronto Sun columnist Sue Ann Levy in its campaign to have the clinic and the homeless site either shut down or relocated to another part of the city.

Sue Ann Levy has since published a series of columns denigrating poor and homeless people in the area and attacking the clinic and homeless respite as “enablers” of disorder in the neighbourhood. The articles feature anecdotal, and often unsubstantiated, claims from residents that caricature homeless people as dirty, drug addicted and dangerous. Levy also takes pictures of homeless people and posts them on Twitter, often with degrading commentary.

“Dundas and Sherbourne is in a crisis caused by Toronto’s deadly housing crisis and rising poverty. Its victims are not the property owners in the area. Its victims are the poor and homeless people who deal with the relentless strain caused by the shortage of shelter space, crushing poverty, and the hopelessness of the housing market. To attack the two life-support services they rely on shows a vicious disregard for their lives,” says Yogi Acharya, an organizer with OCAP.

“The City can transform Dundas and Sherbourne into a vibrant neighbourhood by building rent-geared-to-income housing and expanding social services. Such a transformation would include the area’s most marginalized people and result in a healthy inclusive community. Spreading bigotry and suspicion only escalates tensions and divides the community further. We’re asking people to choose the former,” adds Heroux.

Response to Ford’s Cancellation of the TCB Cuts

The Ford government has backed down from its plan to eliminate the Transition Child Benefit. The benefit, which provides food and clothing allowance for 32,000 of Ontario’s poorest children, was scheduled to be cut on November 1. Families surviving on social assistance and struggling to put food on the table were set to lose up to 30% of their income. The attempted cut was widely condemned by municipalities, faced a legal challenge, and triggered a community mobilization.

The government’s last minute decision to cancel the cut is a welcome reprieve, but it comes after months of subjecting poor families to brutal anxiety over their ability to take care of their children. The government is reportedly also cancelling its plan to increase the clawback of the earned income of people on social assistance, and is fuelling speculation about whether it will go through with its promised tightening of the definition of disability in January.

Ford is following a troubling pattern with changes to social assistance. Upon coming to power, the Conservatives immediately cut a planned increase in rates by half, cancelled a series of scheduled positive reforms, and announced a 100-day review of social assistance. The move sent chills through poor communities. The distressing months that followed were full of wild speculations about the extent of cuts that could be implemented.

More than 400 days later, the government still hasn’t revealed the results of its review. Instead, in late 2018, it signalled that social assistance would increasingly become more restrictive, but offered few details, and said changes would be implemented over an 18 month period. The move offered short-term relief to some, but prolonged the agony for most. A year later, he has suddenly cancelled two planned regressive changes, but has effectively shifted attention away from the fact that for the first time in years, people on social assistance will not receive any increase to their sub-poverty incomes this year.

Ford’s record makes clear he intends to gut income and social services further and create a climate of desperation where people scramble for the lowest paid jobs. But the populist premier’s approval ratings have plummeted and he has become a liability for the federal Conservatives vying for power. In this context, the rollback of some of the cuts to social assistance is evidence that his austerity measures can be beaten back. But given there won’t always be the spectre of a federal election in the background, we must build a serious social mobilization capable of haunting his administration and grinding its austerity measures to a halt. We are committed to doing so and fighting to raise social assistance rates, join us.

No Food For You: Ford’s Attack On Ontario’s Children

Thursday, September 26 | 6pm-8pm | CRC, 40 Oak Street
[Free event with meal, childminding, wheelchair access, and tokens]
Facebook Event

On November 1, Doug Ford’s government will eliminate food and clothing allowance for 32,000 of Ontario’s poorest children. The cut is a result of the cancellation of the Transition Child Benefit, which provides parents on social assistance up to $230 per month per child to take care of their kids. For a single parent with two kids on Ontario Works, the cut represents a loss of 30% of their already sub-poverty income.

Ford says he’s cutting the benefit because only people on social assistance get it. That’s like closing soup kitchens because only the poor use them. The cut is about scaling back Ontario’s social safety net and expanding the pool of workers in vulnerable situations who are forced to accept rock bottom wages and bad working conditions created by Ford’s corporate pals. It will also strip children seeking refuge in Canada of critical income support.

This government is prepared to subject Ontario’s poorest parents and children to hunger and destitution to further its goals. Ford’s viciousness will only escalate unless it met with serious opposition. Let’s build it, join us.

Speaker: Jackie Esmonde, Income Security Advocacy Centre

Jackie Esmonde is a staff lawyer at the Income Security Advocacy Centre, a member of OPSEU Local 5118, and a member of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.

Expropriate 214-230 Sherbourne: Outdoor Film Screening

Friday, Aug 23 | 8:30pm | 230 Sherbourne St.
Dinner Provided | Facebook Event

OCAP is fighting to stop the sale of 214-230 Sherbourne – a series of 7 vacant properties at the southwest corner of Dundas and Sherbourne – to condo developers. Instead, we’ve proposed a plan that would build between 150 to 260 units of public-owned rent-geared-to-income housing on that land. The fight won’t be easy, but we can take inspiration from battles of the past and present.

So join us for an outdoor summer movie screening, complete with dinner and popcorn, at the site as we feature short films that profile resistance that stopped evictions and forced the City to build public housing.

Note: The event will be postponed in case of rain.

HSF Case Victory & Community Advisory

This past week we successfully fought the denial of a Housing Stabilization Fund (HSF) application that replicated past patterns of arbitrary decision making. The applicant contacted us after having their requests for last month’s rent, moving expenses and furniture denied. The decision letter cited the applicant being “currently housed” as the reason for denial. It is absurd for a fund designed to “prevent homelessness” to deny emergency housing assistance to people on the basis that they aren’t yet homeless. It is also against the HSF’s administration policies which identify three criteria for the fund, two of which rely on the applicant being housed. In this case the applicant was seeking assistance to move to an apartment with lower rent.


Following OCAP’s intervention, the decision was reversed and the applicant was provided the full amount they were entitled to. But the case brings up concerns about the ongoing arbitrary decision making by Toronto Employment and Social Services.

In 2016 and 2017, we uncovered and exposed a series of problems in the administration of the fund through our report and subsequent actions. The fight resulted in substantial changes to the benefit (you can read our analysis of the changes here), one significant one being that after years of secrecy, the fund’s administrator – the Toronto Employment and Social Services (TESS), was forced to release the HSF administration policy publicly. This greatly increased people’s ability to challenge unjust denials.

In summary, if your application for HSF is denied:

1. Check the HSF policy online to determine what you are entitled to.

2. Contact your local community legal clinic, or

3. Get in touch with us.

No Freedom to Hate: Resisting Racism

Thursday, July 18 | 6pm – 8pm | CRC, 40 Oak St.
[Free event with meal, childminding, wheelchair access and tokens]
Facebook event

The resurgence of the far-right has intensified existing racism in society. Violence and hate crimes against Jews and Muslims have been particularly notable in their brazenness. The perpetrators of this hatred draw inspiration from, and in turn form the enthusiastic base of, politicians like Doug Ford, Jason Kenney, Andrew Scheer, Maxime Bernier and others.

Such politicians favour dog-whistles over explicit racism to signal their support for racist ideas while trying to remain acceptable to the broader public. The result is a bizarre reversal where the incitement of hate is justified as free speech and opposition to it is panned as intolerance.

Our best shot at defeating the escalating attacks on everything from our income, housing, to our very existence lies in unity. But in order to build it, we must understand how hate is being mobilized to grow division, recognize how it infiltrates our lives, and learn to challenge it effectively.

Speakers: Azeezah Kanji, Daniel Karasik and Cedar

Azeezah is a legal analyst and writer based in Toronto. She is also the director of programming at the Noor Cultural Centre.

Daniel is an organizer with IfNotNow Toronto, a writer, and co-facilitator of the new network Artists For Climate & Migrant Justice and Indigenous Sovereignty.

Cedar is a Hamilton-based activist who was recently arrested for speaking out about police complicity in enabling far-right violence.

This event is part of OCAP’s monthly Speakers Series. It’s where we discuss issues critical to the success of poor people’s movements.

Launched: Development Proposal for 214-230 Sherbourne

Download Report | Media: CP24 | CTV | Toronto Star | CBC
Deputations to Planning & Housing Committee: Here & Here

We launched our community-driven development proposal for building public housing at 214-230 Sherbourne at city hall yesterday, July 3, 2019. The report that lays out the plan for building between 150 to over 260 units of rent-geared-to-income housing at the site can be downloaded here. The proposal is a product of a collaboration between OCAP, the Open Architecture Collaborative Toronto (OACTo), and allied academics, and activists. It’s design was informed by feedback provided by nearly 100 people in sessions organized in Regent Park, and at the All Saints church drop-in centre. The proposal can radically transform Dundas and Sherbourne into a vibrant community by including its most vulnerable residents, rather than at their expense.

It’s a vision we will fight for, join us.

        

A Development Proposal For 214-230 Sherbourne: Launch

Wednesday, July 3 | 9am | City Hall, Outside Committee Room 1 (2nd floor)
Toronto Star article
Press conference at 9am, deputations to Planning and Housing Committee at 9:30am

Following months of work, the collaboration between OCAP, the Open Architecture Collaborative Toronto (OACTo), and allied academics and activists has achieved its goal: creating a development proposal with the potential to radically transform Dundas and Sherbourne for the benefit of its most vulnerable residents, rather than at their expense.

Hand-scaled model of the development proposal.

Join us tomorrow to support the launch of the final report, to unveil the hand-scaled model of the proposed development, and to demand that council start by expropriating the properties.

The proposal lays out plans for building between 150 to over 260 units of publicly-owned rent-geared-to-income units to house poor and homeless people at 214-230 Sherbourne Street, a series of seven vacant properties steps from the southwest intersection of Dundas and Sherbourne. The final design for the site was informed by design feedback sessions organized in the Regent Park and the Dundas and Sherbourne area, with nearly 100 people offering feedback on four aspects of the development proposal: overall building form, ground floor programs, public space qualities, and domestic space qualities.

214-230 Sherbourne have been a historic part of Toronto’s poor and working class people living and dying at Dundas and Sherbourne. We will fight to make sure these properties will also be part of their future. Join us.