Report Back: Mass Delegation to End HSF Discrimination

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This past Wednesday, October 12, we led a mass delegation into Toronto City Hall to demand that the City immediately cease implementing the discriminatory aspects of the HSF policies, change them, and add $13 million to the fund to meet the need. Approximately fifty of us gathered in front of City Hall to bring our demands directly to the members of City Council responsible for this unjust and abusive situation. See more pictures of the action here, here and here.

After speakers set out our demands and intentions, we marched into the building and made straight for the office of Mayor John Tory.  We were met at the doors of the office by Tory’s representative and, of course, security staff.  We were told that the City is preparing a consultation meeting, on October 20, to seek input into the HSF and how it is being implemented.  We reminded them [see video] that two such consultations have already been held and nothing has changed as a result of them. We demanded that they stop denying the HSF unfairly, providing reduced amounts without cause and that they end the discriminatory policies they have in place that penalize disabled people and those with families. We informed them that if they bring forward real improvements in the HSF we’d be happy to consult with them but we would not legitimize a farce designed to delay such urgently needed measures. Having delivered this message, our delegation circled the rotunda of City Hall, loudly putting forward our demands to make sure the bureaucrats and politicians understand this fight would only end when #HSFJustice is won.

On October 8, we released a new report, Left in the Lurch: The Destabilizing Reality of Toronto’s Housing Stabilization Fund, which exposed how the City is systematically discriminating against disabled people and families with children in its administration of the Housing Stabilization Fund (HSF). The practice affects over 30,000 social assistance recipients who apply to the fund each year.

Since the Ontario Government eliminated the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB) and downloaded the responsibility onto local governments in 2013, poor people across the province have had to try and contend with patchwork of inadequate local programs.  People in need and their advocates have found Toronto’s HSF to be a flawed system that utterly fails to provide those on the verge of homelessness with any real protection.  Earlier this year, OCAP fought and won a long battle to ensure that Laura Bardeau and her family weren’t left without bedding and furniture after they were denied access to the HSF.  Since then, we joined with the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, in preparing the ‘Left in the Lurch’ report which details the arbitrary treatment, opaque policies and outright discrimination towards disabled people and families that plagues the City’s administration of the HSF.

These gross violations built into the HSF policies can’t be allowed to stay in place. A housing fund that prevents homelessness and enables people to obtain homes to live in is a matter of vital necessity and we intend to win it.

Media Coverage of the action & the report:

Inside Toronto | Radio-Canada | Toronto Star