Memorial for Another Life Lost to Shelter Overcrowding

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Sunday, February 17 | 5pm | Mayor John Tory’s Condo (1 Bedford Road)
[Bedford and Bloor, Outside St.George Subway Station] | Facebook Event

After months of ignoring the alarm bells raised by homeless people and their allies, and on the same night that Mayor John Tory pushed through a further 2.6% cut to the shelter system, a deadly tragedy people fought so hard to prevent was unfolding on the streets. On Wednesday night, as City Council passed a budget that further gutted a system already bursting at the seams, a 28 year old indigenous man was trying to get into a warming centre in Kensington Market. He was told the centre was, yet again, full and that he could only be placed on a waiting list. Denied even the most basic shelter from the elements, he died a few hours later in what may have been a fentanyl overdose. We know, however, that this young man, whose identity is not being revealed at this time, died because he had been driven out onto the streets because of official negligence and by the City’s utter disregard for the lives of the homeless.

One homeless person dies in Toronto every ten days. Yet, the City continues to under-fund and under-resource shelters and boards up thousand of public housing units. It refuses to meet occupancy targets that allow homeless people even the most basic assurance of survival. In a city with sky-high rents and declining social assistance rates, the misery of the poor and homeless is not a surprise but has been willfully created and must be ended.  

On Sunday, we will gather in front of John Tory’s $2.4 million luxury condo to remember the man whose life was taken so cruelly and needlessly. Our tribute to him will take the form, though, of fighting for the living and demanding that no one else be allowed to perish through the kind of the shameful neglect that caused this death. Please bring flowers, candles and other symbols of respect and mourning. We will lay them where they deserve to be laid, at John Tory’s doorstep.

Picket Challenges Mayor John Tory and his Austerity Agenda

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On February 9, Mayor John Tory came to the pro-business CD Howe Institute to tell them all about the austerity he is imposing on poor and homeless people in Toronto. A strong OCAP picket was gathered outside to give him the welcome he deserved.

As this City faces a wide array of cutbacks and service reductions, as they prepare to board up desperately needed public housing for lack of repairs, as services for homeless people are gutted and, as the conditions of overcrowding in the shelters go beyond the level of a crisis, John Tory will be pocketing a 2.1% increase in his ample salary. He is a Mayor who is building a neoliberal city in which all but his rich friends are pushed to the margins and in which a war on the poor is ramped up.

Our picket was loud and not to the liking of the business crowd trying to make their way in to hear Tory’s speech. Some managed to get through and others gave up in dismay. Tory himself delayed his entry but was finally rushed in through a side entrance with a strong force of cops to clear his path, pushing someone down in the process. A Mayor who talks of ‘inclusiveness,’ came out to address rich people with an escort of cops to protect him from the poor.

The days when John Tory could pose as anything other than a political representative of the developers and moneybags are over. Our picket was an indication of the movement against him and all he stands for that is emerging in Toronto. Our fight against his agenda of poverty and his abandonment of the homeless will continue. Fight to win!

John Tory’s Lies Cost Lives

80 people have died in the last two years as a direct result of homelessness in Toronto. That’s one homeless person dying every 10 days. In 1985, people fighting homelessness started keeping track of these senseless, and entirely preventable deaths. Since that time, they’ve recorded over 800 deaths—lives sacrificed in service of a perverse economic logic that demands ever more cuts from the destitute and grants ever more comforts to the rich. Talk to anyone who has used the City’s emergency shelter system, or anyone who works with people using shelters, and a grim picture emerges of chronic overcrowding, bug infested dormitories, the recurrent spread of contagious diseases, and the perpetual lack of sufficient beds.

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Open Letter to Mayor John Tory

From the Members of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty: February 1, 2017

Mayor Tory:

We have learned that, in the lead up to the austerity Budget that you and your co-thinkers on the City Council are working on, you will be speaking at the pro-business C.D. Howe Institute on February 9. We intend to be there as well to deliver a clear message.

Toronto is a City of huge wealth. There are whole neighbourhoods of very rich people and banking and corporate interests are headquartered here. Yet, the revenue that could be obtained from the properties of such people is scandalously disregarded. Now, you embark on a course that will cut vital services across the board.

In the face of your impending attack, we demand:

  • No cuts to Toronto Community Housing. No more homes can be boarded up when the waiting list for housing is so vast. Increase funding to the vital Housing Stabilization Fund (HSF) to prevent people losing their housing and enable them to obtain it.
  • No cuts to the homeless shelter system and related supports. Expand life saving warming centre and drop in services.
  • Enforce the 90% maximum occupancy shelter policy, stop closing facilities in the central area of the City and, as an immediate emergency measure to deal with the appalling crisis of overcrowding in the shelters, open the federal armouries to the homeless.

The unprecedented austerity measures you are imposing on communities in this City make a farce of your claim function in an ‘inclusive’ fashion. You are conducting a war on the poor that is harsh and brutal and we intend to give a lead on the 9th in terms of building resistance to your attacks.

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP)

No Cuts to Shelters & Housing

Rally and Picket to Fight Tory’s Hypocrisy: Thursday, February 9 | 11am | 67 Yonge Street [Just south of King St] [Food Provided]
Facebook Event | Stop Tory’s Hypocrisy! | Download Poster | Download Flyer
Read our open letter to Mayor Tory | John Tory’s Lies Cost Lives

On February 9, John Tory will be speaking at the C.D Howe Institute, a right-wing think-tank dedicated to the needs of the rich. He will be assuring Toronto’s wealthy that the budget he has in store for 2017 will benefit them.

We don’t doubt it will be, and we know full well what it will do to the poor and working class people of this city. Built within his austerity budget is a devastating cut to the already failing Shelter, Support and Housing administration. This in a context where homeless shelters are bursting at the seams, rents are sky high, it takes more than 10 years to get public housing, and rooming houses are being sold off to greedy developers.

Tory won’t stop until we make him.

On February 9, join us to make sure Budget 2017 isn’t a death sentence for people on the streets, and a push onto the streets for the thousands of other desperately holding onto housing with their fingernails. #FightToWin

As TCH homes are boarded up, Toronto’s homeless shelters are bursting at the seams

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Toronto Community Housing will board up roughly 425 homes this year because the money needed to carry out basic repairs has not been provided. Things are expected to get much worse next year and 7,500 homes are at risk of closure by 2023, with an additional 17,500 in critical condition. Read the CBC and Toronto Star‘s coverage of the issue.

As they close down vitally needed public housing, there are an astounding 177,000 people on the waiting list, with low vacancy rates and soaring rents shutting tenants out of the private market. At the same time, hundreds of Regent Park residents are at risk of not being able to return to their homes because funding to proceed with the third stage of the ‘revitalization’ of their community is not available. In this situation, the City’s homeless shelters are full to overflowing, with people forced to sleep on the streets, even in the depths of winter.

As the developers throw up ever more overpriced condos, the basic right to decent affordable housing is denied to tens of thousands of people. When we demand that City Hall adhere to its own policy and reduce shelter occupancy to a maximum level of 90%, the politicians and bureaucrats tell us that housing, and not shelters, are the solution. The obvious reality is that you can’t have a ‘housing first’ approach if you are not providing any housing and you certainly can’t do it if you are boarding up the inadequate supply of homes you could put people into.

With the shelter crisis at desperate levels and Mayor John Tory refusing to deal with the situation by opening up the federal armouries for the homeless, OCAP will soon be announcing action to bring the issue home to him and place the demand for shelter and real housing solutions before him.

Victory – City Forced to End HSF Discrimination

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We’ve won the fight to end the discrimination built into the Housing Stabilization Fund (HSF). Starting December 15, as long as someone is on social assistance, they will be eligible for HSF. The City will no longer count people’s disability benefits (such as the Special Diet), Canada Child Benefits, and their assets against them when applying for HSF.

The Toronto Employment and Social Services (TESS) announced the change at a City Council committee meeting on Tuesday, November 29. You can read their full report here. The change will have a major impact on all HSF applicants, but will particularly benefit  ODSP (disability social assistance) recipients  who faced a rejection rate of almost 50% last year.

We also forced the City to broaden the furniture people get under the HSF when they have bedbugs. This isn’t being expanded to all necessary furniture and household items as we demanded but will now include “soft furniture.” However, we don’t yet know when this portion of the policy will be implemented.

The struggle for HSF justice, however, isn’t over just yet. Some of the unjust parts of the policy remain intact (you can read about all of the problems with the HSF in our Left in the Lurch report). In addition to amending the eligibility criteria, TESS has signaled a bunch of other changes to the fund which currently have no details attached to them. These changes could be good, but they could also replicate the discrimination built into the HSF.

You can read our analysis of the proposed changes by downloading it here. Patricia Walcot, the General Manager of TESS said at the CDRC committee meeting on Tuesday that all changes will be in effect as of February 1. This means TESS will have to work out and release details about all proposed changes ahead of the January City Council meeting.

This has been a collective victory, including OCAP, Laura Bardeau who fought so hard for her rights, allied organizations, and the many people who wrote in or phoned city officials and came to protests.

We will be watching these changes closely and update you if we need to mobilize against them. #FightToWin