Is OCAP Really Being ‘Unfair?’
On Saturday, April 22, at 7.00PM, OCAP will be back in front of Mayor John Tory’s luxury condo at Bloor and Bedford to challenge the homeless crisis in Toronto. This time, we will bed down and stay for the night. Tory has previously accused us of being ‘unfair’ by bringing the fight to his private residence. At least two City Council members have taken the same position publicly. Sections of the media have been aghast that we would behave in this way. This being so, we wanted to put the following points on the record.
- We are not challenging some inconvenience or mild injustice but the lethal abandonment of homeless people to the streets. The shelters are bursting at the seams, the City is failing to implement its own policies with regard to occupancy levels and the back-up warming centes and volunteer-run Out of the Cold facilities have closed for the year. Homeless people have died this winter for lack of adequate shelter, they have suffered hypothermia on the cold streets, and their health and dignity have been assaulted. City Council has cut homeless services in the midst of this situation and made it clear that the needs and survival of homeless people are valued much less than the objectives of austerity and upscale redevelopment.
- John Tory can’t plausibly deny that he is fully aware of the reality of the crisis on the streets of this City. The threadbare denials and excuses that he and his administrators have put forward would convince no serious observer. Homeless people and their advocates, front line workers, medical providers and religious leaders have all provided him with abundant and compelling evidence of the gravity of the situation. He knows but chooses not to act.
- If we were dealing with a Mayor who, in good faith, was seeking to find solutions and take vitally necessary actions to deal with the crisis, we would be taking a very different approach. However, we have learned from bitter experience that ‘going through the proper channels’ is to disappear into a maze of political evasion and bureaucratic delay. Those who tell us we should be going the route of polite discourse and restrained tactics, may be prepared to accept the suffering and misery of the homeless but we are not. We look to maximize the pressure on the Mayor and, if our home visits make him uncomfortable, so much the better.
- We think that coming to the front door of Tory’s luxury dwelling is far from ‘unfair’ and that, in fact, it is entirely fitting and just as a course of action. The building he lives in is known as the ‘Tower of Power.’ If he and his well-to-do and well-connected neighbours are mildly inconvenienced by the actions, the discomfort is nothing compared to the impact on human lives of the failure to provide basic shelter from the elements or shelter conditions that are remotely humane and decent. If Tory wants us to be more ‘reasonable,’ he can tell his political co-thinkers and developer friends that he will meet the very basic demands we put forward in response to a desperate and worsening crisis of homelessness.
We will be bedding down in front of John Tory’s condo on April 22 and we make no apologies for our actions. In this wealthy City, the fact that people lack even shelter space, is a shame and a disgrace and we intend to challenge that even in the face of high placed disapproval.
Saturday, April 22 | 7pm-7am | Bloor & Bedford [Outside St.George Station]
Facebook Event | Dinner, Rally & Performers: 7pm – 9pm | Breakfast served at 6am
Don’t Miss the Beginning, Stay As Long As You Can
[ASL Interpreter on-site from 7pm-9pm, St.George is an accessible station]
Watch the Video Trailer | Download Flyer | Is OCAP being ‘unfair?’
Update: Read our article in the Now Magazine documenting how the city siphoned millions of dollars away from homelessness and homelessness prevention programs during this time of crisis.
It has been a terrible winter for Toronto’s homeless. The shelters have seen appalling levels of overcrowding and even the warming centres and drop ins have been hard pressed to deal with the numbers seeking a place of refuge. The overcrowding has caused four deaths and homeless people have been hospitalized with hypothermia.
Throughout these dreadful months, Mayor John Tory and the bureaucrats at City Hall have refused to open additional space. Now, the warming centres and volunteer-run ‘Out of the Cold’ facilities will be closing for the year. There will be even fewer options available to people trying to survive on streets. The City must open enough new spaces immediately to ensure that the policy of not running the shelters above 90% occupancy is actually in effect. They must ensure that enough low barrier and harm reduction spaces are available so that people can actually access the shelter system.
At this critical time, we are going back to John Tory’s multi-million condo home for a sleep out to drive home the need for shelters for the homeless in a City that drips with wealth. We will set up at 7.00 with a meal, speakers and entertainment. Come out and stay for as long as you can to help us win the right to shelter for those Tory and his friends are abandoning to the streets
What to bring: If you can, bring blankets, sleeping bags, and other things to keep yourself warm through the night. We’ll have sleeping bags with us for those who don’t have them. There will also be warm drinks and snacks throughout the night.
Contact us at ocap(at)tao.ca or call at 416-925-6939 for other accessibility concerns.
Last week, a twenty eight year old homeless indigenous man perished in Toronto, after staff at a drop in had to tell him that the facility was too overwhelmed to provide a place of shelter for the night.
For months, homeless people, advocates and service providers have been telling Mayor John Tory that the shelter system is hopelessly overcrowded and that a death was all but inevitable. We were so sure of this horrible reality in OCAP that we had a contingency plan to hold a memorial at Tory’s luxury condo in the event of a death. Last Sunday, we had to do just that.
Unbelievably, the response of the Mayor’s office to the tragedy has been to double down on the evasions. Rather than to open the federal armouries or some equivalent location, as the community had demanded, to try and save lives, Tory and his entourage have ducked and weaved to try and deflect the blame they can’t escape.
Is the Mayor of Toronto visiting your community? Call the John Tory Tip Line!
Last week, a homeless man died after an overwhelmed drop-in was not even able to offer him a mat on the floor. The place was so crowded that nine others could not be taken in that night.
Toronto’s shelter system is bursting at the seams and homeless people and their allies having been telling that to Mayor John Tory for months. He was warned that the level of overcrowding was life threatening and urged to open up the federal armouries to take the pressure off the system. He failed to act and a human life was lost. The lives of many others are at risk.
Despite this grim situation, the Mayor is still not taking the emergency action that is needed. Last weekend, we held a memorial for the man who died at Tory’s luxury condo. He didn’t like that much and he wasn’t supposed to. We want to increase the pressure and force him to open space.
We intend to confront John Tory as he goes about his round of Mayoral events, cutting ribbons and kissing babies. If he is coming to your community or you learn of a function he will be attending, please call OCAP at (416) 925-6939 or email us at email@example.com
Thanks for any and all tips and information.
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.
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.
From the Members of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty: February 1, 2017
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)