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.

Speakers Series: Bursting at the Seams: Film Screening & Talk

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Thursday, February 16 | 6pm | CRC (40 Oak Street) | Facebook Event
Free Event with a meal, childcare, wheelchair access and tokens
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Join us for our monthly speakers series focusing on topics central to poor people’s issues and organizing. A new topic is presented every month and all events are open to the public. Come on out, invite your friends and please share widely!

This month’s topic is: Bursting at the Seams

Bursting at the Seams is the title of a 20-minute film on the crisis of brutal overcrowding in Toronto’s homeless shelters. We premiered the movie outside Mayor John Tory’s luxury condominium in November. Mayor Tory is now proposing a further cut to shelters and housing, which will have serious consequences. The cuts can be reversed and we can fight Tory’s austerity agenda.

Come join us, watch the movie, learn about the problems with the City’s so-called “Housing-First” policies that are, counter-intuitively, fueling the crisis, and hear updates on the fight to win desperately needed shelter and housing for everyone.

Speakers: Beric German and Yogi Acharya

Beric German is a long-time anti-poverty activist, a member of OCAP and, previously, the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee.

Yogi Acharya is an organizer with OCAP.

Come for the meal at 6pm and stay for what promises to be a a very informative and engaging session!

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

Rally & March for Homeless Shelters

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Thursday, December 15 | 4:00pm | Toronto City Hall Square
[Meal Provided] [Queen & Bay, near Osgoode or Queen station]
Note: Please let us know if you need ASL translation by December 10 by emailing or calling us.

Toronto’s homeless shelter system is bursting at the seams. This is a city that drips with wealth yet abandons homeless people to die on the streets or face conditions of brutal overcrowding that denies them basic dignity and jeopardizes their health.

All summer long homeless shelters have been packed, and now as we head into winter, there is real risk that even survival spaces like the Warming Centres and Out of the Cold facilities won’t be able to handle the overflow.

The City must stop cutting shelter beds in the central core, and open new space now if are to avoid tragedies this winter.

Join us for a rally & march to make sure the City opens desperately needed shelter space now.