OCAP's response to John Tory;
Please Keep up the Calls & Emails to the Mayor's Office!
December 15, 2014
Mayor John Tory,
Toronto City Hall,
Delivered by Hand
Thank you for your December 12th letter. Unfortunately, we can’t consider it a sufficient response. You stress the importance of adequate shelter but offer only some indications of potential improvements at some point in 2015. What we sought to convey to you was the fact that you have taken over the Mayor’s job in a situation of acute crisis for homeless people in this City. We demand immediate action.
Due to a complete failure to implement binding policies with regard to shelter occupancy, the system is operating at intolerable and life threatening levels of overcrowding. This remains so even with the privately run “Out of the Cold” programs absorbing significant numbers. The failure to follow through on a drop-in space for women and trans people, puts lives at risk right now. At a time when gender-based violence and sexual assault has gripped National attention, you have it in your power to implement a service that would greatly reduce the likelihood of violence done to women and trans people in this city. It is simply not enough to say that the Deputy Mayor will be looking into this, or that the January meeting of Council will be considering options for next year. Lives are on the line. This is an emergency situation and should be treated as such.
As a new Mayor who has spoken of the need for a ‘unified City’, we are calling on you to give the question of adequate shelter and safe space full and immediate attention. With all due respect to Councillor McConnell, we repeat our call for you to personally meet with a community delegation and ensure that a fitting response to this crisis be rapidly developed. It really seems very little to ask that, while this City enjoys the Holiday period, its homeless residents should have their basic dignity and safety taken care of. At the very minimum, shelters ought to be operating at or below 90% occupancy.
Thank you for your attention to this matter
The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
This Monday, Dec. 15th, let John Tory and your local city councillors know that you demand action on improving housing and shelter conditions in Toronto. Call or email your local councillor or contact Tory himself!
We believe that all people are entitled to decent, safe, accessible and affordable shelter regardless of immigration status. We demand that the city quit stalling, and do something to advance the health and safety of people living in poverty in this city. Call in to express your support for the immediate opening of the 24-hour drop in space for women and trans people in Toronto. Voice your concern for the increasing numbers of people turned away from shelters each night. More lives are at risk every day. In avoiding these issues, the city is failing to prevent avoidable incidents of violence and death. We believe that this is utterly and completely unacceptable.
What you can do:
On Monday Dec. 15th, from 1pm until 5 pm, call or email your local councillor's office and express your concern for the lack of attention to the homelessness crisis in the city.
+Express your support for the immediate opening of the 24-hour drop in space
+Demand that the city fulfill it's own promise to keep shelter rates at 90%.
+Demand action now!
Below you will find a complete list of Toronto city councillors and their contact information.
Call or email your councillor. Call or email Tory. Then call or email another councillor!
The City must take action to deal with the desperate overcrowding in the shelter system. Please stand by to support action to make sure this letter is not ignored!
The Daily Shelter Census that was issued by the City, on December 2, reveals a deepening homeless crisis. The Co-ed shelters are reported at 99% capacity, those for women at 95% and the family shelters show 97%. The average across the system is put at 93% but this significantly understates the problem. If you remove the family motels from the calculation (they are, after all, inaccessible to most seeking shelter), the average rises to 95.4%. Moreover, these estimates include ‘flex beds’, placed in common areas, that only compound the overcrowding problem. What’s more, the bed count on which these figures are based, is taken at 11.00 PM and omits any consideration of all those who were turned away earlier in the evening. Nor can we forget that the whole system is in fact being augmented by overstretched 'Out of the Cold' initiatives that exist simply by virtue of the City’s failure to provide basic shelter to the homeless.
The following letter has been sent to the City official ultimately responsible for unleashing the disgraceful police operation on Tuesday against OCAP members and supporters demanding safe space and shelter for the homeless. We will not be intimidated, much less silenced, by such tactics and incoming Mayor, John Tory, will soon have these issues brought to his attention.
Phillip Abrahams, General Manager,
Shelter Support and Housing Administration, City of Toronto
Following the events that took place on Tuesday, we wish to convey our outrage at the deplorable way our members and supporters were treated and to inform you that we hold you responsible for this.
Picture from Today's Action:
While the shelters are overcrowded and there is still no after-hours
drop-in for women and trans people in Toronto, the City chose to violently
arrest 5 women rather than open safe space now. The City has acknowledged
that there is a serious issue with the lack of shelter space and need for
the drop-in yet it does nothing. It is cold and will only get colder. More
people will get sick or even die on the streets because of their inaction.
Women are being sexually assaulted on an ongoing basis with no safe space
to go yet bureaucratic stalling has delayed the drop-in that Council
Those arrested have all been released from police custody and are facing
charges of mischief and trespass. They will be in court for first
appearance shortly. More details to follow about supporting those arrested.
The fight for shelter and safe space continues.
Issues of violence against women have been getting a lot more attention in the news than usual in the past few weeks. In these conversations you sometimes hear reference to survivors as ‘educated’ or as ‘public figures’. The media emphasis on the class standing of survivors implies that certain lives and stories of violence are more ‘believable’ (just barely) – while others can be more easily dismissed.
November 25th is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. For the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty it marks one year since the demand for a 24 hour women and trans drop-in was launched in Toronto. This followed the assault of a homeless woman, twice in one night, while sleeping on some steps at the corner of Dundas and Sherbourne. That incident, and the subsequent reaction by many (including police) to dismiss the woman, assuming she was ‘trading sex for drugs’ - is sadly not shocking and all too common for women on the streets.
Tuesday, November 25th @ 12noon
*Rally, Meal and Action
George Hislop Park north end: Charles St (between Yonge and Church)
Click here for a map
Join the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and allies this coming November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, to fight for:
- 24 Hour women and trans drop-ins NOW
- Open Shelters: real beds, not flex beds!
- Safe, affordable, and accessible HOUSING FOR ALL!
Messages of Solidarity from some of our allies in Quebec & Britain-
"The tenants of the working class neighbourhoods in the Southwest of Montréal are with you in spirit on November 25th for your important day of action in defense of street-associated populations. We'll be tweeting John Tory to let him know that in Toronto and elsewhere, the private market can never meet the needs of tenants, and that many eyes are watching him!
Fred Burrill, Organisateur communautaire
"DPAC are sending solidarity to comrades in OCAP campaigning to save the lives of homeless people who are being denied shelter in freezing winter temperatures by rich politicians and bureaucrats. We will be joining in your campaign via twitter and highlighting the problems faced in Canada as well as in the UK"
You may already have heard about the November 25 action that OCAP is organizing to demand that the City of Toronto deal with the dangerous crisis of overcrowding within its homeless shelter system. As part of this action, we'll be sending the included open letter to Mayor elect John Tory; Organizations that wish to to sign onto the letter please email us at ocap[at]tao.ca and we'll include you as a signer. INDIVIDUALS PLEASE CLICK HERE to SIGN the ONLINE PETITION
Our fantastic allies Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) in the UK are helping to support our November 25 action against the abandonment of Toronto's homeless. After at least 100 people have signed onto this a list of tweets directed at Mayor elect John Tory, which will be sent out at noon on the day of our action so that calls for him to act on shelter overcrowding and drop in space for homeless women will come in from across Canada and internationally.
Please also sign onto this and help make sure that the action on the streets gets a nice echo on social media!
Dear Mr. Tory:
On December 2, you will become the Mayor of Toronto. By then, we shall be facing the onset of a winter that is predicted to be especially severe and you will be the Chief Magistrate of a city that does not have in place a basic infrastructure to provide even bare shelter for those who are facing homelessness.
Doubtless you will have a fairly substantial 'to do list' in front of you as you take on your new responsibilities but we'd like to suggest that responding to the homeless crisis should be the most urgent priority of all. We say this not simply because lives are at stake, although this is certainly the case with the Homeless Memorial marking three more tragic deaths this month. We also drive home this point because, as far as we are concerned, a City that is ready to abandon human beings to destitution as winter sets in can't be trusted to meet any social needs with any diligence.
We are circulating the statement below for endorsement by agencies, anti-poverty groups, unions, and other allies. Please forward it widely.
To add your name to the list of endorsing organizations, please contact Parkdale Community Legal Services 416-531-2411 ext. 248 or email@example.com
We are encouraging groups to take up this issue as part of the
Raise the Rates provincial Week of Action, Oct. 13-17
For more information:
like Raise the Rates on Facebook
Stepped Up ODSP Medical Reviews Will Mean Improper Denial and Needless Hardship
During the recent Provincial Election, Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals distanced themselves from the crude right wing ideas of the Hudak Tories by pointing to their ‘progressive’ Provincial Budget over which the election was fought. In fact, this document is not quite the road map to ‘social justice’ it claims to be.
What the Liberals actually set out in their Budget plan is a multi-year blueprint to cut the spending for government programs in Ontario. If you take into account inflation and population increases, the Budget actually represents a commitment to shrink services and reduce deficits on the backs of those least able to afford the cost. Those on Ontario Works (OW) and ODSP will receive a 1% increase below the rate of inflation that will see them fall deeper into poverty. The vital Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit, that people used to obtain or retain housing, will not be restored. Low wage workers will see the minimum wage indexed to inflation but kept at a level that condemns them to working poverty. While the poor fall further behind, landlords are allowed to increase their rents at or above the rate of inflation and billions of dollars that the ‘cash strapped’ Government could use to reduce its deficit are handed to wealthy corporations in the form of tax breaks.