Cuts Cost Lives: OCAP Action at City Council 2014 Budget

CUTS COST LIVES: Housing Stabilization Fund (HSF) Must Be Saved!
*OCAP takes action at City Council Budget Debate

*See pictures here: https://twitter.com/OCAPtoronto

When: Wednesday, January 29th, 10am
Where: Toronto City Council

OCAP has come to the Council Chambers at Toronto City Hall to demand that plans to gut the Housing Stabilization Fund (HSF) in the 2014 budget be overturned. A cut of $4.3 million has been proposed.

The HSF, the City’s replacement to the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB) that the Ontario Liberal Government eliminated, plays a vital role in our communities. Through it, people who are homeless, people who are coming out of institutions, or women leaving situations of domestic violence, are able to obtain
housing. By accessing this fund, people facing the loss of their housing are able to save themselves from being dumped on the streets. Individuals and families who have suffered fires and floods or who lack basic household items are able to access the HSF.

2014 City Budget: Toronto Community Organizations & Agencies Demand Action on Homelessness

To City of Toronto Council Members:
cc.  Shelter Support and Housing Administration

(You can download a PDF of this letter here!)(Also, see petition at bottom to stop cut to HSF!)

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014. In the lead up to the 2014 Budget.
 
We, the undersigned represent community agencies and organizations in the City of Toronto who are concerned with the ongoing homelessness crisis in our city.  We are writing to you to urge you to take action now.
 
As you are aware, City Council voted to bring shelter occupancy rates down to 90% more than 9 months ago, but have failed to keep their promise.  Capacity for all shelters remains well over 90% in almost all sectors, even with the use of the flex beds, and the overall overcrowding or worsening conditions have not been adequately addressed.
 
We call on you as City Councilors to support the motions and directions set at the December 4, 2013 Community Development and Recreation Committee. 

Stop Violence Against Women in Toronto’s Downtown East


Important update: series of assaults, lack of police response, fighting for - and winning - shelter and drop-in space.

Over the recent December holidays, there were multiple sexual assaults against women reported to police in the Downtown East, allegedly done by one man. Once again, like the case earlier in the fall (http://update.ocap.ca/node/1115), there has been no media attention and no public warnings to women. So once again, OCAP women organized a community based response. We made and put up over 300 posters, canvassed, and talked directly to many people in the neighborhood. (See Here for a copy of the more recent poster - please feel free to print and post).

We know that when women live in low income communities the response for our safety is of even less importance. There are multiple ways in which women can be alerted to sexual assaults in their neighbourhoods and these continue to not be utilized. We are already vigilant, we are forced to be, and when we know there is a predator in our neighbourhoods, and especially when there is an image and description of them, we can be even more so. Police over-police our neighbourhoods when it comes to drugs or ways that they criminalize us - they have a billion dollar budget and can't find the "resources" to canvass our neighbourhoods? Can't find the resources to alert women and agencies in the neighborhood when sexual assaults are occurring? They don't care about our safety and they demonstrate this every time sexual assaults occur and they do nothing to alert us.

Appeal for Mats, Sleeping Bags & Blankets

Friends and Allies,

As you may be aware, OCAP has recently had a small victory in forcing the
City of Toronto to open Metro Hall as a Warming Centre for people during
cold alerts
(see here: http://ocap.ca/node/1123). However, it appears the City is, so far, not willing to make the Warming Centre as warm and welcoming as it should be.

Last week as temperatures dipped close to -40, the Warming centre was
nothing more than a roped off area with a few hard chairs and no signs, no
cots or mats, and no screens for privacy. Only after pressure did the City
provide some blankets, but they did not allow hot food to be donated by
individuals or organizations, let alone provide it themselves. The city is
apparently afraid to let homeless people sleep with comfort at Metro Hall
for what that says about the overcrowded shelter system. In the mean time,
people were using backpacks and blankets to lie on under florescent lights
and in clear view of anyone walking by, eating cold granola bars and tea.

This Warming Centre for the homeless is drastically different than the
Warming Centres opened for those who lost power during the ice storm where
cots, blankets, showers and hot food were provided. This shows a massive
disparity and view of 'comfort' for those who are homeless and all around
lack of fair treatment.

During the next cold alert, OCAP intends to push the city on this matter
and as such we will be bringing these necessities to people who are using
the Warming Centre at Metro Hall.

Under Pressure, City of Toronto opens Warming Centre at Metro Hall!

We just received confirmation that the City of Toronto will be opening a Warming Centre this evening, Monday, January 6th, at Metro Hall at 55 John St.

We are told that Metro Hall will be open 24 hours until the cold alert is off, people are welcome to bring pets, there will be hot drinks and TTC tokens. This small but important victory that comes after much pressure from the community and supportive Councillors.

Over the next 24 hours, the temperature in Toronto is expected to drop dramatically with an extreme cold weather alert having already been issued. For those without a safe and warm place to go, extreme weather is especially dangerous, and often times, deadly. Warming centres were opened up in the after math of the ice storm for those who lost power in their homes - the City failed until today to provide warming centres for people that are homeless.

Warming centres are a very simple stop-gap measure in a sea of inadequacies for the City to put in place to ensure some respite from the cold and to take actual concrete measures against the risk of freezing deaths on our streets.