The December 4 meeting of the Community Development and Recreation Committee of Toronto City Council was very unlike one that might have taken place last year. The Administration acknowledged the serious problem of overcrowding in the City’s homeless shelters and politicians on the Committee put forward motions to reduce overcrowding and ensure that the basic right to shelter from the elements was respected.
Months after community mobilization forced the City Council to vote to apply a policy of keeping shelter occupancy at 90%, the only practical measure that had yet been taken to work towards this was the throwing down of 172 mats onto floors so as to cram more people into overcrowded shelters. However, OCAP and others in the community kept up the pressure and continued to build the challenge and we are now starting to win ground.
Breakfast and Rally
Where: Toronto City Hall, Bay and Queen,
When: Wednesday, December 4, 9.00 AM
Last winter, OCAP took action to challenge overcrowding in the shelters. The City responded by promising, in April, to ensure that their facilities would operate at a maximum occupancy of 90%.
They had the option to open up new space immediately. But instead the immediate response by Hostel Services was to lay down 'flex beds' and try and cram more people into the shelters. Even with this sad attempt to make the numbers look better, the City has failed for 8 consecutive months to abide by its own 90% capacity standard. The crowding is getting worse as the weather gets colder and the risk of street deaths increases.
On December 4th the Community Development and Recreation Committee of City Council is meeting once again. They will be receiving a report from their staff on measures to deal with the crisis in the shelters. OCAP and others in the community will be going to the Committee meeting to demand no further delays - the City must open more shelters immediately to ensure no one else has to die on the streets. Please come out and show the politicians we will not let them abandon homeless people. No more homeless deaths.
*Sign up to speak: tell the politicians about your experience of flex beds, overcrowding and conditions in the shelters. Contact OCAP if you are interested in speaking and we can add your name: 416-925-6939 / ocap[at]tao.ca
Toronto’s Shelter Administration has released a report (http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2013/cd/bgrd/backgroundfile-64009.pdf) that they will present to the Community Development and Recreation Committee (the City’s Committee responsible for shelters) this coming Wednesday, December 4th. This report is coming just as winter sets in and the actions that are taken in response to it are critical in addressing the crisis in the shelters. We know that the yearly Out of the Cold program (temporary charity based beds) are already at 111% - this speaks volumes about the overcrowding and conditions in the regular shelters. Measures that are included in the report include:
1. Flex beds. In April, the City Council called for shelter occupancy to be kept at no more than 90%. The ongoing use of flex beds has been employed to this end. These are essentially mats put down on the floor in common areas within the shelters that were previously for emergency use but have now become a common feature. The use of this arrangement to claim a reduction in shelter capacity is highly misleading and problematic. It simply means that more people are being crammed into overcrowded shelters. We must demand that flex beds not be used to conceal the problem in this way and that additional space be opened.
2. The report says that some additional bed spaces within the existing system will have been opened by the time the Committee meets. 8 in the women’s shelters, 14 in the men’s and 8 for single refugees.
Migrants in a maximum security prison in Lindsay Ontario have been on strike since September 17, 2013. They have refused to enter their cells, boycotted their detention reviews and have been on hunger strike - 2 of them for over 60 days. Striking detainees have been deported, locked up in segregation, denied medical services and transferred to other prisons.
These detainees represent about 600 migrants detained on any given day, nearly 10,000 detained by immigration enforcement in a year. Unlike international legal norms Canada has no limit on immigration detention. As a result, at least 60 of them have been in detention for over a year, some for up to 10 years, separated from their families, jobs and communities. A number of these migrants are facing double punishment - that is they are facing deportation based on prior criminal convictions even though they have already served prison sentences.
Inspired by their actions, we have formed the End Immigration Detention Network. Find updates about the campaign, and join us in support at www.endimmigrationdetention.com
To The City of Toronto, Shelter, Support and Housing Administration and to the Community Development and Recreation Committee:
We, the undersigned, represent many concerned women’s agencies, community organizations and advocates in the City that work with women every day.
We are writing on this 25th day of November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, to demand that the City take immediate action to address the shelter crisis and the tremendous violence experienced by homeless women every night.
As you are well aware, City Council voted to bring shelter occupancy rates down to 90% more than 7 months ago, but have failed to keep their promise. Instead of taking immediate and decisive action, the city has thrown some mats on floors of shelters and called them ‘flex beds’. Capacity for all shelters remains well over 90% in all sectors and there has been no additional shelter opened nor have the overcrowding or worsening conditions been addressed in any meaningful way.
1) Stop Violence Against Homeless Women
SAFE SPACE & SHELTER for WOMEN NOW!
Rally and Press Conference
When: Monday, November 25th, 2013: The International Day for the
Elimination of Violence Against Women
Where: Corner of Dundas St. East and Sherbourne St.
· Stop violence against homeless women!
· Demand safe space and shelter now!
· Demand accountability and action from City officials and police!
FACT: Homeless women are exposed to high levels of violence • 37% have been physically assaulted in the past year • 21% have been sexually assaulted one or more times in the past year (based on a 2008 study by Street Health & Sistering)
BACKGROUND: Too many women in our city are forced to sleep outside. Shelters are overcrowded and some nights women can’t even find a bed. On Sunday, September 22, 2013 a woman slept in a well-lit area near Dundas and Sherbourne. That night she was sexually assaulted two different times.
Friday, November 15th
Immigration Enforcement & Refugee Board Offices
74 Victoria Street, Toronto
Mohamed and Shyroz Walji and their daughter Qyzra had been trying to get permanent residency status in Canada for 15 years. Qyzra had cerebral palsy and the family was supported by a patchwork of help and donations. Rather than waiting for their forced deportation to Tanzania, the family was found dead in their London apartment earlier this month in an apparent murder - suicide.
Please join us for a vigil at sunset in support of the Walji's family and friends and to hold Immigration Canada and immigration enforcement accountable for what they and Canada's immigration system have done and continue to do to people.
We are full of tears and rage about an immigration system that would have families die rather than give them status. Join us as we remind the people that denied the Walji family status that they are literally forcing people to their deaths.
Below is an attachment of a letter & cover letter for MPPs asking for them to oppose any merger of ODSP and OW as proposed by the Lankin Sheikh Report. There is also a pledge for them to sign saying they would vote against any such a move if it were brought forward as a bill in the Ontario Legislature.
The Raise the Rates Campaign is building opposition to any attack on ODSP and the people in this Province that rely on it. We say the program should be improved not reduced or eliminated. If you would be interested in taking this letter to your local MPP, whichever party they belong to, please let us know so that we can add your initiative to the list of local events.
If you would like further information or to discuss this further you can call the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) at (416) 925-6939
(Artwork courtesy of longtime OCAP member Anne Abbott, http://www.annekabbott.com/)
Wednesday November 20th, 2013
Town Hall 6:30 pm
St Luke's Church, corner of Sherbourne and Carlton, in the Gymnasium
The Ontario Liberal Government is sitting on a proposal to merge
Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)
into one program. The government reports claim the merger of ODSP and OW will make the system ‘easier’ to access and carry out. The reality is that it’s about cutting benefits.
Join OCAP at St. Lukes Church for dinner and to talk about this proposed merger of ODSP and Ontario Works and how we can fight back to stop this from happening. Listen to other people’s stories and talk about your worries on how the joining of the programs will affect you.
* Wheelchair Accessible
* ASL Interpretation
* Tokens Available
Contact OCAP for more info!
November 11, 2013
From : 1-3pm
South Riverdale Community Health Centre
955 Queen Street East
The Housing Stabilization Fund was created in the city of Toronto to replace the loss of the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB). The Housing Stabilization Fund is for people on social assistance, ODSP or OW. It can help with first and last month’s rent to get housing, rental arrears, furniture and household items, moving expenses, hydro arrears and more. We will be hosting an application clinic in the east end at South Riverdale Community Health Centre. People applying should bring (if they have), ID and worker information,
and any supporting documents like bills, eviction notice, promise to rent.
For more information call 416-461-1925 ext 247 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Raise the Rates! Restore CSUMB!
Important Update: Come out Monday, October 28th to demand action from the City of Toronto on Homeless Shelters
Monday, October 28th
Toronto City Hall - Committee Room 1
The City of Toronto has failed for 7 months to meet the 90% capacity
standard for Homeless Shelters that they adopted in the spring after
months of community action.
The issue of shelters was supposed to be on the Agenda for this Monday's
Community Development and Recreation Committee, but once again, the City
is delaying on the basis that a 'report is not ready to be delivered by
Communities united in fighting attack on Disability Benefits!
*See the Resolution to fight the ODSP/OW merger, Adopted by the Raise the Rates assembly, here: http://ocap.ca/node/1107
*See the joint Statement with Mamaweswen here: http://ocap.ca/node/1108
OCAP was proud to participate in the Raise the Rates Week of Action with a range of community and union allies. Linking up with the Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage, we held actions in a range of Ontario cities and towns. People mobilized to demand living wages, decent income, a Raise in the Rates of Social Assistance, and the reversal of austerity based cuts like the elimination of the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB). Through determined community mobilization last year, we forced $42 million out of the government in what was meant to be CSUMB funding. That funding runs out at the end of this year, and so the call to restore CSUMB is timely and vital.
Above all, we challenged impending measures to attack disabled people on ODSP through the government’s proposal to merge ODSP with Ontario Works (OW).
The Federal Court will render its final decision on Mohammad Mahjoub's case this week. The decision could come as early as Wednesday.
The court will announce whether or not it is upholding the "security certificate" that has kept Mr. Mahjoub in immigration detention on the basis of secret suspicions for more than 13 years. Mr. Mahjoub has been waiting for this ruling since December when the hearings on his case wrapped up.
However, the actual reasons for the decision will be withheld for another five days on "national security" grounds, while the government and 'special advocates' decide what to keep secret from Mr. Mahjoub and the public.
If the certificate is not found to be "reasonable", Mr. Mahjoub will walk free. If Justice Blanchard bows to political pressure and upholds the reasonability of the security certificate, Mr. Mahjoub would be forced to appeal the decision all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The Toronto ABC, No One Is Illegal - Toronto and the End Immigration Detention Network are organizing a panel of speakers and letter writing night to support striking prisoners in Ontario.
Sunday, October 27th 2013
6pm - 9pm
Beit Zatoun, 612 Markham Avenue, Toronto.
Migrant prisoners held in the Lindsay, Ontario Provincial detention centre, many of whom have been on strike over the conditions of the jail since September 17th have been resisting their conditions and have been punished for their resistance by being put in solitary confinement. Please read more about them here:
A number of Federal prisoners are currently striking because their already low earnings have been cut by 30%. Read more about them here:
*Trigger warning - about sexual assault*
Women’s homeless shelters have been at or over 100% capacity for far too
long and the City of Toronto is refusing to open extra space. Women are
turned away nightly, many forced to take shelter on the street. There has
been a serious, unpublicized, sexual assault in the Downtown East
involving a homeless woman and the two men responsible have not been
caught. Women in our community have had enough violence and vulnerability
- this cold "Thanks-giving" weekend we are organizing a grassroots
emergency women’s night watch to distribute information and be present in
the neighborhood on the overnight of Saturday, October 12th/morning of
Sunday, October 13th.
Downtown East Emergency Women's Night Watch
Sunday, October 13th
Meet @ 2AM at the Sam's convenience store on the South West corner of
Dundas and Sherbourne
We are asking women-identified folks to join us – we will walk through our
community in groups overnight, put up posters warning women about the
assault on the 22nd and the men responsible, distribute essential items,
and offer the safety of numbers to women who are continuously turned away
from our shelter system.
Women should not be left to sleep alone on the streets.
Thursday, October 10th, 2013.
Urgent Action Needed: Women's Shelter Crisis Risks Lives and Safety
Where: Metro Hall, 6th Floor, 55 John St.
On Sunday, September 22, 2013, between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m., a homeless woman
was sitting on some steps in the Dundas Street East and Sherbourne Street
area. She was sexually assaulted by two different men that same night.
Homeless women in this city are subjected to violence and dangerous
conditions with nowhere to turn for shelter or support. For too many
women, seeking out a shelter bed on any given night is a futile act as
there are no beds in the system. Specially designated ‘Violence Against
Women’ shelters, mandated to provide safe spaces for women fleeing
violence, are often full. Women looking for shelter are told to wait at
Peter Street for beds that do not materialize. Sometimes they are even
turned away from Peter St. due to overcrowding.
The city’s shelters are overcrowded and the crisis of homelessness is
continuing to worsen. It is certain that the colder weather will only make
this situation even more desperate. City Council voted to bring shelter
occupancy rates down to 90% but they have failed to keep their promise.
Instead of taking real action, the city has thrown some mats on floors of
shelters, called them ‘flex beds’ and hoped that would stop the public
outcry about shelter overcrowding.
Family members and protesters confront Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services in support of immigrant detainees on hunger strike.
On Tuesday October 8th, families of immigration detainees on strike and dozens of supporters confronted Thomas Chanzy, Chief of Staff for Madeleine Meilleur, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services in Toronto. Protesters dressed in orange jumpsuits and tied in chains held out empty food plates and delivered a petition signed by over 1,200 people, demanding an end to cruel prison conditions and indefinite immigration detention.
Raise the Rates Rally at Ontario Ministry of Finance
Stop the attacks on ODSP (Disability) benefits: no merger!
·Restore Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit
·Raise the Rates of Social Assistance 55%!
·Raise the Minimum Wage to $14 Now!
When: Thursday, October 17 at 12 Noon
Where: Corner of College and University, Toronto
*ASL interpretation available
*East-End meet-up point with TTC Tokens: 11:30am, Carlton/Sherbourne
Join OCAP and allies on Thursday, October 17, the International Day for the ‘Eradication of Poverty’, as part of a Province-wide Week of Action, for a noon-time rally at the Ministry of Finance. We will fight the plans to merge Ontario Works and ODSP and demand real action on poverty from the Wynne Government!
*Restore Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit
*Stop the attacks on Disability benefits
*Raise the Rates of Social Assistance 55%!
The Raise the Rates Campaign is holding a week of action to fight the attack on ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) and demand living income for all in this Province. We will challenge plans to merge Ontario Works and ODSP and demand real action on poverty from the Wynne Government. We will be demanding restoration of the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit, supporting the right of First Nations Communities to control delivery of social assistance programs and calling for the raising of the minimum wage in Ontario to $14 an hour and social assistance rates by at least 55%. Actions will be held across the Ontario throughout the week, and uniting for Provincial convergence Saturday, October 19th in Sudbury.
In place of the endless talk of this Government about 'poverty reduction' we will be taking action!
PROVINCIAL CONVERGENCE: Anti-poverty organizations from across Ontario will be converging in Sudbury on Saturday, October 19th for a Gathering, Rally and March. The rally will start at 2pm at the Sudbury Secondary School, Sheridan Auditorium, which is at 154 College Street in downtown Sudbury.
JOIN THE WEEK OF ACTION! If your organization wants to hold an event or if you are interested in finding out how you can get involved, contact us right away!
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) (416) 925-6939 email@example.com
CUPE Ontario Raise the Rates Campaign: www.cupe.on.ca/raisetherates
On Facebook, join the Raise the Rates page: https://www.facebook.com/RaiseTheRates
Twitter: @OCAPtoronto #RaisetheRates
Saturday, October 12th:Feast for Fairness – Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage! Under the banner of “Poverty Wages? NO THANKS!” this event will be just one of many province-wide actions taking place around the Thanksgiving weekend calling for a $14 minimum wage, and in alliance with the Raise the Rates Week of Action from Oct. 14-20. https://www.facebook.com/events/150760811800205/
Wednesday, October 16th: Rally with Jane-Finch Action Against Poverty
Thursday, October 17th: OCAP Demonstration Downtown – details to come!
Saturday, October 19th: GET ON THE BUS TO SUDBURY! Leaving downtown Toronto at 8:30am, returning the same day. To register for
a seat on the bus email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 416-925-6939