Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Toronto: March for Housing, Nov. 9th


Thursday, November 9th
6:00 PM
Meet @ PARC (1499 Queen St. West)
Corner of Dowling and Queen in Parkdale
Dinner will be served


The Demands

We are asking the City of Toronto to pass a bylaw which could begin to deal immediately with the housing crisis in Toronto without having to break new ground. Across the downtown core, including here in Parkdale, there are numerous abandoned buildings. Some of these are owned by the City itself while others are owned by private landlords waiting for property values to rise before they begin construction. In a city with so much poverty and homelessness and with rents skyrocketing we find this unacceptable. Earlier this year the City expropriated the building at
1495 Queen Street West in order to convert it into supportive housing. A Use it or Lose it bylaw would put this type of positive step into law making it easier for the City to turn abandoned eyesores into housing. A good place to start would be the Pope Squat.


Social Assistance rates across Ontario are brutally low and the minimum wage does not provide enough to live on. The Province and the City both share responsibility for the fact that the majority of people living in Toronto do not earn enough to pay rent and eat properly. We are demanding that welfare and ODSP rates be increased by 40% in order to restore spending power to where it was before the 1995 Mike Harris cuts.

Toronto City Council must instruct its welfare offices to stop withholding the benefits people are entitled to and take action to ensure this policy is followed.

The minimum wage must also be increased to ensure that people who are working are earning enough to pay rent and feed their families. It must be increased to $10 an hour at a minimum.


Parkdale is one of the best examples across the city of why just simply having housing is not enough. Many of the buildings, rooming houses and apartments are in brutal condition, overpriced or simply do not provide the access or support needed. We need more housing- 6,000 units immediately and 2,000 a year after that would be a great start. We also need inspections carried out and repairs ordered on all housing across the city. This means enforcing the city bylaws regarding rental unit conditions. We need rent control. We also need to make sure that everyone is given the housing they need and that means providing fully accessible housing for disabled low income people and ensuring that it is maintained as such.


The City of Toronto has put in place the Streets to Homes program as their solution to homelessness. We are all in favor of housing- we've been fighting for it for years- and we have been the loudest voice demanding action around homelessness for more than a decade. But the Streets to Homes program offers no real solutions- it is nothing more than an enforcement program and we demand that it be abolished. Enforcement is not the answer and until there is affordable, decent and accessible housing to move people into then we cannot force people off the streets.

The City is closing down drop-in centres and our emergency shelter program is in bad need of improvement and expansion. We need investment in support programs, drop-in centres, new housing and emergency shelters not evictions and bylaw enforcement. The Streets to Homes program is a crackdown on homeless and panhandlers- it needs to end so we can find real solutions.

Remember the POPE SQUAT?

The Pope Squat is the three storey building located at 1510 King Street West in Parkdale, Toronto. The building was run as a boarding house until late 1994 when the owners went bankrupt, threw all the tenants out on to the street and the ownership defaulted to the Province of Ontario. The building sat empty for eight years until the summer of 2002 when OCAP opened it as housing during a visit of the Pope to Toronto. Over the next few months dozens of people made their home inside, dozens more stayed in the backyard and the building served as a community meeting space
and symbol of resistance to the housing crisis. During the time OCAP occupied the building many of the rooms inside were renovated and structural repairs were done. There were film nights, concerts, community BBQs and meetings. All the decisions were made by the residents of the house- all of whom had moved into the place from the streets. The occupation of the Pope Squat was one of the most popular political actions ever taken in Parkdale- it gained the support of many residents, businesses and social agencies- the entire community united around the demand that the
building be converted into housing. Nonetheless it was evicted in November of 2002 on the pretense that it was a hazard for those living there. Since that time the building has sat exactly as it was when it was evicted- empty for twelve years other than our occupation. The building has no been sold to a private landlord and the building is still just sitting there unused. The community of Parkdale is what made the occupation happen and for four months the Pope Squat was a big part of Parkdale. Since the eviction several of the residents have died, left the country or had to survive on the streets or in the shelter system- all while their old rooms sat empty.

The Ontario Coaltion Against Poverty
Fight to Win!

4 comment(s):

i was talkig with some well informed homeless people in vancouver a few months back. they said most of the empty buildings that had been set aside for homeless and low income were occupied by the people who worked with the homless.....go figure!!!

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By Blogger misty, at 5:37 PM  

People should help support OCAP's work with a donation of supplies or money.

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