November 22, 2020 – National Housing Day Toronto Day of Action

Sunday November 22nd is National Housing Day.  In recognition of the fact that Toronto has seen an unprecedented amount of advocacy and direct support this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the way it has exposed and exacerbated the city’s pre-existing affordable housing and homelessness crises, the Shelter and Housing Justice Network has coordinated a Toronto Day of Action in solidarity with the many individuals, groups and organizations currently taking action to address our affordable housing and homelessness crisis. The Toronto Day of Action will showcase the many issues impacting our city and some of the important work being done by concerned members of the community in response to these issues; a snapshot of the critically important work people are doing all across the city to support their neighbours facing eviction, experiencing homelessness, and/or struggling with housing insecurity.
  • Groups who have organized Actions for November 22nd include: The Jane Finch Housing Coalition, Toronto ACORN, the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations, Housing Action Now, Regent Park CHC, LAMP CHC, Humber College, Lakeshore Affordable Housing Advocacy and Action Group, Street Health, The Anglican Diocese of Toronto, Friends of Kensington Market, and the Canadian Federation of University Women Toronto Housing Working Group.
  • Attached is a NationalHousingDay PDF detailing the Actions taking place on November 22nd and information about how to participate.
  • You can also access this information via the Day of Action Facebook event at https://www.facebook.com/events/873606479845678/
  • And SHJN Twitter: https://twitter.com/SHJNetwork

On November 22nd, we encourage Torontonians to participate in the National Housing Day Toronto Day of Action by participating in as many of these actions as possible, where it’s possible. Please spread the word!

On November 23rd, at 11am the Shelter and Housing Justice Network will be hosting a press conference to highlight the actions that took place on National Housing Day and make demands of the municipal, provincial, and federal governments.

You can tune into the press conference online via the Press Conference Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/705060946815095/

On Monday, November 23 as Toronto goes into “lockdown” thousands of people won’t have the opportunity to shelter in place and instead sleep in congregate shelters or outside in in-climate weather. Tens of thousands face the likelihood of being evicted by the Landlord and Tenant Board during a global pandemic. As a result of sky-high rents, gentrification, lack of RGI housing and an overflowing shelter system thousands of people suffer and many die preventable deaths. In recognition of National Housing Day, groups from across Toronto are taking actions including: petitions, email campaigns and building winterized shelters. The Toronto Shelter Housing and Justice Network (SHJN) will be holding a press conference to address the current crisis and highlight the actions that these groups are taking and make demands on all three levels of government. Six Demands for Immediate Action These demands are what SHJN and groups like Encampment Support Network, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and others have been making for months.

1. Invest in actually affordable housing. Obtain vacant buildings to convert into housing. Create 10,000 units of rent-geared to income housing in the next 24 months.

2. Immediately enforce an eviction moratorium. The Toronto Foundation estimates that 10% of renters are at risk of eviction – that is at least 130,000 people!

3. Immediately end the criminalization of encampments and issue a moratorium on clearing encampments. No one should be ticketed or harassed by police or private security for living in a park.

4. All shelter and supportive housing sites must be user-friendly and include robust overdose prevention and harm reduction services.

5. Until there is enough permanent, safe, dignified, and affordable housing, immediately ensure enough emergency shelters. That means 2000 more rooms within 4 months.

6. Immediately provide winter survival gear for those in encampments, including fire safety gear like fire extinguisher, and sand as well as sleeping bags, access to food and water, winter clothing like mitts, toques, long underwear, jackets and wool socks.

National Housing Day commemorates the day, November 22nd, 1998, that the Big City Mayors Caucus of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities endorsed the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee’s declaration that homelessness was a national disaster. Each National Housing Day we come together to demand an end to homelessness and housing precarity by calling for a national housing program. (To learn more, click here.) At the same time, there are opportunities each and every day to support our neighbours and work in solidarity with those struggling with housing precarity and homelessness. We urge all Torontonians to contribute as they can throughout the year, whether that is through financial donations, donations of goods and services, by providing direct support, through actions in solidarity with those who are struggling, and/or through political advocacy.

In solidarity,

The Shelter and Housing Justice Network

www.shjn.ca

Call for donations for encampments

Survival Supplies

Drop Off Locations:

PQWCHC – Parkdale site, 1229 Queen W lower level — separate entrance – Harm Reduction room),  Mon/Tues /Thurs:  10am – 6pm;  Weds 1pm – 6pm, Fri 10am – 4:30pm.

Church of the Holy Trinity, 19 Trinity Square.   Sunday – Friday: 10:30am – 12 noon

Sanctuary Ministries of Toronto, 25 Charles St East Tues/Wed/Fri:  1pm – 3pm, Sunday:  7pm – 8pm.

Homeless Memorial – Church of the Holy, Tues, Mar 10th, 12PM

The next Homeless Memorial to remember those we’ve lost due to the city’s homelessness crisis, will be Tuesday, March 10th, 2020, at 12:00pm at the Church of the Holy Trinity.

19 Trinity Square, Toronto, ON M5G 1B1

Please share the date, come out and support.

This is an accessible event and lunch will be provided.

OPEN LETTER TO MAYOR TORY: CALL OFF THE HOMELESS SWEEPS

Dear Mayor John Tory,

The Parks, Forestry and Recreation department has said it will be dismantling homeless encampments in the Rosedale valley on January 7, 2020.

There is no justification for these sweeps in the midst of a deadly shortage of shelter space in the city. People are camped outside in the bitter cold because the housing crisis rages on unchecked and the City’s shelter system is overwhelmed. Conditions within these emergency centres are difficult and often unsafe because of chronic overcrowding, short-staffing and a general lack of necessary resources. The private market is such that even those able to access the housing allowance find it impossible to find a place to rent.

Forcibly dismantling homeless encampments – be they under the Gardiner or in the Rosedale valley – is nothing more than an attempt to make homelessness invisible rather than addressing the problem. In the absence of adequate shelter or housing, the encampments just rise up once again. Despite having seen this time and again, the administration continues to subject homeless people to the ritualized humiliation and hardship of being displaced and having their belongings confiscated, only to then be informed that the emergency system is full.

You must call off these brutal sweeps, starting with the one planned for January 7, and focus City resources on adding sufficient shelter spaces and building publicly owned rent-geared-to-income housing. That’s the only way to make sure no one has to resort to sleeping under bridges and in the ravines of this wealthy city. Our network will be mobilizing around the upcoming sweep and will challenge attempts at evicting people that your administration has effectively abandoned to the streets.

Sincerely,

Rafi Aaron, Interfaith Coalition to Fight Homelessness

Yogi Acharya and Cat Chhina, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty

Greg Cook, Sanctuary Outreach

Cathy Crowe, Street Nurse

Bob Rose on behalf of the

Shelter and Housing Justice Network

Mayor Tory: Declare Homelessness An Emergency To Prevent More Deaths And Suffering

Shelter and Housing Justice Network started this petition to Mayor John Tory (Mayor, City of Toronto)

To sign the petition, visit the Change.org:  Petition Link

This past month there have been eight reported homeless deaths in the City of Toronto.

The City has failed to shelter the most vulnerable. All seven Respite Centres are full, the two 24-hour women’s drop-ins and the Out of the Cold program are over capacity on many nights. The Assessment and Referral Centre on Peter Street is unable to operate as a referral centre as there are insufficient beds in the system.

Instead, fifty people sleep in chairs there each night. They are the lucky ones. Hundreds upon hundreds of people are forced to sleep outside due to failed shelter and housing policies. They are in grave danger. Their precarious situation has been exacerbated by the onslaught of an early winter leaving them completely exposed and vulnerable.

A walk through the city confirms what front-line workers are telling us: there have never been this many people sleeping in our streets and parks before. The number of beds the City plans to bring on-line will not be sufficient to accommodate those in need. Furthermore, during an Extreme Cold Weather Alert there is only one Warming Centre that sleeps 50 people for the entire City.

In order to prevent more deaths and suffering, we request that you enact the City of Toronto Emergency Plan immediately.  

WHY THE CITY OF TORONTO EMERGENCY PLAN IS THE ONLY RESPONSE

The aim of the City of Toronto Emergency Plan is to provide the framework for extraordinary arrangements and measures that can be taken to protect the health, safety and welfare of the inhabitants of the City of Toronto. It would allow the Mayor to:

1. Make a formal statement declaring that homelessness and the social housing situation are an emergency necessitating immediate action.
2. Request help from the Federal and Provincial governments for funding and resources necessary to deal with this deadly crisis.
3. Establish an Emergency Task Force from relevant departments at the City, including Public Health; Shelter, Support and Housing Administration; Emergency Management; Real Estate; Parks, Forestry and Recreation; for the purpose of resolving issues related to the crisis.
4. Create a Building Team from all three levels of government that would identify vacant buildings owned by the City, Federal and Provincial governments that can be used to immediately shelter the hundreds who are homeless.
5. Redeploy staff from various City departments to implement the decisions of the
Emergency Task Force and to provide support at respite sites, warming centres, and overnight drop-ins.
6. Invite the Red Cross to assist with emergency respite and warming centre operations, as they did in the winter of 2017-2018.
7. Move the only Warming Centre that currently operates in a hallway at Metro Hall, to a more accessible and spacious site.
8. Create four to six additional Warming Centres throughout Toronto that would allow people to easily access them.
9. Improve the safety and health outcomes in all Respite Centres that have 100 or more people staying in them by reducing capacity by one third.
10. Fast track a 4th Sprung Structure.
11. Implement the recommendations of the Faulkner Inquest, including the distribution of survival equipment and supplies (sleeping bags, fire retardant blankets, safe heat sources) to people who are living outside. Tents must be added to this list. Fund additional outreach teams to distribute these items.
12. Impose a moratorium on evictions of people living in all public spaces, including parks, ravines, and encampments.
13. Impose a moratorium on the removal of all encampments.
14. Create an emergency rent supplement program to prioritize the housing of vulnerable people including seniors and those with disabilities.
15. Allow the Building Team to devise and implement a strategy for the creation of 2,000 permanent shelter beds.
16. Allow the Building Team to devise and implement a five-year strategy for the building of transitional, supportive and rent-geared-to-income (RGI) social housing.
17. Expropriate buildings, left unused and vacant by owners, for immediate conversion to RGI social housing such as single room dwellings or transitional housing.
18. Extend the timeframe of all emergency shelters and Respite Centres so they operate year-round.
19. Create one hundred beds to replace those lost when the Out of the Cold program shuts down in April.

We believe that homelessness needs to be declared as a state of emergency in the City of Toronto. We have witnessed homelessness increase in recent years and the municipal response has proved to be totally inadequate. Lives are at stake.

THE SHELTER AND HOUSING JUSTICE NETWORK

The Shelter and Housing Justice Network (SHJN) is an experienced group of frontline workers, health providers, faith groups, advocates, community leaders and organizations.

SHJN can be reached at:

SHJToronto@gmail.com

@SHJNetwork