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Protesters Stage City Hall Sit-in, Demand More Emergency Housing

Housing advocates and shelter users demand more facilities and funding for Toronto's emergency shelters.

Protesters sit outside Mayor Rob Ford's office to demand better shelter access. Photo by Sarah Roebuck.

Protesters sit outside Mayor Rob Ford’s office to demand better shelter access. Photo by Sarah Roebuck.

Protesters, led by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, have occupied the lobby outside Mayor Rob Ford’s office. They are demanding that City staff use contingency funds and public facilities to boost Toronto’s emergency shelter capacity. About 40 protesters have set out blankets, protest banners, and musical instruments, to represent a makeshift shelter. They say they plan to stay until they get an acknowledgment from councillors or City officials that shelters are over capacity.

For weeks, housing advocates have been decrying deaths of homeless individuals and criticizing officials for providing what they say are misleading figures on shelter capacity. Despite claims from several organizations that they cannot secure beds for their clients, however, staff with Shelter Support and Housing insist shelter beds are available.

OCAP organizer John Clarke told us he’s been in contact with several councillors, but so far none have agreed to address those gathered just outside their offices on the second floor of City Hall. “I do appreciate that we’ve just shown up,” Clarke told us, “but this is not a trivial matter. You’d think by now that some token voice of social conscience would have put in a phone call.”

A staff person from Mayor Ford’s office stepped out and briefly addressed the crowd. “If you have a message, I’m happy to convey it on your behalf,” she said, noting that the mayor was “out in the the community attending events.” (He was at the auto show when the sit-in began; he later went to the national blind hockey tournament.) Clarke replied that the City should immediately release $3 million in shelter contingency funds and open up additional beds for the homeless.

Clarke has also asked that councillors and police not to disrupt the peaceful protest. Security officials have told the group the building is open to the public until 9:30 p.m.

Zoë Dodd of AIDS Action Now told us she is frustrated that many councillors haven’t spoken out on cuts to shelter and housing services in the recently-passed 2013 budget. “It’s really hard to advocate to the province [for more shelter resources] when the City is in denial about the crisis,” she says, adding, “Some of the people dying are really well known to us, to the community.”

At time of publication we were unable to reach any councillors at City Hall for comment.

Comments

  • OgtheDIm

    I’m not sure exactly why Clarke thinks that by showing up he deserves a media op for a councillor. (and that is all an address is).

    That and he really should have figured out by now that any councillor that is seen in any way to support OCAP is a target for life from the SUN reading crowd.

  • 99%er

    If you look at what we all pay in taxes… and how many homeless there are in Toronto Average spend on a homeless person $60,000/year.

    http://www.toronto.ca/budget2012/2012_budget_summary/howtax.htm

    Quite frankly i think the $300+ a year out my property taxes that i involuntarily pay towards this issue is enough. It seems all the people who don’t pay taxes seem to do most of the complaining. I would like to know if any of these protesters ever paid a property tax bill… I am sure they would have a different opinion if they do.

    Homeless are like pigeons, you build it… they will just move in and shit all over the place. There will never be “enough” housing.

    • Jaqamo

      I pay property taxes and if I didn’t have a child to look after I’d be down at city hall “complaining” too. Your attitude towards the homeless and the protesters is way off base. Proper housing is needed, and other kinds of supports, things which would actually be cheaper than shelters in the long run.

    • Jaimie

      you should be ashamed of yourself, your comment is disgusting. people are dying, you do realize this, yes? also, your tax dollars can go fuck themselves as far as I’m concerned. your status as a human being should be revoked. I can’t believe people like you are allowed in polite society.

      • tikiliberationfront

        Jaime, with an attitude like that you are unlikely to garner any support. Unless you are planning to revolt you’d better change your tune if you want change.

  • Hunky69

    There is no reason for ONE single homeless in this wealthy city. Poverty is a man-made event – what would Wal-Mart, Dollarama etc would do without the poor?

  • disgruntled

    I am kinda curious what makes people like OCAP, who never had a real job in their life, demand that the average job-having, family-supporting, tax-paying Joe also support the homeless with his hard-earned money. They could ask nicely, of course, but it would be up to us to decide whether we want to pay or not. Far as I am concerned, the homeless could die in the streets, I don’t care. They are not a part of the society anyway… just a pile of human waste.

    • http://twitter.com/Welshgrrl Vashty Hawkins

      Wow you’re just overflowing with the milk of human kindness, aren’t you? You’re the epitome of the “Im all right Jack, fuck everyone else” mentality that is sadly too common in this city

      • TorontoistEditors

        Yeah, that one dropped into the pool a few days before your post, and I made a mental note.
        (Homeless shots are tricky cause I try to avoid close-ups of faces. Most of these people probably didn’t give explicit permission to be shot, and while it isn’t legally required it often feels exploitative.)