[Hpn] Fwd: [cathycrowenews] February Newsletter

Graeme Bacque gbacque@colosseum.com
Mon, 07 Feb 2005 20:11:48 -0500


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [cathycrowenews] February Newsletter
Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2005 20:29:49 -0400 (EDT)
From: Crowe News<crowenews@sherbourne.on.ca>
Reply-To: crowenews@sherbourne.on.ca
To: cathycrowenews@povnet.org


Dear Subscribers,

Below is the eighth edition of Cathy Crowe's monthly newsletter. A great 
resource for individuals who care about homelessness, health and other 
social issues. To accommodate for the various email systems and settings 
of our subscribers, we have attached the full newsletter as a text file. 
You can also view Cathy's newsletters at her website at: 
http://www.tdrc.net/Crowe-Newsetter_main.htm.

You have been subscribed to this list that is specifically for this 
monthly newsletter. We will not share this list with any other party. If 
you do not wish to receive any future editions, simply Reply to this 
email with the word "unsubscribe" in the subject line and you will be 
removed from the list. Also, if you have any questions about the list or 
any feedback for the newsletter send an email to: 
crowenews@sherbourne.on.ca .



Cathy Crowe Newsletter No. 8, February 2005

I've been a street nurse in Toronto for 16 years. In the spring of 2004 
I received the Atkinson Economic Justice Award which permits me to 
pursue, for up to three years, my passions for nursing and working on 
homelessness and housing issues. In this newsletter I hope to report on 
my activities, create a link to a broader group of individuals who care 
about these social issues and encourage critical debate.

Further information about subscribing to the newsletter is found below. 
I want to hear from you - about the newsletter, about things that are 
happening in the homelessness sector (what a sad term!), and about good 
things which will provide inspiration for all of us.


*****************************************************


February 2005 - Toronto City Hall Update

Barricades, a bylaw and bandaids instead of a blueprint to deal with 
homelessness.

You will notice there is no smiling picture of me attached with this 
newsletter. It seemed incongruous with the subject matter. I am 
extremely unhappy with Toronto’s new plan to deal with “street 
homelessness”. Over the last 16 years I have watched our municipal level 
of government ignore deputations, public inquiry and inquest 
recommendations and reports, even input from its own Homeless Advisory 
Committee. Listening and responding to any of these recommendations 
could have prevented hundreds of homeless deaths, tuberculosis outbreaks 
and the worsening health and ongoing suffering of others.

This newsletter covers several aspects of the heated public policy 
debate that occurred in recent weeks in Toronto. For a more thorough 
analysis please see Toronto Disaster Relief Committee’s (TDRC) report 
at: www.tdrc.net/Response_to_ Homelessness.htm.

On Feb. 2, 2005 Toronto City Council voted 28-9 to approve a plan titled 
“From the Street into Homes”. It is a report that addresses one of the 
City’s most serious social issues – homelessness and the serious 
shortage of social housing and it is indicative of the City’s direction. 
The report is widely considered to be a response to the more 
conservative elements of City Council and Toronto’s more right wing 
media that continually labels homeless people as “vagrants”, thus the 
new “anti- vagrancy” law.

The report was released on a Friday afternoon without any community 
consultation, a sure sign it was worthy of careful scrutiny by the 
community.

The City’s report “From the Street into Homes” continues to ignore the 
community wisdom and real solutions. The report introduced an amendment 
to a City bylaw which will target a group of people based on their 
social status. This bylaw change will prohibit homeless people from 
sleeping on our City Hall square. It is a policy setback, unlike 
anything I have seen at the municipal level. It is alarming because it 
mimics the approach of numerous American cities where homelessness has 
been criminalized.

Barricades! Why do discussions of homelessness at City Hall seem to 
always draw police, barricades and increased security?

When homeless activists including nuns, outreach workers, lawyers, and 
the Raging Grannies converged on City Hall on Feb. 1, hoping to watch 
City Council debate this report, they were surprised to see barricades 
at the main door, dozens of yellow-jacketed police and at least 8 more 
police on horses.

Once inside council chambers, hundreds of people voiced their opinion on 
the most alarming aspect of the report - the proposed change to the 
Nathan Phillips Square bylaw which would ban homeless people from 
sleeping at City Hall square. When the spirited group was asked, they 
left peacefully.

Labeled as “screaming Trotskyites”, “loony leftists” and depicted as a 
“tame riot” by the media, the group in fact included homeless people, 
workers from legal clinics, drop-in centres, shelters, community health 
centres, parents with young children, seniors, and nurses.

The next day, a much smaller group returned to watch the Council’s 
debate. We not only faced barricades again, but a human wall of security 
and police officers who refused myself and others entry to City Hall on 
the grounds that no one who had attended the Council meeting the day 
before would be allowed entry again! After a 30 minute delay and with 
assistance from Councillor Paula Fletcher and the Mayor’s office, we 
were allowed our rightful entry to the public City Council meeting. 
Security continued to apply its own indiscriminate selection of who 
could enter City Hall throughout the remainder of the day, a good 
illustration of what homeless people face every day and the dangers of 
the bylaw to come.

Bylaw against “camping” on Nathan Phillips Square !

Mayor David Miller and some city councillors made promises that forcible 
removal of homeless people will not occur following the passing of the 
amendments to this bylaw. Lawyer Peter Rosenthal writes in the Globe and 
Mail, “such an assurance appears to be either totally disingenuous or 
very foolish. If the true intent of the measures introduced by City 
Council is to provide homeless people with reasonable accommodation and 
coax them into moving into it, why include a bylaw creating an offence?”.

TDRC argues that “The proposal to amend the Nathan Phillips bylaw to ban 
“camping” is simply an attempt to use municipal legislation to drive 
homeless people to a less visible location. It will almost certainly be 
challenged legally as a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 
the proposal is profoundly cruel and – as the New York City experience 
shows – it will be ineffective in reducing the number of homeless 
people. Driving homeless people away from the relatively safe location 
of Nathan Phillips will also frustrate the homeless outreach strategy 
that underpins the “From the Street into Homes” report by making 
homeless people less accessible to outreach workers.”

Tough love with no housing options and no support is not a policy for 
the homeless. It is a policy against the homeless. We need a mix of 
short-term and long-term solutions that reflects our City’s values. 
Housing takes time to build. As a compassionate and caring City, we must 
also ensure that there are enough shelter beds available for people to 
come in.

David Miller, candidate for Mayor of Toronto, 2003

Prior to the City Council meeting, more than two dozen interested 
parties including lawyers, members of the faith community and agencies 
working with homeless people delivered a unified message to a City Hall 
committee: Do not amend the bylaw to ban “camping”.

As Bonnie Briggs, a homeless advocate who has been homeless herself said:

“Here we go again. This battle seems never ending. Homeless people 
constantly have to fight for what’s a basic human right – a place to 
sleep and right to just be. There is nowhere for these people to go! 
Except a TB and bedbug infested shelter! Homeless people are not allowed 
to sleep in the parks, not allowed to sleep on the streets, in parked 
cars or abandoned buildings and they soon won’t be allowed to sleep in 
the square. Where pray tell are they expected to sleep?”

Professor Marianne Valverde argues that Nathan Phillips Square is the 
premier civic space in the City and what is done or not done there sends 
a message to Toronto and to the country. She suggested that allowing 
homeless people to sleep there sends a message of inclusiveness whereas, 
introducing a bylaw that prohibits sleeping sends a message of social 
exclusion. She also criticized the depiction that homeless people “camp” 
at City Hall, adding that it promotes the idea that homeless people 
“choose” to sleep rough. Professor Valverde argued that perhaps homeless 
people who have no private space (home) and reduced access to private 
space (coffee shops, malls, transit) may have an even greater claim to 
public space. (For more information on this topic see Disorderly People 
at www.tdrc.net/2vid2.htm.)

The American National Coalition for the Homeless, in their 2004 Report 
"Illegal to be Homeless" writes that “Criminalization is the process of 
legislating penalties for the performance of life-sustaining functions 
in public. It also refers to the selective enforcement of existing 
ordinances. Both practices are intended to harass and arrest homeless 
people. Laws against obstruction of sidewalks, and public ways such as 
sitting or lying in public spaces are largely enforced against homeless 
people.”

Michael Shapcott adds “Criminalizing homelessness is costly (in policing 
and related costs), it is inhumane and illegal (a violation of the 
Charter of Rights and Freedoms by unfairly targeting one group of people 
based on their status), and it is ineffective (places like New York City 
have now rejected policing policies in favour of subsidized housing).”

Councillor Michael Walker led the debate at City Council against the by-law:

“It’s a violation of the citizens who are the weakest, the most 
vulnerable, the poor, the people we are embarrassed about because they 
are homeless out on the streets and we have to walk around them….” 
calling it a “physical statement that we failed on a major social policy 
issue: the right to decent housing.”

TDRC’s report points out that Mayor Giuliani generated record level of 
homelessness in NYC. In office for most of the 1990s, Mayor Rudolph 
Giuliani created new laws that targeted the homeless and he ordered the 
police to aggressively enforce existing and new laws. The result: By 
2002, there were more homeless in New York City than ever before in the 
city’s history. There were an average of 33,581 women, men and children 
in New York shelters every night, plus thousands more in city jails and 
hospitals. The financial cost was staggering: Almost $1 billion in 
fiscal 2001.

In a homeless disaster why bandaids instead of a blueprint!

The “From the Street into Homes” report includes monies for 8 new 
outreach workers and plans to “coax” the homeless inside. The bylaw 
which will “sweep” homeless people off the civic square was amended, at 
the last minute, to be extended to all former municipal civic buildings 
(such as the old City Halls of the former Metro). The report only 
re-allocates existing resources and commits housing dollars that were 
first promised in 2000.

This report sadly is not a blueprint to end homelessness.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who took over from Mayor Giuliani in 2002, is 
no “bleeding heart liberal”, he is a tough Republican, who knows a 
costly failure when he sees it. Mayor Bloomberg said that subsidized 
housing would be his solution to homelessness. He announced plans for 
65,000 new subsidized homes by 2008. In 2003 (his first year in office), 
he had funded 10,200 new subsidized homes. In 2004, Mayor Bloomberg was 
on track to fund 16,000 subsidized homes. This is a blueprint to end 
homelessness.

Toronto would need 3,500 new homes annually to match NYC: New York City 
has a population of 7.3 million. Toronto has about 2.4 million 
residents. On a per capita basis, Toronto would need to fund 21,500 new 
homes over six years (3,500 new homes annually) to match New York’s 
initiative.

In the meantime, while we wait for a national housing programme, a 
serious Toronto blueprint to alleviate and end homelessness would 
include plans to:

* keep the City’s emergency winter shelter open instead of allowing it 
to close in May;
* create 200 replacement shelter beds for the city’s winter Out of the 
Cold program;
* develop a plan to phase out the Out of the Cold programme and end the 
City’s reliance on the faith sector for its emergency shelter needs;
* create 24 hour harm reduction centres, safe houses and specialized 
shelters that would shelter/house vulnerable groups such as the elderly, 
women, youth and first nations people who are on the street;
* develop a City protocol to establish the eligibility of homeless 
people who are in shelters for ODSP (Ontario Disability Support 
Program), then facilitate their access to ODSP and housing, thus freeing 
up shelter spaces for those still sleeping outside;
* set a Year One target of 3,000 new truly affordable homes. The targets 
set in the "From the Street into Homes" report are a substantial 
step-down from the Golden recommendations, and those targets were 
already overly modest. Toronto needs to have targets for new social 
(subsidized) housing that reflect the desperate need and are realistic.
* match re-allocated funds with at least an additional $14.2 million. 
The “From the Street into Homes” report correctly notes that the bulk of 
the funding for new social (subsidized) homes must come from senior 
levels of government. However, the city needs to commit new dollars to 
demonstrate that it is prepared to be a serious partner in creating new 
homes. As a start, the city should double its commitment to new housing 
by providing $14.2 million in addition to the $14.2 million in existing 
funding. This would send a strong signal to senior levels of government. 
The city can get these funds either from other city programs (such as 
the police) or through tax revenues.


Speaking out!!!

Witnessing and influencing a public policy debate such as this 
necessitates free speech and the allocation of sufficient resources to 
do that work. In the last few weeks, I witnessed dozens of organizations 
and individuals scrape together their response to this report, 
especially difficult given its public release, in effect two working 
days before committee hearings. Some sectors were surprisingly silent. 
Some reported they were just too swamped in their direct service work to 
participate. Others told me they were not allowed to participate in this 
process by Boards of Directors – many of whom have been frightened by 
funding cuts since the Mike Harris years of intimidation.

When we entered City Hall on Feb. 2 we only had one vote against the 
by-law, by the time Council voted we had 8 (Councillors Augimieri, 
Fletcher, Ford, Hall, Kelly, Mihevc, Thompson & Walker). Although not 
enough votes, it showed that nothing is ever a done deal. It’s still not 
a done deal, groups are exploring legal options.

If you live or work in Toronto please consider making your feelings 
known to your local City Councillor and the Mayor. (Click here for 
information on how to reach your local councillor.)

I’m hoping the Feb. 23 federal budget will have lots of good news for me 
to report to you next month.

Cathy


First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I 
was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because 
I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.

-Pastor Martin Niemoller

Cathy



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or c/o the Sherbourne Health Centre, 365 Bloor Street East, Suite 301, 
Toronto, ON, M4W 3L4.






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