ALERT: Toronto activists occupy hospital, demand shelter: 13

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Fri, 6 Nov 1998 19:57:50 -0400


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http://www2.thestar.com/thestar/editorial/news/981106NEW02b_CI-HOME6.html
FWD  Toronto Star - 6 Nov 1998


ACTIVISTS OCCUPY HOSPITAL TO SPEED UP SHELTER CONVERSION
13 arrested at site of former Doctors Hospital

By Jim Wilkes - Toronto Star Staff Reporter

  `Trying to save the world is a full-time job.'
   Josh Hehner, poverty activist


 Toronto police arrested 13 people after activists occupied Doctors
Hospital yesterday trying to force the city to turn it into a homeless
shelter.

 About three dozen people - many of them members of the Ontario Coalition
Against Poverty - originally talked their way past security guards at the
mothballed hospital and refused to leave.

 Just after 5 p.m., after a day full of warnings that there would be
arrests, police peacefully took into custody those who were left.

 ``They were given warnings all day long. Some decided to leave and some of
those did leave through the windows,'' said Sergeant Jim Muscat of Toronto
police.

 Those arrested will face minimum charges of trespassing, he said, adding
that none of the protesters resisted arrest and no one was hurt.

 Earlier, he said they had come with blankets, water and food and appeared
ready for a long stay.

 During the occupation, protesters said they were trying to force the hand
of officials they accused of foot-dragging on the issue of creating new
winter shelter beds.

 But Councillor Olivia Chow (Downtown) said the occupation could instead
hinder plans to get the vacant Brunswick Ave. building up and running as a
shelter for 50 to 100 people.

 ``The longer they're in there, the harder it is for our hostel staff to go
in to actually make the place work,'' Chow said.

 She said council has agreed to create new shelter beds and, just
yesterday, the city's community and neighbourhood services committee
``committed money to open up shelters and beds for 500 more people, because
we know that is a need.''

 Joanne Campbell, general manager of the city's Shelter, Housing and
Support Division, said negotiations and site searches are under way to
create the new shelters.

 She said the former Doctors Hospital meets most criteria for a shelter,
but still needs work if it is to open by the city's Dec. 1 deadline.

 ``It's been closed for some time so we would have to arrange to restart
all of the systems in the building,'' Campbell said.

 She said the city would also have to find someone to operate it and listen
again to community concerns.

 ``And we need to do all this very quickly,'' she said.

 John Clarke, the provincial organizer for the poverty organization, was
among the demonstrators who took over the building.

 He said the coalition and the city were embroiled in a ``tactical
disagreement'' over ``whether the issue is to try and placate yuppie
residents or stand up to them'' and create a shelter.

 ``People are dying on the streets and we can't wait,'' he said. ``We can't
be squeamish here. This place has to be opened up.''

 Protesters who spoke with reporters said they had homes and didn't need a
shelter themselves.

 ``Trying to save the world is a full-time job,'' said 24-year-old Josh
Hehner, who described himself as a freelance artist and activist.

 ``Housing is a human right,'' he said. ``It's guaranteed internationally,
it's guaranteed in Canadian law.''

 Protester Serena Nadir agreed.

 ``This city needs affordable housing,'' she said. ``Doctors Hospital is an
abandoned building that can potentially be turned into a shelter or
low-cost short-term housing.''

 Area resident Leanne Fry said some people may oppose the plan to create a
shelter, but she thinks it's necessary.

 ``I think it's really sad that there are so many homeless people in
Toronto,'' Fry said.

 ``I understand the concerns of people in the neighbourhood, but what are
we supposed to do with these people? Are we supposed to let them freeze to
death?''

 Councillor Jack Layton (Don River), who heads Toronto's advisory committee
on the homeless, said it could take several weeks before the city can find
and equip the new shelters, which would be small-scale.

[With files from John Spears and Jim Rankin]

END FORWARD
** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is
distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in
receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. **

HOMELESS PEOPLE'S NETWORK  <http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/>  Home Page
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http://www2.thestar.com/thestar/editorial/news/981106NEW02b_CI-HOME6.html

FWD  Toronto Star - 6 Nov 1998



<paraindent><param>right,left</param>ACTIVISTS OCCUPY HOSPITAL TO SPEED
UP SHELTER CONVERSION

13 arrested at site of former Doctors Hospital


By Jim Wilkes - Toronto Star Staff Reporter


  `Trying to save the world is a full-time job.' 

   Josh Hehner, poverty activist

</paraindent>


 Toronto police arrested 13 people after activists occupied Doctors
Hospital yesterday trying to force the city to turn it into a homeless
shelter.


 About three dozen people - many of them members of the Ontario
Coalition Against Poverty - originally talked their way past security
guards at the mothballed hospital and refused to leave.


 Just after 5 p.m., after a day full of warnings that there would be
arrests, police peacefully took into custody those who were left.


 ``They were given warnings all day long. Some decided to leave and
some of those did leave through the windows,'' said Sergeant Jim Muscat
of Toronto police.


 Those arrested will face minimum charges of trespassing, he said,
adding that none of the protesters resisted arrest and no one was
hurt.


 Earlier, he said they had come with blankets, water and food and
appeared ready for a long stay.


 During the occupation, protesters said they were trying to force the
hand of officials they accused of foot-dragging on the issue of
creating new winter shelter beds.


 But Councillor Olivia Chow (Downtown) said the occupation could
instead hinder plans to get the vacant Brunswick Ave. building up and
running as a shelter for 50 to 100 people.


 ``The longer they're in there, the harder it is for our hostel staff
to go in to actually make the place work,'' Chow said.

 

 She said council has agreed to create new shelter beds and, just
yesterday, the city's community and neighbourhood services committee
``committed money to open up shelters and beds for 500 more people,
because we know that is a need.''


 Joanne Campbell, general manager of the city's Shelter, Housing and
Support Division, said negotiations and site searches are under way to
create the new shelters.


 She said the former Doctors Hospital meets most criteria for a
shelter, but still needs work if it is to open by the city's Dec. 1
deadline.


 ``It's been closed for some time so we would have to arrange to
restart all of the systems in the building,'' Campbell said.


 She said the city would also have to find someone to operate it and
listen again to community concerns.


 ``And we need to do all this very quickly,'' she said.


 John Clarke, the provincial organizer for the poverty organization,
was among the demonstrators who took over the building.


 He said the coalition and the city were embroiled in a ``tactical
disagreement'' over ``whether the issue is to try and placate yuppie
residents or stand up to them'' and create a shelter.


 ``People are dying on the streets and we can't wait,'' he said. ``We
can't be squeamish here. This place has to be opened up.''


 Protesters who spoke with reporters said they had homes and didn't
need a shelter themselves. 


 ``Trying to save the world is a full-time job,'' said 24-year-old Josh
Hehner, who described himself as a freelance artist and activist.


 ``Housing is a human right,'' he said. ``It's guaranteed
internationally, it's guaranteed in Canadian law.''


 Protester Serena Nadir agreed.


 ``This city needs affordable housing,'' she said. ``Doctors Hospital
is an abandoned building that can potentially be turned into a shelter
or low-cost short-term housing.''


 Area resident Leanne Fry said some people may oppose the plan to
create a shelter, but she thinks it's necessary.


 ``I think it's really sad that there are so many homeless people in
Toronto,'' Fry said.


 ``I understand the concerns of people in the neighbourhood, but what
are we supposed to do with these people? Are we supposed to let them
freeze to death?'' 


 Councillor Jack Layton (Don River), who heads Toronto's advisory
committee on the homeless, said it could take several weeks before the
city can find and equip the new shelters, which would be small-scale.


[With files from John Spears and Jim Rankin]


END FORWARD

** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. **


HOMELESS PEOPLE'S NETWORK  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/>  Home Page

ARCHIVES  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/archives.html>  read posts to HPN

TO JOIN  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/join.html> or email Tom <<wgcp@earthlink.net>

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