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Getting Involved: Housing Help and Public Education

Getting Involved: Housing Help and Public Education

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Getting Involved: Housing Help and Public Education

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  1. Getting Involved: Housing Help and Public Education Tanya Gulliver, TDRC, Jennifer Ramsay, ACTO, Michael Steeves, HAG, Ann Fitzpatrick, HAN, and Naomi Berlyne, Central Neighbourhood House

  2. Toronto Disaster Relief Committee (TDRC): Working with Local Organizations Tanya Gulliver, TDRC

  3. TDRC – Who Are We? • The Toronto Disaster Relief Committee (TDRC) is a group of social policy, health care and housing experts, academics, business people, community health workers, social workers, AIDS activists, anti-poverty activists, people with homelessness experience, and members of the faith community. We provide advocacy on housing and homelessness issues.  We declare homelessness as a national disaster, and demand that Canada end homelessness by implementing a fully-funded National Housing Program through the One Percent Solution.

  4. TDRC (Who Are We? - continued) • In the effort to end homelessness, we are active on numerous fronts. We provide coordination services for the National Housing and Homelessness Network. We are a prominent and highly recognized voice on the City of Toronto’s Advisory Committee for Homeless and Socially Isolated Persons.  We work closely with former residents of Tent City, and supported residents in their effort to relocate into housing on non-polluted lands. We research the issues and have produced numerous reports with our findings.  We track the numbers of those who die on our city streets.  We watch the homeless disaster worsen daily.

  5. TDRC (Who Are We? - continued) • We believe the single most important thing needed to end homelessness in Canada is to implement a fully-funded National Housing Program.  We propose the One Percent Solution to fund such a program. We ask that all levels of government spend 1% of their overall budgets on housing. The One Percent Solution would result in $2 billion in new funding for social housing annually by the federal government, and $2 billion in new funding for social housing annually shared among the provincial and territorial governments.  

  6. TDRC – Recent Projects • Homeless Memorial Board • We maintain a list of those people who have “lived on the streets of Toronto and died as a direct response to homelessness.” • Hot Weather Response • We worked this summer to draw attention to the heat emergencies and their impact on those living in marginalized conditions.

  7. TDRC – Recent projects (continued) • NYC research trip • We are planning a trip to NYC to research the conditions of homelessness there. NYC is held as a model solution but we know that homelessness is increasing there. In July we organized a forum with Patrick Markee from NYC’s Coalition for the Homeless. • Secretariat for the National Housing and Homelessness Network (NHHN) • We act as the secretariat for the NHHN and provide administrative support to this national network that works on homeless/housing issues.

  8. TDRC – Recent projects (continued) • Anti-panhandling protest • Councillor Jane Pitfield tried to introduce an anti-panhandling “Quality of Life” bylaw. We have, and will continue, to oppose this effort. As a result of her motion, TDRC also called for her resignation as Co-Chair of the City’s Advisory Committee on Homeless and Socially Isolated Persons, and has boycotted meetings since then. • Planning for National Housing Day on November 22nd • We are organizing events in Toronto for National Housing Day including a large scale car rally.

  9. TDRC – Recent projects (continued) • Street Count vs Needs Assessment • The City’s Street Needs Assessment this spring had long been opposed by TDRC. While we weren’t able to stop it we were able to influence how it was run, including specifics of questions. We were also able to draw media attention to some of the related issues around accuracy, privacy, and effectiveness. • We also responded, mostly through the media, when the results of the reports were released, and were able to provide different interpretations to the information.

  10. TDRC – SCPI - What is SCPI? • “The Supporting Communities Partnership Initiative (SCPI) the centerpiece of the National Homelessness Initiative, was launched in 1999 in an attempt to create a more integrated and inclusive approach to homelessness in Canada. Along with providing financial support to communities, the SCPI encourages them to work together with provincial, territorial and municipal governments and the private and voluntary sectors to strengthen existing capacity and develop new responses to homelessness.” • From

  11. TDRC – SCPI – What does it do? • From Dec 1999-March 2004 • Over 9000 transitional housing beds • 725 shelters were upgraded • 403 food banks, kitchens and drop-ins also received upgrades • 49 federal properties were made available for 203 homes • 3600 services (i.e. housing placement, ID clinics, training) were funded • Much, much more!!!

  12. SCPI (continued) • In mid-August groups across the country, starting with homeless organizations in London, ON, started noticing that SCPI money was not being allocated, and that HRSDC officials were stating lower amounts were available than what had previously been promised.

  13. SCPI (continued) • On August 15th, Phil Brown, the City of Toronto’s Manager of Shelter, Housing and Support, has confirmed massive funding cuts to the federal homelessness program. He says that Toronto was promised $17.29 million in 2006 SCPI funding, but that the feds now say that city will only receive $11.4 million – that is a cut of $5.8 million (or more than one-third) from the originally-promised amount. Federal officials, in turn, say that they have handed out all the federal funds – plus some leftover money from last year. 

  14. SCPI (continued) • On August 17th we learnt that seven communities (six in Ontario and Yellowknife) are all reporting large cuts to 2006 federal homelessness funding. The biggest cuts are reported in Toronto, which is losing $5.89 million – or one-third of its total 2006 allocation.  • That’s bad news now – but the worse news to come is that the entire federal homelessness program is due to die by March of 2007 (with some agencies being forced to start winding up services and lay off staff in the fall of 2006).  

  15. SCPI (continued) • As a result of pressure from community organizations, activists, city officials and media, the federal minister responsible for SCPI, Diane Finley was forced to make a public statement. • She said “There have been absolutely no cuts to funding for this program. The full amount of funding of $134.8 million for the fiscal year 2006-07 has been allocated across the country. There have been no reductions and there will be no reductions to this funding. <snip> This Government will continue working with communities to address homelessness across Canada. Further to the full 2006-07 allocation, I understand that there may be additional needs over and above the $134.8 million committed for this year. I am pleased to confirm that this government is making the $37 million from 2005-06 available for programming this year.”

  16. SCPI (continued) • While the 2006 full funding flow, and the promise to provide the leftover 2005 money was good news, community groups recognized that the risk of losing SCPI was still present. Without a promise of money for March 31st 2007 and beyond hundreds of services across Canada would have to shut down.

  17. TDRC – SCPI – Local Response • A group of activists and organizations pulled together to develop a local Toronto response. This was planned to coincide with a National Day of Action on SCPI that was being organized by Quebec activists. • Sept 12th marked 200 days until the end of the current SCPI funding. • The Toronto group named itself “TheToronto Appeal for Federal Funding to Address Homelessness Committee.”

  18. TDRC – SCPI – Local (continued) • The group decided to have a forum to discuss the issue with service providers, the City of Toronto and users of the services. • The City of Toronto came on-board as a sponsor of the event. • Councillor Joe Mihevc, chair of Community and Neighbourhood Services agree to co-chair.

  19. TDRC – SCPI – Local (continued) • The group decided to use the Homeless Memorial monthly vigil, also scheduled for the 12th as the kick-off for their event. • Following the memorial (attended by about 2-300 people) a meal, catered by The Friendship Centre was provided (in the end nearly 500 meals were served). • The forum took place after the meal and included a range of speakers.

  20. TDRC – SCPI – Local (continued) • Results: • Well-organized with a large number of agencies working together, both in funding and organizing the event. • Media was made aware of the issue although there wasn’t good coverage of the event itself. • Service users were able to present their side of the story. • Individuals and organizations were motivated to take action.

  21. TDRC – SCPI – National • Events were held in Halifax and in several cities throughout Quebec. Folks on the west coast sent press releases. • Coincidentally (or not) the federal government organized a consultation on SCPI for Sept 13th, so momentum from one day to the next was easy.

  22. TDRC – SCPI – National • Participants at the Toronto event signed a banner which was taken to Ottawa for the federal consultation. • Ottawa and Quebec organizations, supported by activists from other communities, organized a protest outside the federal meeting on the 13th. • Individuals inside the meeting who supported the protesters went outside to meet with them at 11am. While in the meeting they were able to carry the message forward.

  23. TDRC – The battle continues… • There has been no promise as of yet for 2007 and onwards funding. • Call, email, fax the federal government and let them know you would like SCPI to continue. • Please send letters and e-mails to: • Prime Minister Stephen Harper -     Fax: (613) 941-6900 • Danielle Shaw, Policy Advisor, PMO -     Fax: (613) 957-5559 • Finance Minister James Flaherty -    Fax: (613) 995-5176 • Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Diane Finley -    Fax: (819) 994-0448

  24. For more information on TDRC: • Go to their website at • Email Tanya at

  25. Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) : Working with Politicians, Advocates and Getting the Vote Out Jennifer Ramsay, ACTO

  26. ACTO’s Mission The Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) works to improve the housing situation of Ontario residents who have low incomes including tenants, co-op members and people who are homeless.

  27. ACTO Achieves Its Mission Through • test case litigation • lobbying and law reform • housing policy work • community organizing • public legal education

  28. ACTO Partners ACTO works with legal clinics, tenant associations and other groups and individuals concerned about housing issues.

  29. ACTO Funding It is funded by Legal Aid Ontario and has been in existence since September, 2001.

  30. Activities (1) • Coordinated lobbying/public education/organizing efforts across Ontario to repeal the Tenant Protection Act (utilizing Ombudsman, UN Human Rights Committee [] intensive media work, etc.)and currently working on regulations to the new act, the Residential Tenancies Act • Coordinated reform of the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal to transform culture from efficiency to fairness; ongoing meetings with Chair and staff • lobbied and litigated for fairer provisions in the Social Housing Reform Act • created the Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN) with TDRC, CERA, Canadian Environmental Law Association, etc. to protect the rights of low-income energy consumers • created, with the Centre for Urban and community studies and the Ontario Coalition for social justice, the Housing and Homelessness Network in Ontario, ongoing information sharing

  31. Activities (2) • intervened at the Ontario Municipal Board to prevent the conversion of a thousand rental units to condominium • intervened at the Supreme Court of Canada to argue that poor people should have their human rights heard in the most accessible forum • Lobbied and litigated to remove community/planning barriers to emergency, transitional and supportive housing • filed human rights complaints as a result of the inadequate shelter allowance • lobbied for changes to the human rights system, including at the United Nations • represented tenant whose eviction order was set aside with a finding that her human rights had been violated as a result of the five-day dispute rule. The landlord reviewed the decision, and ACTO argued the set aside should stand. The government eliminated the five-day requirement to file a written dispute with the new legislation and the landlord agreed to withdraw their application to evict.

  32. Some Current Activities (1) • meeting with Ministry of housing staff on regulations for new legislation and meeting with Tribunal staff to make forms and notices more understandable • representing social housing tenant who had her RGI assistance terminated for failing to inform the housing provider that her 11-year-old granddaughter had been placed with her on a temporary basis by the Children's Aid Society • will participate at the OMB hearing on the City of Toronto's new official plan to defend the preservation of existing rental units with affordable rents

  33. Some Current Activities (2) • will attend the public hearings on the new human rights legislation to support the legislation with some key amendments • working with solicitor general’s office, OPP, various police services, etc. to revise province- wide guideline on dealing with landlord and tenant disputes • LIEN filed a proposal for a rate-payer funded Ontario Home Energy Affordability Program for low-income households as evidence before the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) in the Union Gas 2007 Rates proceeding. The OEB left the door open for future consideration of this program and LIEN recommended that the forum be a generic proceeding on energy rate affordability and be held late summer or early fall of 2006 in order to address the needs of low-income consumers before winter. LIEN continues to push for a generic rates hearing. See

  34. Working with Your Politicians 101 (1) • research the politician you're going to visit (web sites, articles) • be very polite to the politician's front-line staff, this will help with access • keep your main materials brief, you can attach more detailed information • visuals are helpful -- see attached examples • know the decision-making timelines (Council, committee deadlines) • keep your visiting group small and focused

  35. Working with Your Politicians 101 (2) • get the right mix of your group -- do you want to VIPs, people directly affected, academics, local business people, people the councillor knows... • know exactly who's going to cover what, rehearsal doesn't hurt • know your opposition, what are they going to say to counter your message? • clearly articulate what it is you want the politician to do • keep in regular (not of the stalking variety) touch

  36. Mobilizing Advocates 101 • Networks versus coalitions • Housing and Homelessness Network in Ontario (HHNO) • Listservs – uses and limitations: • E-mail calls to action -- be prepared to call key people to act • Provide easily modifiable tools • Keep your postings short, with most important information at the top

  37. Mobilizing the Vote 101 • focus your message/audience • address self-interest • you can be political without being partisan • organizing all-candidates meetings on your issue: see HHNO election tool kit

  38. For more information on ACTO: • Go to their website at • Email Jennifer at

  39. Homelessness Action Group (HAG): Making Deputations Michael Steeves, HAG

  40. Homelessness Action Group • The Homelessness Action Group (HAG) began several years ago from Out of the Cold volunteers who said there was a need to address the systemic problems causing homelessness. • HAG works with an extensive network of volunteers and others to address and ease the homelessness crisis. • We focus on: advocacy, support for affordable/supportive housing projects, education and awareness, encouraging faith groups to invest in and develop housing and supporting newly housed people.

  41. What is a Deputation? • A deputation is a formal written or verbal presentation to make your views known to City Council.

  42. The Most Effective Deputizers • People who are actually in the situation being addressed (The homeless, renters, people living in poverty). • Experts on the issue are important but the stories of those directly affected by the problem are the most powerful. • You don’t need to know everything about the subject to have an impact you just need to know how you are being affected and be willing to tell your story sincerely and truthfully.

  43. Why Make a Deputation? • Allows you to speak to a group of politicians at one time and to ask and answer questions. Media are also often present. • Educate the politicians about your issue and get your point of view on public record.

  44. Where and When Are They Presented? • Standing Committees and Community Councils have regular monthly meetings which allow for deputations. Meetings usually start at 9:30 a.m. in one of the Committee Rooms at City Hall. • You can find their schedules by going to the City of Toronto website (see your kits for the website address). • They’re usually heard at the beginning of committee meetings but may change at the will of the Committee.

  45. How Are They Presented? • Deputations are delivered orally to the committee at an appointed date and time. Written deputations may also be submitted. In the event you cannot be present, a written deputation will be submitted into the record, but will not be read aloud.

  46. Before Your Deputation (1) • Make an appointment with the clerk responsible for the committee. (You can find out the name by calling the City Info Number at 416-338-0338.) • The clerk will ask for your name, organization (if applicable), phone number and address. S/he will also tell you what room the meeting will be held in and if there is a special time for deputations that day. If no time has been assigned, arrive at 9:30 a.m. Be prepared for a lengthy wait.

  47. Before Your Deputation (2) • If you are representing a group, decide who will give the presentation – only one person will make remarks. • Let the clerk know if you need translation. • Call your local councillor and let them know you will be making a deputation and give them a copy of your remarks. • Practice! Make sure you say everything in five minutes or you may be cut off at a very important point in your presentation.

  48. Preparing Your Deputation • If you are nervous, there’s no problem in reading it. Make copies of your deputation and the background materials for the clerk to give to committee members. • If you can’t give a personal deputation, provide the committee secretary with a written copy and that will be given to all councillors and entered into the public record.

  49. How You Should Type Up Your Remarks • Double-space the text and number your pages. • Include your name, the name of the group you are representing and the issue you are addressing. • Include the date and committee name for tracking purposes.

  50. What to Talk About (1) • Thank the chair and the committee. • Introduce yourself, your organization and why you are speaking. • Tell them why it’s important. • Give examples of the problem and/or solution.