One of the true downers of activism is that the same issues keep coming back around again and again.
In March of 2013 I was arrested at an Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) sit-in at Toronto’s Metro Hall protesting the chronic lack of space in city shelters. That winter, several people had frozen to death on the streets of the city, and yet homeless folks were regularly turned away from the city’s shelters due to a lack of beds. This was despite official City of Toronto policy that occupancy rates at municipal shelters should not exceed 90%. Then-mayor Rob Ford brushed off our concerns, insisting that there were available beds – an assertion which was flatly contradicted by a City report released in the months that followed.
The sit-in I participated in was the second in as many months for OCAP. In February, they also occupied the lobby outside of Mayor Ford’s office [link is to the Toronto Sun – fair warning!], demanding that shelter space be made immediately available; several people were arrested that night as well.
(Eventually, all charges related to the whole affair were thrown out – it seems that the main purpose of laying the charges to begin with was to end the sit-ins.)
That round of protests was successful, in a way; after months of delay and denial, city council voted to aim for more shelter beds and reaffirmed their target of 90% occupancy.
In retrospect, though, it’s obvious that Council was all talk and no action. Continue Reading