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(en) Canada, OPEN UP THE BUILDINGS: National Call

From Mick <mickblack47@yahoo.com>
Date Tue, 15 Oct 2002 04:16:28 -0400 (EDT)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

Open Up The Buildings!!

National Call. Give It Or Guard It 2002/2003

Directed to the various levels of Government, 'Give it or Guard it' means
simply this:  Either they find the political will necessary to open
abandoned buildings for housing or they throw a ring of cops around them
because homeless people, poor people and the organizations representing
will be taking actions to their doorsteps, opening them up, setting
up camp on their front lawns, moving in.

Earlier this month, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty made the public
commitment to open another building before the end of the month.  The Pope
Squat, opened at the end of July is full and residents are winterizing the
building.  OCAP is therefore turning its attention to some of Toronto?s
other potential housing sites.

On October 26th OCAP and allies will be organizing a series of actions at
some of Toronto's many abandoned buildings.  Organizations in Montreal,
Ottawa, Kingston, Belleville, Peterborough, Oakville and Guelph are
developing similar plans.

Next spring we would like to work with organizations nationally on a
campaign that would include the taking of housing in a number of centers.

The Federal Government hasn't put a dime into housing since taking
Government in 1993.  Provincial Governments have overwhelmingly gone down
the same road, and none of them are meeting the needs.  The motel strip on
Toronto's Kingston road currently houses some 700 plus children nightly.
Hundreds of people bed down on the pavement encircling City Hall.  People
in the City's west end parks have resorted to sleeping sitting up in a
desperate attempt to escape notice by Toronto police and Parks and Rec.
department staff.  Such indignities are intolerable when in every instance
an empty building that could be providing the needed housing sits a mere
stone's throw away.

Following is a copy of correspondence sent to various political
figures advising them of our intent to force the opening of abandoned
buildings and the construction of housing that is truly affordable for
low-income people.  As well, there is an updated copy of OCAP's Model
Resolution for a 'Use it or Lose it' Bylaw for Empty Buildings that was
first issued in 1997.  We encourage other municipalities to adopt similar
resolutions and pressure their City Governments to adopt them as part of
the overall housing campaign plans.



October 8, 2002

Prime Minister, Premier and Mayor:

This letter is to inform you that the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
can wait no longer for you to respond in any meaningful way to the
housing crisis. On October 26, joined by a wide range of allied
organizations, we intend to begin the task of reclaiming empty buildings
as places of shelter for the homeless. On that day, in a number of
Ontario communities, along with Montreal and Vancouver, homeless people
and their supporters will start to take back a precious resource that has
been lost to greed, neglect and irrationality.

We will soon be making public the times and locations of these housing
actions so that we may present you with a very simple choice. Either you
can give these places up as housing to those in desperate need or you can
mobilize your police forces to guard them. What you cannot do, however,
is continue to permit homeless people to die on the streets while
hundreds of available housing sites sit unprotected. That situation is
now over.

Our decision to act in this way follows our bitter experiences around the
Pope Squat. After we took over the building at 1510 King West in
Toronto's Parkdale neighbourhood, on July 25, huge community support for
our effort was generated. The Canadian Auto Workers and the York
University Faculty Association pledged resources towards the conversion
of the site into self managed social housing. Despite all this, no level
of government has displayed any serious interest in responding
positively. Even when others act where you have not done so, you continue
with your willful neglect in the face of crisis and misery. Worse still,
you persecute those who take action to secure shelter. In the last few
weeks, we have seen the closing down of Toronto's Tent City, an ugly
driving of homeless people from Toronto parks and the raiding of squats
in Quebec City and Vancouver.

You are government leaders in a Country that has a Constitution that is
supposed to offer "life, liberty and security of the person" to all who
dwell in it. In Toronto, 2,000 people a month are evicted and 60,000 sit
on waiting lists for housing that are over seven years long. The emergency
shelters in this City fail to comply with standards set by the United
Nations for refugee camps and hundreds of homeless people have perished
needlessly. This appalling reality turns the noble words of your
Constitution into a sick farce.

October the 26th will be the initial mobilization in an ongoing and
escalating drive to open empty property for the homeless. We would
suggest that you consider your options and make a decision. Muster the
political will to provide housing or mobilize your police to deny it to
those in need. The option of ignoring the problem is about to disappear.

Yours truly,

John Clarke, Organizer,
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty

Model Resolution for a 'Use it or Lose it' Bylaw for Empty Buildings:

WHEREAS hundreds of buildings have been boarded up by their owners and
left to fall into disrepair.

WHEREAS this is being done solely in the interests of profit without
regard to the impact on the community of failing to provide so vital and
scarce a resource as housing that is truly affordable to low income

WHEREAS there are easily 50 to 60 thousand homeless people in the City of
Toronto and waiting lists for public rent geared to income that are
running 10 years and beyond.

AND WHEREAS it is clear that this state of affairs is in the interests of
a wealthy handful and causes needless misery to hundreds of thousands of
Toronto residents.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that, form this time on, the City of Toronto
prohibit owners of residential property from leaving such buildings empty
for a period exceeding six months.  (This will not apply to homeowners in
the process of selling a former residence or in situations where
legitimate renovations are underway).

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the violation of this bylaw will result in a
fine, levied on a yearly basis, that will be set at 25% of the value of
the property in question and that these monies will be immediately
invested in the creation of social housing in Toronto.

   originally issued 21/07/97

   updated 08/10/02


1 PM
Saturday, OCTOBER 26th, 2002
Meet at TENT CITY (Parliament & Lakeshore)

There is a housing crisis in Toronto. Police have already aggressively
evicted hundreds of homeless people from the city's parks and 125 people
from Tent City this fall.

Shelters are overcrowded and unsafe. Affordable housing has a 5-year
waiting list. With winter coming, there is nowhere for people to go.

On October 26, OCAP and its allies will do what this government refuses to
do: open up new housing for the homeless. We did it at 1510 King St W and
we will do it again.

If the city doesn't give us anywhere to sleep, we will take it.

In Parkdale: meet at the Pope Squat (1510 King St. W) at
12 PM to catch a bus to Tent City.

A meal will be served.

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