|2 Pope Squat appeals: City Council (Sept 12) and renovations.|
On Thursday, September 12, OCAP is going before the Community Services Committee of Toronto City Council to call for action in response to our Pope Squat initiative. We need all who support us to be there and for as many people as possible to speak before the Committee that day. We will be calling on the City to take over the building at 1510 King Street West and to enter into good faith negotiations with the squatters and their community partners over the creation of self managed social housing at the site.
'Good faith' dealings are what have been missing in this whole affair. City Council has passed a motion calling for 'affordable housing' at this location and asking the Province to transfer ownership. While the admission that the property must be housing is a step in the right direction, this motion is problematic in a couple of major ways. Firstly, a mere call for 'affordable housing' means little. Recent initiatives on this front have produced housing that only the highest third of income earners in the tenant population can afford and OCAP did not take this action to house better paid professionals. Secondly, the call for the Province to hand over the property has more to do with stalling tactics than with genuine efforts to resolve things. The Province will be reluctant to accept that it owns the building and may never do so. However, in December of 2000, the City sent out word to all with a financial interest in 1510 King West that it would seize the place within a year if back taxes weren^t paid. If it had that power then, it has it now and talk about going through Queen's Park is simply evasion.
The City has also made the vacating of the site by the squatters a precondition for any housing project. We are more than ready to move but must have two simple guarantees. The ownership question must be settled and the games over whose in charge must stop. We also make the very reasonable stipulation that we won't abandon the homeless squatters and that their housing needs must be met when we leave.
This appearance before the Community Services Committee will be an important chance to demonstrate the depth of support for the Pope Squat. We are urging trade union bodies, faith groups, community organizations, social activists and, especially, Parkdale residents who live close by the Pope Squat, to have their names added to the list of those who will make deputations that day. The Committee will not formally set its agenda until September 3 but we are quite sure they will feel that a discussion of the Pope Squat and possible solutions to the issues it raises are entirely relevant to their work. On that basis, we urge all allies and supporters to call Tony Leo at City Hall who is in charge of booking deputations. Simply inform him that you wish to speak to the matter of 1510 King Street West on September 12. Ask him to take your contact information and call you back to confirm your time to speak once the Committee's agenda has been formally set. It would also be very important to call OCAP and let us know that you have approached the Committee so that we can keep track of who will be speaking and can make sure all who are interested have a place that day.
We thank all those who have done so much to make the Pope Squat the success it has been to date. On September 12, we're going to bring this community solidarity to City Hall and move the struggle for housing in this City one big step forward.
ONTARIO COALITION AGAINST POVERTY (416) 925-6939
2. POPE SQUAT RENOVATIONS ARE UNDERWAY: AN URGENT APPEAL FOR HELP
The OCAP Pope Squat at 1510 King Street West has already been a huge step forward in the struggle for housing in Toronto. One month into the action, we have a large measure of community support and we are moving forward with our demand for self managed affordable housing at the site.
The City Council has already (with considerable reluctance) passed a motion agreeing in principle to 'affordable housing' at the location of the Pope Squat but it is clear that considerable pressure will have to be applied in order to make this as yet vague commitment into something real.
One of the best ways we have to apply pressure to the City is to proceed with the initial phases of renovating the building. What better way to show the possibilities that exist than to have 1510 King West take on an appearance that more and more resembles the decent housing it must become once governments are made to face up to their responsibilities? Already massive clean up and repair work has been undertaken. The roof has been fixed so as to remove a major fire hazard that threatened surrounding buildings as well. Those with skilled labour abilities and professional knowledge have come forward to help. We are soliciting donations in the form of building equipment and tools. Plans are underway to turn at least one of the units in the building into a 'model suite' that can offer a real vision of what the place can become.
We urgently need financial donations to support this work. We must also support and sustain the squatters and meet costs involved in outreach to the local community and beyond as we build political support for this whole struggle.
We are making an urgent appeal to all organizations and individuals who support this vital struggle to mail in their cheques to help us carry on and win. Please send all donations to:-
OCAP (Pope Squat Appeal),
234-517 College Street,
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