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National movement launched to end homelessness

No names were added to the homeless memorial on Tuesday. So nobody died last month, right? Not necessarily.

Even if there were no homeless deaths last month, things are definitely not getting better for homeless people in Toronto or across the country. 

Or so it seems.

“Usually what I do each month is bring you bad news,” says Michael Shapcott, housing and anti-poverty activist.

“And there’s lots of bad news I could talk about this month for those that want their bad news fix.”

Every month people gather on the second Tuesday outside the Church of the Holy Trinity to remember those who’ve died on the streets. 

And in their memory they recommit themselves to the struggle to fight for accessible and affordable housing for all.

Not an easy thing to do when both the federal and provincial governments continue to announce cuts to their affordable housing budgets.

“So there is, sadly, plenty of bad news,” he says.

But a glimmer of hope remains.

Last Thursday, The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness was officially launched in Calgary to build a national movement to end homelessness.

Many remember the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee, a national movement formed in 1998 at the Church of the Holy Trinity.

“Over a decade, that movement had a very powerful impact at the national level, in many provinces and in many cities across the country,” says Shapcott, who hopes the new movement will produce similar results.

“We know what the solutions are to end homelessness and we know what needs to be done.”

One of those solutions sits a few blocks west of the Church of the Holy Trinity where the biggest non-profit housing project ever built in Canada occupies a city block and has 300 affordable apartments for single low-income women, women with children, women living with mental health and addiction issues and families of Aboriginal ancestry.

Shapcott hopes that housing project will be duplicated in cities and towns across Canada.  

While the national movement gains momentum, the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) was given a chance to protect its affordable housing portfolio after City Council voted against a proposal by the TCHC Board to sell many of its homes.

Not a good idea when the wait list for affordable housing is at an all time high.

In contrast, Dan and Alice Heap sold their Kensington Market row house in 1993 for exactly what they paid for it 20 years earlier to an organization that provides housing for refugees. 

Sadly, Alice died on March 24.

She was a social justice activist who, along with her husband, worked tirelessly around affordable housing and poverty issues for decades.

“Her housing advocacy work went way back,” says Cathy Crowe, street nurse and poverty activist. “She saw the need for it whether it was for refugees or families.”

The couple were regular fixtures at the monthly homeless memorial vigils, even after their health deteriorated.

“Alice would want us to keep on fighting,” says Crowe.

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