The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty held a successful Rally for Food Justice on April 9, 2016. HPAP member Katie Dorman shared the following message.
“I’m a family physician working in Northern Ontario and member of Health Providers Against Poverty, sending my support for OCAPs rally against food poverty and hunger.
Every day I see the damaging effects of excessive food prices on people’s health. Food insecurity, both in the amount and type of food that people can afford, is contributing to premature mortality across Ontario.
Along the James Bay coast, the Northern Stores have a monopoly. 1 orange costs $3, 1 can of soup costs over $6, 3 bags of milk costs nearly $10. At the same time, the CEO of the North West Company earns over 5 million dollars per year.
Children are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and cannot afford to eat healthy.
People who are hungry have no food bank to turn to.
Colonization and systematic cultural oppression have deprived many indigenous peoples of their traditional sustenance, while ongoing exploitation by large corporations intensifies food insecurity. On top of this, chronic underfunding of education, health care, children’s services, and social infrastructure intensify the effects of poverty and hunger.
It’s time for this to end. We need food security for all Ontarians.”
“I’m representing Health Providers Against Poverty. We are a group of health care workers – nurses, doctors, social workers, occupational therapists, etc – who work directly with people facing homelessness.
We were invited by John to join OCAP in conducting this survey and it confirmed what we hear everyday from our patients – the shelter system is stretched to the limit. The City of Toronto is relying on well-meaning charities to catch those falling through the gaps – but it’s clear from this report that they are bursting at the seams.
Today, City Council is voting on the budget. Originally, this budget did not even include funding to keep warming shelters open throughout the winter. Last year, 3 people died on the streets from cold exposure. This is just the tip-of-the-iceberg of how health is impacted by being out in the cold. 99% of deaths caused by cold weather don’t occur immediately – instead, they occur up to a month after exposure by increasing the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and pneumonia. Medically, ethically, and economically – it makes sense to bring everyone out of the cold.
It wouldn’t be correct to say the city is merely ignoring the crisis in the shelter system. In reality, they are actively planning to make it worse. The redevelopment of Seaton House poses a net loss of beds – which is unfathomable for a system already consistently above the target of 90% capacity.
Health Providers Against Poverty commend OCAP on documenting what unfortunately those using the shelter system know all too well, and providing 5 key ways the city must act.”
The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty’s recent report Out In The Cold: The Crisis In Toronto’s Shelter System has revealed the City’s inadequate response to homelessness, particularly in the cold winter months. The report includes findings from interviews with over 100 service users at numerous Out of The Cold locations.
This report confirms HPAP member’s concerns that Toronto shelter’s are over-crowded and inaccessible, contributing to serious health risks for people who are homeless.
The Toronto Star published OCAP’s findings in an article that asserts that “Toronto is failing to meet the basic needs of its homeless population”.
HPAP supports OCAP in demanding that the City take the following measures to address this crisis:
Ensure the shelter system’s 90% maximum occupancy policy
Immediately open new spaces to shelter people, including the Federal Armouries
End discriminatory practices within the shelter system