| NEW: Pope Squat Update & Events
At the last meeting before summer break, City Council passed a motion suggesting it was interested in taking the steps to see 1510 King St. W. turned into affordable housing. However a number of conditions were attached to the motion, namely that the province formally declare ownership and transfer the building and that the current occupants (ie: OCAP and squatters) vacate the premises.
OCAP’s immediate response was to maintain that we would be staying at the building until two demands were met: (1) That those homeless people who had been involved in opening the place and winning new affordable housing in this City be housed; (2) That we would not leave until ownership was determined. This means that we would not tolerate a situation where legal wrangling between the City and Province could go on for years while the building sat empty and fell into greater disrepair.
We made several good faith attempts to meet with Chris Korwin Kuczynski as the Councillor who introduced the motion, the councillor for the ward and the one who is charged with overseeing the transformation of 1510 into affordable housing. However he apparently could not find the time to make himself available to us. His reluctance to meet as well as public threats and ultimatums about cancelling all affordable housing plans unless the site was vacated immediately were clear indications of bad faith dealings on the part of the City.
Since then, our research has lead us to unearth legal documents from December of 2000 which the City sent to all those who had a financial interest in the property. The document gives notice that unless all outstanding taxes are paid within 12 months, the City will seize the property. For whatever reason it seems the City never took the step of seizing the building, but the point is: In December 2000, the City believed it had the legal authority to take action with respect to the property – regardless of any provincial involvement. Surely what the City could do in December 2000, it could do in August 2002.
John Harstone, manager of the New Housing Initiatives for the Co-op Housing Federation of Toronto points out that no staff, (nor any monies) are set aside for the practical development of the motion. “The motion does not authorize staff to take any action. It is very unlikely that this motion will result in the transfer of the property from the province to the city and the residents (of the Pope Squat) need to think about seeking alternate avenues to resolve this situation.”
Toronto has the housing experts and local agencies who, with the squatters could develop a truly dynamic and progressive form of self-managed social housing.
The City has no business standing in the way of such a project – nor should foot dragging or pass the buck tactics be tolerated on an issue so vital as housing.
In the meantime, Pope squatters, OCAP and allies have been busy on the cleaning/renovating side of things as well. A work crew which re-shingled parts of the roof has been credited with fixing what was a major fire hazard, not just for 1510 King St W, but for the surrounding buildings and homes as well. We intend to continue with these renovations and will be focusing much attention inside as well. Following is a list of the most needed supplies for this work:
poly vapour barrier
R12 & R20 insulation
We ask that people make these things available to us as we have the volunteer labour and technical know-how to make this place a truly great place to live in relatively short order. (We will also be unveiling a Pope Squat model suite shortly – watch for details!)
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* Saturday, August 24th – 5:00 PM – Outreach, BBQ & One Month Anniversary!
The CAW flying squads have initiated a mass leaflet/outreach to the neighbourhood. The CUPE 3903 flying squad as well as OCAP members will be joining them and we encourage everyone to come out and participate. Following the leafletting will be a B-B-Q to celebrate the One Month Anniversary of the Pope Squat!
* Monday, September 2nd – Labour Day
OCAP Allies are organizing a Pope Squat contingent to be part of the Labour Day March as well as an evening event at 1510 King St. W. If people are interested they should contact David McNally at: dmcnally [at] yorku [dot] ca
* Saturday, September 7th – 4:00 PM – Community BBQ
Big Community B-B-Q (with fresh duck and other meats from the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte), official naming of the Pope Squat as ‘Norm’s House’ – the intended name for 1510 King W as the fight continues to transform the building into social housing.
‘Norm’s House’ refers to Norm Feltes, a highly respected and deeply missed OCAP member who passed away in the early hours of June 16th 2000. The name, chosen by both family and squatters will put his mark on a political victory we know he would have loved.
Also… OCAP and community speakers will lay out the political campaign to get 1510 King St. W past the point of Council motions and into the real work of opening up housing.
* Thursday, September 12th – Meeting of the Community Services Committee
OCAP and Allies intend to organize mass deputations to ensure a positive response from the committee and a prominent place on the agenda at the first City Council meeting after the summer break. To register as a deputant please call Tony Leo at (416)392-5226.
* Tuesday, September 17th – City Council Meeting
OCAP will be organizing maximum attendance for this meeting to ensure the Pope Squat’s transformation into social housing be addressed.
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Given that it seems the Pope Squat is in for the long haul, we are incurring ongoing costs to keep the place running. We are asking for support in a few different ways. Obviously straight financial donations are needed to cover costs like the sound system, renovation bins and supplies. We are also asking for individuals or groups to prepare meals according to a regular schedule. We are looking for meals to be prepared three times a week, Tuesday and Thursday evenings for between 20 to 30 people and Saturday evenings for between 50 to 60 people. Please call the OCAP office if you can help.
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
517 College Street, Suite 234 Toronto, Ontario M5G 4A2
416-925-6939 ocap [at] tao [dot] ca www.ocap.ca
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty