Occupying housing from the Pope Squat to Occupy Toronto

It was a sweltering afternoon in late July 2002 when the armoured vehicles of the Toronto Police Emergency Task Force pulled up in front of our building. Quickly we started barricading the door with an old desk, if they were coming to kick us out we weren’t going to make it easy for them. We waited tensely as the cops approached the door with submachine guns drawn.

Our crime? We dared to take over an abandoned building in the middle of a housing crisis.

We all survived that early raid and were eventually allowed back into the building where we lived for the next three months — dubbing it the “Pope Squat” as we occupied it during the pontiff’s visit to Toronto.
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Pope Squat: Lobby Day and Rally at City Council Meeting

  Pope Squat: Lobby Day and Rally at City Council Meeting


With astounding success, the OCAP Pope Squat is now well into its second month. Homeless people and their allies have established a community and taken forward the whole fight against homelessness and underhousing in Toronto. Our goal, however, is not just to win the right to squat the property but to compel the levels of government to set a vital precedent by accepting a self managed social housing project at 1510 King Street West.

We are doing all we can to take this forward on our own while we pressure City Hall to act. Renovations are underway, a model suite is being prepared at the site and, with community partners, we are creating the legal entity at the site that could assume control of a housing project. The City, however, has not yet faced up to its responsibilities. The motion passed by Council calls on the Province to hand over the property and the Province will be very unlikely to admit to ownership. What we do know, though, is that the City sent all with a stake in the property a communication in December of 2000 warning that the building would be seized if back taxes weren’t paid. If they had that power then, they have it now and we demand that the City take over the property, provide housing during the renovation period to those presently there and open negotiations around the creation of self managed housing.

We have prepared (and include with this notice) a model resolution that outlines our position and we have two upcoming actions to press for City Council to adopt it. Below are the details of these.


We are preparing a mass lobby of Council members. If you would like to be part of one of the delegations that will meet with the politicians or their representatives, here’s how things will work.

* Find out who you elected member of Council is.

* Call the OCAP office and offer your help. We will assign you to a team of people meeting with a Council member.

* If you are the first person calling in from your particular ward, we will ask you to phone and make an appointment.

* On the day, we will proceed together to the lobby area of the Councillors’ offices, go to our meetings and press the demands contained in the model resolution. We will call on them to put this on the floor of the next Council meeting and to adopt it at that session.


We shall rally in front of the building to show some of the community support that exists and then go to the Council Chambers to eliminate any lingering doubt on the matter. We hope and expect, that they will be ready to discuss this vital issue. (Did not this same Council declare homelessness a national disaster?) We will be ready to go into the chambers to witness politicians who do the right thing and provide a small but important beginning in the work of dealing with the housing crisis. We are also prepared, however, for our visit to the gathering to be a restrained yet unmistakable reminder that the community will no longer accept talk as a substitute for action and that the Pope Squat is something they just can’t hide from. We need every single person available to come out and show their support on the 17th!

For more information call OCAP at (416) 925-6939 or e mail us at ocap [at] tao [dot] ca


“Given that a housing crisis exists in this City, with vast waiting lists for social housing, rampant evictions and a level of homelessness that the City Council has declared a disaster.”

“Given that an attempt is underway to turn the building at 1510 King Street West into social housing.”

“Given that this initiative is widely supported in Parkdale and by many labour, faith and community based organizations.”

“And, given that the City of Toronto felt able to seize the property as long ago as December of 2000 and communicated this to all those with a financial interest in it.”

“Toronto City Council will take over the property in question without delay and begin its transformation into social housing.”

“Council will also ensure that those homeless people who are presently living at the site be housed during the renovation period.”

“As the City moves forward with developing the site, it will enter into good faith negotiations with those presently living there and their community partners who have allocated or pledged resources to this initiative around the creation of a self managed project at 1510 King Street West.”

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 <ocap [at] tao [dot] ca>

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(Toronto) Push on to uncover city’s potential squats

  (Toronto) Push on to uncover city’s potential squats

Push on to uncover city’s potential squats
eye – 08.29.02

Dilapidated buildings have been sitting empty for years throughout Toronto, dumped by owners unwilling to finance their maintenance and repair.

Now, spurred by the success of the Pope Squat — in which the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) has been occupying an abandoned building at 1510 King W. in an attempt to turn it into affordable housing — the city has begun compiling a list of all the vacant properties in its south district, the area bounded by Eglinton, Victoria Park, Keele and the lake.

“This has always been an issue but it came to a head with 1510 King W.,” says Mike Leonard, the city’s district manager for municipal licensing and standards, south district. Leonard has asked his supervisors to cull a master list of abandoned properties from various computer databases that existed before amalgamation. He hopes to have a complete inventory in a couple of weeks.

“We want to know where all vacant buildings are and make sure they’re properly secured,” says Leonard. He says municipal licensing and standards officers will locate properties abandoned by their owners, list them and board up the windows with plywood and paint.

But, he says, the list is not intended to find buildings that could be turned into affordable housing. “That’s a planning issue. At my end of things we are just responsible for public safety. The use of the building is still up to the owner,” he says.

When researching the Pope Squat, OCAP uncovered a unique legal situation. The building at 1510 King W. has belonged to the province since 1994, when the corporation that held the title dissolved. Before breaking for the summer, city council indicated that it was interested in taking steps to turn the building into affordable housing.

Housing activists in New York City won a major coup recently when the Bloomberg administration turned over 11 abandoned Manhattan buildings to the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB), a nonprofit organization that helps tenants take over and manage their buildings. It was a drastic shift in policy that ended two decades of routinely evicting squatters.

Negotiations began with the Giuliani administration in the summer of 1999 and were delayed by the events of Sept. 11. On Aug. 19 of this year, the city announced it would sell the Lower East Side buildings to UHAB for $1 each.

UHAB will renovate the buildings and turn them into limited-equity co-ops, which means the apartments will have a low maintenance of roughly US$500 per month and can’t be sold for profit. It’s a move that won’t cost the city anything and will provide 167 apartments that can house 263 people.

In Toronto, there are differing opinions about how many potential squats exist in the city. Officials in the city’s planning and real-estate departments contacted by eye say there aren’t a lot of abandoned buildings here. But OCAP says it has managed to find 35 unused properties in Parkdale alone, just by walking through the area street by street. “They’re not very hard to find,” says OCAP organizer John Clarke.

The group has also found it can get a good deal of background research done on its own. “Anybody can do a search at City Hall, this is publicly-available information,” explains OCAP organizer Sarah Vance. “You just have to do quite a lot of digging to find out what’s behind the company.”

David Hulchanski, director of the Centre for Urban and Community Studies at the University of Toronto, was surprised to learn that 1510 King W., a building with tremendous potential value, had been sitting empty for so long.

“Any piece of land, especially residential land, in the city is worth a lot,” he says. “Nobody knows how many [abandoned buildings] there are. OCAP did a lot of research and found something that put them in a good position.”

When searching for a building to squat, OCAP looks for property that will serve politically as well as functionally.

For the Pope Squat, the group says it required a classic example of poor-quality housing in an area hit hard by rent-control issues and housing standards. It also helped that 1510 King W. is in an area where many World Youth Day pilgrims stayed when they were here in July but wasn’t too close to disturb papal proceedings.

The Mission Press building at 53 Dundas E., which was squatted in March, was chosen for its location — the neighbouring parking lot for the Senator Steakhouse used to be a Salvation Army hostel — and its relation to the ongoing Yonge and Dundas redevelopment.

“[We] want a site where either ownership is murky or the owner politically is not in a good position to order an eviction,” says Clarke.

Respond to this article: Use the form at http://www.eye.net/abouteye/lte/ to send a letter to the editor, or email it to letters [at] eye [dot] net

eye – 08.29.02

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2 Pope Squat appeals: City Council (Sept 12) and renovations.


  2 Pope Squat appeals: City Council (Sept 12) and renovations.


1. Help Put The Pope Squat At The Top Of City Council’s Agenda: Sept 12th

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.



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,
TORONTO, Ontario
M6G 4A2

ph: 416-925-6939
email: ocap [at] tao [dot] ca




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City inspectors visit the Pope Squat.


  City inspectors visit the Pope Squat.


On Friday August 17th and Monday August 19th City fire and health inspectors paid a visit to the ongoing occupation of the previously abandoned building at 1510 King St. W. known as the ?Pope Squat?. They inspected both the interior of 1510 King St. W. as well as the property lot and while they didn?t give us any certification papers one inspector named Mr. Pong said, ?There?s no problems here that I can see, everything looks fine to me.?

We are however concerned with the possibility that the City will continue to send inspectors to 1510 King St. W. as a form of political harassment. Clearly, it would be an unacceptable situation for people working and living at the squat to be continually harassed by City officials as we work to continue making the improvements that the City itself has refused to do on the building and live a normal life in our new home.

We would like to stress that the solution to the situation at 1510 King St. W. is a political one and not one that revolves around technicalities of City inspectors.

We call on the City to begin good-faith negotiations with the squatters, who are actively renovating the building, in order to bring a self-managed, social housing project on the property into existence.

We urge the City to not try and side step a beneficial political solution to the building by using inspectors as a pressure tactic against the squatters who have nowhere to go but the shelter system or the street. Which are notorious health hazards in themselves with people facing infection of lice and tuberculosis in overcrowded shelters or death by exposure on the street.

The fact that the city is sending inspectors to the Pope Squat while not engaging in good-faith negotiations with the squatters is disturbing for a number of reasons.

It is disturbing because of the fact that, along with the previous private owners, the City itself was responsible for allowing the building to fall into disrepair in the first place. A lot of the damage that we have been busy repairing obviously existed long before the City evicted the previous tenants in September 2000. Unfortunately, as we?ve seen time and time again, the City is unwilling to ensure that repairs are done on buildings owned by slumlords often choosing to evict people from the only place they can afford and leave empty buildings to rot instead.

It is disturbing because of the huge number of apartment buildings, rooming houses and other housing in Parkdale and across Toronto that are in dire need of city inspections and work orders being given to landlords who are getting rich off tenants living in deplorable conditions. Surely, the City?s resources for inspections would be better spent in a massive drive to inspect and order repairs on buildings where, unlike the Pope Squat, there aren?t already serious renovations underway and people are paying rent to landlords while being provided with substandard housing.

Finally, it is disturbing because it fits with a pattern that the squatting movement in Canada is becoming familiar with. That pattern, as evidenced by the evictions at both the Prefontaine Squat in Montreal in October 2001, and the ?7 Year Squat? in Ottawa in July 2002, is that City and fire inspections are often the first step in manufacturing a pretext for the City to throw people into the street. We sincerely hope that this is not the strategy that the City is engaging in with the recent visits by inspectors to the Pope Squat.

On the upside, renovations continue at the Pope Squat and we are well on our way to making the building safe, up-to-code, self-managed, social housing. Last weekend a volunteer work crew spent some long hours doing extensive renovations throughout the building filling a couple of industrial bins with old rotting drywall and insulation that will be replaced with new material shortly. Again, we would like to mention that the work of the squatters and volunteers in fixing the leak in the roof has been credited for ending a major risk of fire not only to 1510 King St. but also to the surrounding apartment buildings. In three short weeks, on a shoestring budget and volunteer labour, we have accomplished significant physical improvements on the building. Certainly more improvements than the City ever did in the years that it allowed 1510 King St. W. to sit in legal limbo, rot and pose a fire hazard (now fixed) to our neighbors.


The occupants of the Pope Squat
1510 King Street West
Toronto, Ontario Canada
M6K 1J5

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
517 College Street, Suite 234
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M6G 2A4
Ph: 416-925-6939
Email: ocap [at] tao [dot] ca
Website: http://www.ocap.ca




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NEW: Pope Squat Update & Events


  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:
dry wall
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!)

* * * * * * * *
Upcoming Events
* * * * * * * *

* 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.

* * * *
Appeal * * * *

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




Canada, Media, The Hope Squat.


  Canada, Media, The Hope Squat.


With the Pope Squat – The ongoing occupation of an abandoned rooming house at 1510 King St. W. – the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty has done more than just give a handful of Toronto?s homeless new digs, if only temporarily. With this phenomenally successful occupation (success, of course being measured by days activists delay being tear-gassed by fed-up politicians, multiplied by the amount of media stories run by Big Media) OCAP?s direct action in Parkdale is slowly gaining momentum like few of the Coalition?s strategies before.

Remarkably 1510 King St. is the longest OCAP squat in the organization?s twelve-year history.

They chose Parkdale because as organizer Sarah Vance said, the neighborhood is notorious for derelict rooming houses that are cut adrift by the municipality, and only revisited to evict tenants when a buyer comes sniffing.

Such was the case with 1510 King St. in October 2000 when the City and 459105 Ontario Ltd. A Mississauga firm with title to the building booted everyone out. Almost two years later 1510 was empty and the City still has over $15,000 in liens against the firm and close to $40,000 is owed in back taxes.

OCAP?s success in Parkdale is due to the meticulous research conducted by the group prior to occupation. This preparation has exposed the indifference of ostensibly pro-housing authorities who prefer to yell about the dearth of affordable housing while ignoring – or not even being aware of – prime properties that sit empty.

For years OCAP?s disruptions haven?t made them many government friends. And the usual cast was out for the Pope Squat, dismissing the action as yet another pain-in-the-ass OCAP protest. Parkdale-High Park Chris Korwin-Kuczynski called OCAP ?a violent organization that tries to do things the wrong way? as he put the motion forward to council asking the province for ownership of the building so it could be turned into affordable housing.

Despite the group?s bad reputation, the only nastiness during the march to the Pope Squat from Masaryk-Cowan Community Centre on July 25 came from a police officer. The fresh-faced cadet used his mountain bike to cut off an OCAP supporter on a low rider. The girl was knocked down hard and the cop – – looking to impress his superiors – cycled away with a smug grin.

It?s pretty difficult not to side with OCAP?s Pope Squat, be you politically apathetic, or Parkdale new money, just waiting for a Starbucks at Queen and Sorauren.

Through the beautifully simple art of street protest and relentless investigation the Pope Squat demonstrates that municipal and provincial posturing about a new deal for Toronto is little more than hot air unless it?s supported with tangible action. And you can?t get more tangible than listening to the grateful tenants at 1510 as they mull about looking forward to not sleeping 15 to a room at the shelter.

And OCAP isn?t finished. In a July 29 letter to Mayor Lastman, OCAP said they are ?currently investigating the legal situations of other dormant properties in the neighborhood.? They also call upon Mayor Mel to ?do the same and enter negotiations regarding all properties in a similar situation.?

When and where the next squat opens up is unclear. But when it does, you can all but guarantee a bigger turnout for the march – by activists and politico-backed police alike.

Mick <mickblack47 [at] yahoo [dot] com>



Canada, Toronto, MEDIA, Squatters clean, repair building


  Canada, Toronto, MEDIA, Squatters clean, repair building


Squatters clean, repair building Poverty activists won’t end protest until city takes over By Kerry Gillespie

A group of anti-poverty activists – long vilified by politicians and police for its attention-grabbing antics – is working overtime to turn the occupation of an abandoned Parkdale building into more than that. Using donated materials, supporters of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) are cleaning and repairing floors, walls, ceilings and everything in between in their bid to turn 1510 King St. W. into affordable housing. But the group hopes professionals, with government money, will soon take over.

Dubbed the Pope Squat, OCAP occupied the building while Pope John Paul II was in town two weeks ago, to draw attention to the city’s housing crisis. Yesterday, the squatters laid down the terms under which they would leave: The province must turn the building over to the city, so it can make good on its promise to use it for affordable housing; and four people who have been living in the building since July 25 must be found homes. But the councillor for the area has other ideas. “The longer they stay, the bigger risk they take that there won’t be any social housing there at all,” said Chris Korwin-Kuczynski (Ward 14, Parkdale-High Park).

He is determined not to let occupation of abandoned buildings become a trend – OCAP has already identified 35 others in his Parkdale ward. That’s why he crafted the motion, overwhelmingly approved by council last week, to ask the province for ownership of the building to turn it into affordable housing only if the anti-poverty group leaves immediately.

“If they think they’ll leave it and we’ll double cross them, that is not the case,” Korwin-Kuczynski said.

But he warned if they stay and are eventually forced out by the police, and the building still falls into city hands, it won’t be used for affordable housing. “We’ll sell it.

“You have to make a stand,” he explained. “This can’t become a trend; anarchy can’t decide the future of anything.” As far as Toronto police are concerned, the squatters can stay until the building’s owner asks for them to be thrown out under the Trespass to Property Act.

“Until the owner comes forward and says, `I don’t want them there’ … there’s nothing we can do,” said Sergeant Robb Knapper. The owner appears to be the province, according to Brendan Crawley of the attorney-general’s office.

The building was defaulted to the crown when the owner disappeared and didn’t pay his mortgages or debts.

But there are “numerous issues that muddy the title of the property,” Crawley added. And until those are dealt with – including the numerous mortgages and liens on the property – the province isn’t prepared to comment on what it will do with the property.

“We’re working to clarify this as quickly as we can,” he said. If it is converted to affordable housing, the building could hold up to 26 people.

“This is the perfect opportunity for (Premier Ernie) Eves and his cabinet to show that they are somehow different from the Mike Harris government (that) did all this social destruction,” said NDP housing critic Michael Prue, during OCAP’s news conference yesterday at Queen’s Park.

“The purpose of this is to call on Mr. Eves to react, to do something, to show that he is different from Mr. Harris, to show that he cares about the plight of the homeless in Toronto. It is a simple act.”

When asked whether letting OCAP win this showdown would encourage activists to take over more buildings, Prue said the confusion over ownership makes this building different.

“You’re not going to see hundreds of buildings being occupied,” he said. But OCAP spokesperson Sue Collis admitted the group is planning future occupations.

“We’re in the process of identifying other buildings,” she said. In the Parkdale neighbourhood alone, OCAP has identified 35 abandoned buildings.

Collis said they are doing title searches to see if any are government owned and therefore potential sites for future occupations.

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Canada, Toronto, Pope Squat Update, Wednesday. August 7th, 2002.


  Canada, Toronto, Pope Squat Update, Wednesday. August 7th, 2002.


Pope Squat Update, Wednesday, August 7th, 2002.

On Tuesday August 6th, Squatters from the “Pope Squat” at 1510 King Street West, The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and many allies made a strong showing of the wide support that the ongoing housing occupation enjoys.

Over 100 people rallied at city hall for an update on the situation around the squat and a delegation of squatters and allies, including trade union leaders, was prepared to meet with city councilors and officials and open the negotiation process to convert 1510 King St. W. into self-managed social housing.

However, one councilor that the delegation wanted to secure a meeting with, local councilor Chris Korwin-Kuczynski, was not in his office.

As a meeting at city hall was not forthcoming on this day the demonstration marched to the Provincial Land Registry office at Bay St. and Wellesley.

Police and security immediately blocked the main entrance to the building but were unable to stop the resourceful and determined crowd. Some squatters and activists gained entrance to the building through other doors before being blocked by security and police right at the inside office responsible for the title of 1510 King West.

The Province is currently a major obstacle on the road to converting 1510 King St W. into self-managed social housing. The Province has every legal right to acknowledge ownership of the property and transfer it to the city, or the squatters, for conversion into self-managed social housing.

There will be a press conference at the Queens Park media room today (Wednesday, August 7th) at 11am. NDP Housing Critic Michael Prue; John Cartwright, President of the Toronto and York District Labour Council; Steve Watson, National Representative of the Canadian Auto Workers Union; Street Nurse Cathy Crowe; and Squatters will speak to the desperate need for provincial action to cut through the red tape and turn 1510 King St. West into self-managed social housing.

OCAP and squatters will continue to pressure both the municipal and provincial levels of government and pay visits to the appropriate offices. Stay alert for emergency calls to action.

Another exciting development at the squat was the decision to name the long-term, self-managed, social housing project after Norman Feltes as a memorial. Norm was a long-time OCAP member whose fight ended on June 15th, 2000. Both his warmth towards us who had the honor of knowing him and his tenacity towards those we struggled against live on at 1510 King St. West.

Norm’s son Nick, who happens to be experienced in converting and renovating social housing, was at the squat Tuesday going through the building and making assessments and made the suggestion of naming the building after his father. Nick also re-told the well known story of Norm’s final request being that Nick attend the OCAP demonstration at Queens Park on June 15th, 2000 in his place. Nick proudly did so and the solidarity of the Feltes continues with his assistance at the Pope Squat.

As it stands, the squatters and OCAP are maintaining our position that:

1) The province has not yet claimed ownership of 1510 King St W. In order to avoid bureaucratic foot-dragging we will not leave 1510 King St. W. until it is determined that the Province of Ontario or the City of Toronto hold title of the property.

2) There are individuals living at 1510 King St. W. who are homeless and have nowhere else to go. OCAP will not walk away from these individuals and leave them in the street.

3) While it is a sad state of affairs when it takes a local organization like OCAP and homeless people to physically open an empty building to get the City of Toronto to act– they have finally but reluctantly done the right thing by stating their intention to convert the building into affordable housing. However, there are many empty buildings throughout Toronto similar to 1510 King St. W. If the City fails to act on these as well, OCAP most certainly will.

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
“Kicking the ass of the ruling class since 1990”
517 College St. Suite 234
Toronto Ontario
M6G 4A2
Phone: 416-925-6939
email: ocap [at] tao [dot] ca
Web: http://www.ocap.ca

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty <ocap [at] tao [dot] ca>



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Canada, Toronto, Pope Squat Friday report, August 2nd, 2002


  Canada, Toronto, Pope Squat Friday report, August 2nd, 2002


Pope Squat Friday report, August 2nd, 2002

On Friday evening, 7:00 pm, various union locals and supporters rallied at Masaryk Cowan park before beginning a march to 1510 King street.

Approximately 150-200 people showed up for the march and many different unions were represented by the colourful display of union flags. Of the unions that came out to support the action, I noticed the flags of the Auto Workers, Steel Workers, Elementary School Teachers, Catholic Teachers, Secondary Teachers, and CUPE. There was even a Public Service Alliance Canada (PSAC) member in support. And the Toronto and York Region Labour Council was well represented by John Cartwright, Helen Kennedy, Margaret McPhail, Carolyn Egan and others.

Steve Watson (CAW) addressed the crowd and lead the group down Queen street and then to King. As we marched down the street many people waved and honked their horns in support as bicycle cops and two squad cars escorted the group.

When the group arrived, the large group of squatters, volunteers, and OCAP supporters greeted the union contingent and joined them at the front of the building. With the aid of a megaphone, Steve Watson and John Cartwright addressed the enthusiastic audience, and Sue Collis (OCAP) updated the crowd about the status of the building and the current state of affairs. The crowd in front of the building was big enough that it spilled onto the road.

To symbolically christen the site, Alex (CUPE) and Jim (CAW) hammered the new “1510” address plaque onto the front of the building; this was greeted with a resounding cheer from the crowd.

After the official addresses, union folks chatted with squatters and walked around the building to check out the scene in the backyard. As people interacted, there was a realness to the solidarity and understanding that community and union were showing each other. As the sun began to set, many of the marchers headed home and a couple of films were shown in the backyard. It should be noted that union locals did not just bring moral support, but they also came bearing gifts as many necessary supplies were brought and donated to the location.

Since the initial occupation, which was a little over a week ago, the backyard has been transformed into a tented common area where food, water, and various supplies are stored. The couches are now all arranged under the tarps so that it kind of feels like you are in a summer beer tent, or a theatre, because the couches are arranged in rows facing the projection screen that adorns the back of the building. And at the very back of the area, the CAW porta-potty resides. Overall, it kind of feels like a cross between a campground and a community centre.

In terms of improvements made to the building, Chris said that the backdoor frame was fixed yesterday, and that the door itself was hung today by a volunteer carpenter. As well, the old back steps were torn down and rebuilt anew. This now permits safe access and ventilation from the rear of the 2nd floor, and it also facilitated the thorough final cleaning and vacuuming of the 2nd floor. The overall mold and air contamination is now greatly reduced. All that remains is the debris on the 1st floor which continues to be closed off.

A plumber also came to assess the plumbing situation. It seems the pipes are in good shape and can easily be serviced; some sections need to be replaced and other pipes can be capped. However, what stymied the plumbing group was “how to turn on the water?”. It seems the water pipe switch found on the 1st floor did not seem to do anything, so this either means the water is turned off to the house from the line coming in from the street, or, that the actual water main in the basement has yet to be properly identified. This is a an important issue to be resolved in the coming days since water is essential to the continued renovation and occupation of the building.

In the near future, there is also a proposed plan to properly fix up one room or one unit –much like a model home. The proposed unit is to have new linoleum tiling, new dry-wall, and new fixtures so as to demonstrate to the city/province that a proper renovation can realistically be achieved.

Overall, it was a great week. With Buzz Hargrove publicly appearing at 1510 King to support and financially endorse the action on Wednesday and with the week ending with a great show of support from a broad coalition of unions it really feels like things are happening. It is almost unbelievable!

Oh…. my friend told me a wry little saying this week. She said: “Housing cures Homelessness.”

With humour and solidarity, union out,


Mick <mickblack47 [at] yahoo [dot] com>



Toronto: CLAC Radio – Pope Squat!

CLAC Radio – Pope Squat!
“When the government refuses to build housing, people have no choice but to take it themselves.”

This program focuses on the Pope Squat an action organized by OCAP (The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty). The Pope Squat was opened on June 25th while the festivities of World Youth Day & the Pope’s visit were occurring and the eyes of the world were focused on Toronto. The Pope Squat highlights the brutal realities of homelessness & poverty in the City of Toronto.

The realities of poverty & homelessness are outlined on the OCAP website; Toronto is in a housing crisis. The cost of rent is out of control. Landlords are not being forced to make repairs. The minimum wage has been frozen for more than 5 years. Families are falling deeper into poverty and more and more people are dying in the streets.

This program features an interview and speech given by Sarah Vance an organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. This program gives an overview of the day the Pope Squat was opened, the activities & events which have been organized around the Pope Squat and the plans for the future which OCAP and those living at the Pope Squat are working toward.

– -> You can listen to CLAC Radio’s feature on the Pope Squat at: http://www.radio4all.net/proginfo.php?id=5120

– -> Previous CLAC radio programs can be accessed at: http://www.quebec2001.org/audio_en.html

– -> To find out more information about the Pope Squat & OCAP visit: http://www.ocap.cahttp://www.ontario.indymedia.org

La Convergence des luttes anti-capitalistes (CLAC)
The Anti-Capitalist Convergence
La Convergencia de las luchas anti-capitalistas
A Convergencia das lutas anti-capitalistas
clac [at] tao [dot] ca — 514-409-2049

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Canada, Toronto, Pope Squat Street Festival on Now!!!


  Canada, Toronto, Pope Squat Street Festival on Now!!!


The Pope Squat Street Festival has begun !

In the backyard of 1510 King Street West (just East of Roncesvalles in west Parkdale) the party has just started! DJs are spinning tunes and delicious free food is being served to the people! The squat is still going strong, moral is high, and renovations on the house continue, despite yesterday’s police action. Everyone is relaxed and enjoying the party! You should be there too!

So join us at the Pope Squat and check it out yourself.

DJs all day – performances by DJ Complex, DJ Pilot Boy, DJ KLC, and DJs Stress and Maxxed Out – plus special guests!

Delicious food provided by Mobilization for Social Justice (Mob4Glob) and Latin American Coalition Against Racism (LACAR)

Live performances and bands starting at 4:00 and going into the evening!

Arte e Liberdade (Art and Liberty)
Capoeira performance – not to be missed!

A free-form avant-folk collective put together by songwriter Nick Taylor. With elements of country, gypsy folk, free jazz, and the avant-garde, their performances are always unique.

Shut-In’s music integrates bass-driven post-punk, polyrhythmic pop and noir disruptions.

Fearless Vampire Killers
The deconstruction of hip-hop.

Plus: * street performers and fire spinners!
* spoken word performances!
* Graf. Art competition (on canvases) – bring your spraypaint!

If you’re not at the Summer Street Festival, YOU’RE NOT HAVING FUN!

john <john [at] tao [dot] ca>



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