Cathy Crowe




Newsletter No. 4, October 2004


I've been a street nurse in Toronto for 15 years. In the spring of 2004 I received the Atkinson Economic Justice Award which permits me to pursue, for up to three years, my passions for nursing and working on homelessness and housing issues.  In this newsletter I hope to report on my activities, create a link to a broader group of individuals who care about these social issues and encourage critical debate.

Further information about subscribing to the newsletter is found below.  I want to hear from you - about the newsletter, about things that are happening in the homelessness sector (what a sad term!), and about good
things which will provide inspiration for all of us.


In this newsletter:
1. Thinking Out of the Box in York Region.
2. New Book on Housing.
3. Throne Speech
4. National Housing Day - What you can do!
5. Subscribe to This Newsletter

1. Thinking out of the box in York Region.

I recently spent a day in York Region, a vast region that is three times the geographic size of Metro Toronto. I toured shelters and met with about 20 front line workers. I was shocked to learn how serious their housing and homelessness problem is. The region has no shelter for homeless women, no detox or treatment centre, a six year waiting list for social housing, and average rents for a room are $450 - $475. Workers described a high cost of living in the region, a dominating private sector operation of domiciliary hostels, and an unequal distribution of resources in the area. As a result, food bank use has increased, motel/hotels are used for family overflow from shelters and Out of the Cold programs have begun. Most shocking was to learn the extent to which people are sleeping in cars, provincial parks and abandoned buildings.

There were two signs of hope. The first, - the workers I met were extremely informed of the nature of the problem, had a sophisticated analysis of the economics at the root of the problem and were clearly working well together to provide legal, shelter and other direct service options for their clients. Second, was an example of what I call “thinking out of the box”. In my last newsletter I talked about little houses or portable houses that can provide decent housing or shelter. Well, Transitional and Supportive Housing Services of York Region has begun the development of “little houses” – in fact there will be 15 two-bedroom self-contained Durakit houses that they will use for families requiring emergency shelter. One house per family. As well there will be a larger building or lodge for community space for support services, community resources, housing and job search help, homework help, dining, laundry and supportive coun
seling. They were clear on their logic: privacy, dignity, health. I toured the site. Thirteen of the houses are up and almost completed. Each has a bathroom with a tub and a kitchenette. They sit on high ground overlooking fields and Lake Simcoe . It was pretty moving. Let’s hope funding comes through for completion.

2. New Book on Housing

I've worked with Michael Shapcott and David Hulchanski for years, and know many of the other authors. I'm sure that you will find that this book Finding Room will be both lively and informative. Both David and Michael are co-founders of the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee. In fact, David developed the concept of the 1% solution.

Finding Room is a new housing policy book that provides practical solutions to Canada 's nation-wide affordable rental housing crisis. The co-editors are Dr. David Hulchanski, a leading housing scholar, and Michael Shapcott, a long-time housing advocate. There are 27 chapters written by two dozen experts from community groups, social housing, private sector and the government. Toronto Mayor David Miller has written a compelling introduction. The book is written for people who want to know more about the range of solutions that are required. More information on the book, some sample chapters and on-line ordering information is available by logging onto

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3. Throne Speech

Nice words don't build homes!

The following is the concise text of the National Housing and Homeless Network’s (NHHN) media release within hours of the October 5 throne speech.

NHHN Media Release - October 5, 2004

Nice words don't build homes!

One-in-five households trapped in nation-wide affordable housing crisis must continue to wait.

Today's Speech from the Throne has nice words about housing, but there is no certainty about the federal government's commitment. So, community-based and municipal housing groups across the country that could start developing new homes right away must continue to postpone their plans as they wait for politicians to finally agree to put real dollars into real programs that will deliver real housing. And homeless people, plus those on the brink of homelessness, must continue to wait for weeks or months for the new homes that they so desperately need.

If the Throne Speech had contained specific language, then housing providers could start to develop new affordable homes right away. Program details would still need to be negotiated, but in the meantime municipalities and community-based housing groups would have some certainty to start planning. Today's Throne Speech doesn't provide any certainty, so planning for new development must be delayed - yet again.

The National Housing and Homelessness Network and its partners across the country are looking for commitments from the federal government to:

  • immediately commit the funding previously promised by the federal government ($680 million in November of 2001 and another $320 million in February of 2003 for a total of $1 billion to be spent over five years) for new social housing;

  • immediately commit the spending promised during the recent federal election (an additional $1.5 billion over three years) for new social housing;

  • reinvest the present and future surpluses of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation in new social housing;

  • ensure that the housing funding is separate from municipal infrastructure funding (money for sewers, roads, bridges, etc.).

Overall, we are asking the federal government to commit $2 billion in new funding for social housing annually (the One Percent Solution). We are also asking the federal government to support SCPI (the homelessness program) and RRAP (housing renovation funding) by providing stable, long-term funding for both.

4. National Housing Day - What you can do!

National Housing Day has been celebrated across the country since 1999. It marks the day, November 22 that the Big City Mayors’ Caucus of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) adopted the Disaster Declaration. In April of 2000, the entire FCM adopted the Disaster Declaration. The Disaster Declaration is available as are an updated list of the many events planned across the country on TDRC’s website If you are in the Toronto region consider signing up for the TDRC list serve for regular updates. Send an email to

Here are a few things you can do to help make housing happen.

► Make a decision to prioritize upstream work: for example on housing or social assistance rates. The powers that be try to make these issues so complex. But really it’s about housing the homeless, taking care of our children and, making sure people have enough money to live on.

► Can you support local projects that are struggling for funding that deal with long term solutions? I am involved with the Furniture Bank which is planning to submit a proposal for affordable housing above a new warehouse, to continue helping people reestablish a home. This integrated community building project will provide housing for the homeless and employment, retraining and internships for individuals participating at Furniture Bank, who are homeless and/or at risk of homelessness.

► Can you participate in National Housing Day on November 22? If you are in the Toronto region we need people, tents, sleeping bags and donations.

► Consider ordering some 1% buttons from TDRC for your congregation, your organization or friends and family. Order at

IF YOU DO ONE THING, THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT: The provincial and federal housing ministers are meeting in November. As soon as possible, create a delegation to meet with your MP and MPP and tell them as graphically as you can what your situation is and why we need monies for housing, and increased social assistance rates. Resources available at

5. Subscribe to this newsletter

I plan to publish this newsletter regularly. If you receive this newsletter directly, then your address is already on our mailing list; otherwise, to subscribe or unsubscribe, send a note to . For more information on my work including this and other editions of my newsletter please visit my web page at

There is no charge for this newsletter. Please forward it to your friends and others who you think may be interested in it. I value your feedback and ideas. Please share them with me at or c/o the Sherbourne Health Centre, 365 Bloor Street East, Suite 301, Toronto, ON, M4W 3L4.


Photo Credit: Michelle Vella Photography




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