Cathy Crowe




Newsletter No. 5, November 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. "How are the Tent City people doing?"
2. My meeting with Joe Fontana, Minister of Housing
3. National Housing Day - November 22
4. Subscribe to This Newsletter

1. "How are the Tent City people doing?"

People often ask me how the Tent City folks are doing. I continue to stay connected with a number of the former Tent City residents and I’m always so happy when I run into one of them and hear how happy they are to have their own place to live, their own fridge to slam, their own toilet to flush! Several are involved in housing activism with the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee and have joined TDRC’s Speakers Bureau and Steering Committee. In fact I’ve asked one of them to leave his warm apartment on the eve of National Housing Day to join me sleeping outside at the “Great Sleep Out” in solidarity with other homeless people at Toronto’s City Hall (more on National Housing Day below!).

A report on this historic success From Tent City to Housing - An Evaluation of the City of Toronto's Emergency Homelessness Pilot Project is now posted on the Shelter, Housing and Support website of the City of Toronto . If you’re meeting with provincial or federal elected officials this is an excellent resource (with great photos) to prove the point that homeless people want housing, can keep housing and that rent supplements are an immediate means to that end.

2. My meeting with Joe Fontana, Minister of Housing

In October I flew to Ottawa with Michael Shapcott, Researcher with the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee and University of Toronto’s Centre for Urban and Community Studies, to meet with Housing Minister Joe Fontana, who also has responsibility for the federal homelessness strategy. Until this summer, the homelessness minister was Claudette Bradshaw, and the housing file was held by a series of ministers (including Alfonso Gagliano, who is in the papers a lot these days due to the sponsorship scandal). We were joined by Minister Fontana’s Parliamentary Secretary Judi Longfield, along with the senior bureaucrats from the National Homelessness Secretariat and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, plus several policy advisers.

Compared to other meetings I’ve had with federal ministers responsible for housing, Minister Fontana seemed to have a strong grasp on the need for federal investment in “social” housing (and he asked us to use that language as opposed to “affordable” housing!). He expressed a strong belief that everyone deserved a home. The Minister accepted Michael and my invitation to come to Toronto and partake in a tour of our local situation. He is particularly interested in looking at innovative housing programs. Unfortunately, he was not able to share with us any news of additional housing monies in the Spring 2005 Budget.

Well Minister Fontana came to town last week (November 5) but I didn’t seem him. He did a bit of spending – just a bit. The federal and Ontario governments announced $8.7 million for 325 affordable housing units in a joint announcement. This, along with the estimated $10 million that has already been announced, means that the federal and provincial governments have committed about 2.5% of the $732 million that they have promised over the past three years for new affordable housing in Ontario. Between 84 and 170 of the 325 new homes announced today will be geared to low-income people. None are in Toronto.

The announcement of an additional $8.7 million in federal and provincial affordable housing spending for 325 units brings to an estimated $19 million the total housing spending in the province over the past three years. In 2001, the federal government promised to spend $244.1 million on new affordable housing in Ontario over five years. In 2003, the federal government added $122 million. The province agreed to match that funding.

During the 2003 provincial election, the “Strong Communities” platform of the McGuinty Liberals stated: “We will match federal support to create almost 20,000 new housing units for needy Ontario families.”

Well, where’s the money? All the more reason to keep reading.

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3. National Housing Day - November 22

On October 8, 1998 the Toronto Star headline read: “Plight of the homeless a national disaster.” That morning the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee issued a call for emergency relief dollars and for the 1% solution – a national housing programme.

Each year we mark November 22 as National Housing Day. This is the day in 1998 when the Big City Mayors’ Caucus of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities endorsed the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee’s declaration that homelessness was a national disaster. A number of communities are holding events on or near to this day and they are noted on the web site of TDRC

It’s worth looking at the 1998 declaration:

The State of Emergency Declaration

“We call on all levels of government to declare homelessness a national disaster requiring emergency humanitarian relief. We urge that they immediately develop and implement a National Homelessness Relief and Prevention Strategy using disaster relief funds both to provide the homeless with immediate health protection and housing and to prevent further homelessness. Canada has signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights guaranteeing everyone’s right to "an adequate standard of living… including adequate food, clothing and housing." Homeless people have no decent standard of living; our governments are violating these Human Rights. Despite Canada ’s reputation for providing relief to people made temporarily homeless by natural disasters, our governments are unwilling to help the scores of thousands of people in Canada condemned to homelessness. Morally, economically, socially, and legally, we cannot allow homelessness to become "normal" in Canadian life. Inaction betrays many thousands of us to a miserable existence and harms our society for years to come.” (available at

We continue to wait, impatiently, for a political solution, a fully funded national housing programme. In the meantime, homeless deaths increase, tuberculosis continues to erupt – now infecting workers, and new emerging threats such as bedbug infestations in shelters wreak havoc in people’s lives .

Never has the emergency been more desperate.

What you can do…

At the end of November, the federal housing minister will be meeting with his provincial and territories’ counterparts. Please let your local elected officials on the provincial and federal scene know that you want to see some serious action and spending on housing. Phone, fax, write, email them or better yet request a meeting to tell them in person!

4. 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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