Tools for Advocacy:
Making a Difference in Our
Anglican Outreach Networking
October 2, 2004
Cathy Crowe, Street Nurse, Atkinson Economic Justice Fellow
c/o Sherbourne Health Centre
365 Bloor St. East, Toronto,
ON, M4W 3L4
Good Morning. I am really
very honoured and happy to be here at a conference with the words advocacy and
outreach in the title. One of the reasons has to do with a speech I once wrote
but never gave called ďWhy is advocacy a dirty word and why is activism even
I had to write it because
of a three distinct events that happened a few years ago that I can now share.
These became important lessons for me.
Some of you will know Iíve
been doing this work a long time and you can imagine Iíve seen a lot of bad
things and Iíve had a lot of hard days. However, you may be surprised to learn
that June 15, 2000 was definitely the
hardest day I have ever had to work. It was the day of the so called Queenís
Park riot and it was necessary that I work as hard as possible to try to message
that what happened that day was about homelessness, poverty, hunger and
desperation in our province. That was difficult because suddenly activists
became targets and propaganda was spread about them. This was my first hard
The second. The day that I
was told that Adam Vaughan from CITY TV was not allowed to enter my worksite Ė
even to wait for me to do an interview off site caused me serious concern. Then
there was the day that I was forced to do a media interview in the dark in a CBC
reporterís parked car on a side street, instead of in my office, on a very
innocuous subject. These were the days that I knew I was in serious trouble as a
nurse in this province if I was to remain truthful as a nurse advocate.
And thirdly, I realized I
was not alone. Systemic silencing became the norm. Muzzled were some of our
finest workers and agencies. This occurred immediately after Mike Harris was
elected. And it was reinforced by our increased reliance on charitable donations
and fundraising instead of holding governments accountable. And it was worsened
by divisions in the left when we were incapacitated by the attack on social
services and weakened as our workers reacted with fatigue, depression, illness,
and vicarious trauma in response to the workload they were expected to uphold,
and to the trauma they were expected to be in the midst of and stay silent
This is why Iím happy to be
here today, because you have chosen to talk about advocacy.
Never has it been more necessary to embrace advocacy
Never has it been more
necessary to embrace advocacy and never has it been more critical to develop new
and creative ways to do the advocacy. Although there are obviously sympathetic
politicians, bureaucrats and decision makers, they work in a milieu that is
shifting towards privatization, maximum profit, costs versus life, and heavily
influenced by polls. People who are poor are increasingly marginalized and
stigmatized. That translates into prejudice, hate crimes, and hate legislation
such as Councillor Doug Holydayís motion for a zero tolerance policy for people
sleeping at Toronto City Hall in Nathan Phillips Square and for the development of a homeless registry. Itís time we stopped
victimizing the victims.
So what is advocacy?
Advocacy is promoting,
fighting for and defending the welfare of others and it is based on caring and
on the values of social justice and human rights. I know thatís why you are each
Bishop Colin Johnson
recently expressed a wish for renewed Anglican passion and energy to tackle
child poverty, to provide resources that nurture children, to eradicate
HIV/AIDS, to house the homeless and even suggested a special SYNOD on that which
I would particularly welcome. He is right to call for this. There will be more
bang for the buck with your advocacy because of who you are Ė Anglicans! I donít
know how else to say it.
Now Iím supposed to be
I was asked to share with
you some of the things Iíve learned about advocacy. So here we go.
Iím going to talk about strategies that Iíve come to realize are, for me,
the bricks and mortar of a campaign or movement.
Itís a bit of a shopping
list. Iím hoping youíll use your imagination to extend the potential of these 11
1. The starting point. Locate the work as
close as you can to the people affected and involve them.
- This is why the 1996
inquest into the 3 freezing deaths occurred. Homeless people said to us Ė what
are you doing about these deaths? So we formed a coalition and fought for an
- This is why Tent
City occurred. People asked us for help and we gave it in the form of
housing, food, toilets, generators, propane, wood stoves.
- This is also how we
prevented the people at Nathan Phillips Square from eviction (so far) Ė they
asked for our help and we gave it.
the problem visible. Witness the
truth, show it and tell it despite the obstacles.
- This is why we do
disaster tours, showing influential people the scope of the problem. People
like Buzz Hargrove, Howard Hampton, Michael Valpy, Alexa McDonaugh, George
Smitherman and David Miller.
- This is why we used a
secret camera to expose the horrendous conditions in an emergency shelter.
- This is why we work with
documentary film makers. You might want to order Shelter from the Storm
or Street Nurse from our TDRC office Ė or you might want to buy them
3. Develop a sound and simple solution.
The powers that be try to make these issues so complex. But really itís about
housing the homeless, taking care of our children, making sure people have
enough money to live on.
we looked at the concept of how a nation could respond to a disaster. We came up
with the need for emergency relief and the 1% solution. It was based on solid
research but without the unnecessary and complicated messages of co-ops versus
shared housing or jurisdictional issues.
Another example of a
simple solution is the housing prefabs Ė this is how we developed the idea of
housing for Tent City. This is disaster housing that
Canada manufactures and is used overseas and
we realized could be applied here.
Another idea, the
ProHome is a type of housing developed by architect John Van Nostrand. We had
planned to use this form of housing to relocate the Tent
City people to Commissioner Street prior
to the eviction. This model can be utilized quickly on vacant land.
4. Message and the media.
cases the media are essential to getting the message out and influencing public
and political opinion.
Home Depotís eviction of Tent City Ė it made international news and was in part
responsible for a solution that created a pilot rent supplement program that
housed over 100 people, and this will go down in Canadian housing history as a
big political win.
- Offering an exclusive to
a particular media outlet is often an important means to comprehensive
coverage. Our secret shelter video footage was so sensitive it necessitated
- Never hesitate to
contact a person in the media if you have suggestions for a story. Iíve
learned they are more than happy to hear from anyone.
Developing allies and coalitions
Ė that is always useful.
- When we hold a public
inquiry or press conference we often ask prominent Canadians to partake with
us. For example, one of the first public inquiries we ever did on homelessness
included Michael Valpy and Sarah Polley as panelists. They brought credibility
and attention to the issue.
- We worked with the
Labour Council and the Canadian Autoworkers on a small coffee table picture
book that was meant for working Canadians on the issue of homelessness. Copies
are here today and make great gifts for teachers or colleagues.
- We are planning for a
Housing rock concert in 2005 in part to build new allies with the music
industry and to bring youth on board.
Provide logistical support.
This is always important because
individual groups have limited resources.
It was the Newtonbrook United church, among others, that brought disaster relief to
Tent City on a cold winter day in the form of hot turkey dinners - while we
delivered the disaster houses, the pre-fabs on a flatbed truck in the midst of a
heavy police presence.
November 21 and 22 (and this is where you might be able to help), we
are planning a 48 hour period of action on housing for national Housing Day
that will include 2 sleep outs, the first night at City Hall, the second at
Queenís Park. We will need food, sleeping bags, donations, and most
importantly people. For some of you who cannot sleep out, providing support
for the logistics of an event can be just as important.
- Weíre also looking at
the creation of a permanent homeless memorial, perhaps at the Church of the
Holy Trinity. We will be looking for donations and artistic support for this
7. Think outside of the box.
where creativity comes into play.
- For instance,
why canít we use pre-fab housing on existing land, on church land, in
parking lots, etc. to house some people? A couple of years ago we show cased
this idea at a conference however the ideas was never followed up on. At the
end of the conference we drove that house down Yonge St. to Tent City on a
flatbed and a couple lived in it. The woman recently told me it was the first
real home she had ever known. I just came back from visiting York region where
they are constructing fifteen 2-bedroom pre-fabs for families to live in as a
shelter. They are beautiful.
canít we establish a permanent homeless memorial or sculpture in this city.
The time has come to recognize this shameful situation. Like we remember
fallen police officers, nurses who died from SARS, people who died of AIDs, workers who died in the
course of their duties.
- And like
Bishop Colin Johnson has remarked: why canít there be a special synod on
poverty and homelessness?
8. Working within legal systems for policy change.
Sometimes you can waste a lot of time in the legal process but sometimes it is
- When Drina Joubert froze
to death in a truck in the 1980s, the coalition that called for an inquest won
big things including a provincial program called P 3000 which was 3,000 units
of affordable housing. It is all still standing and full to capacity. As well,
it was the first time that singles became eligible for subsidized housing!
- Margaret Sumadh, an Out
of the Cold volunteer provided emotional and powerful evidence at the inquest
into the recent tuberculosis outbreak which killed at least 3 homeless men. As
a result, we will likely see enhanced public health funding.
- And there is supporting
legal challenges such as the one to the Safe Streets Act which is necessary to
challenge bad laws that target vulnerable groups of people.
Research which must work to influence public policy. It canít just sit on a
shelf. It must have a pulse.
For instance, a document called
Death on the streets of Canada
did just that. This report by Professor David Hulchanski went to the United
Nations and put the problem of homelessness in Canada in plain view.
And there is TB or not TB Ė
the results of a public inquiry by the Tuberculosis Action Group (or as we call
it TBAG) also put that problem in plain view.
And, the monthly addition of names
of homeless deaths for the Homeless memorial at the Church of the Holy Trinity
is both powerful and tragic.
10. Popular panels and public forums.
types of events allow an issue to be teased out, they allow public involvement
and are a basic component of community organizing.
- For example the public
inquiry TB or not TB heard evidence from a huge range of people, some
of whom went on to be expert witnesses at the inquest.
- When Metro Toronto
planned to cut PNA (Personal Needs Allowance) we organized a public display on
a table on a street corner for the media demonstrating what PNA bought:
diapers, feminine hygiene products, over the counter medications, bus tickets,
etc. The City backed off on the cut!
- Just last August, our
public phoning of the federal parties in Ottawa allowed homeless people to
call directly on a cell phone attached to a sound system. This was done
outside of City Hall where other homeless people could have a meal and watch
and listen to the responses.
11. Supporting targeted campaigns.
and time specific campaigns on an issue are very rewarding because they are
- Our history in this city
of winning the opening of emergency shelters has included one at
Doctors Hospital, two times at the old Princess Margaret Hospital,
two or three times at the Fort York Armoury, and twice at the Moss
Park Armoury. Many, many individuals participated by phoning, faxing, emailing
our targeted politicians and this has saved lives.
- Our most recent
ďfaxathon for housingĒ, during the federal election, which was the first
faxathon in Canadian history, helped to put the issue on the federal agenda
and again this was an easy way for individuals to participate.
- Now, we are moving to
target Queenís park in the next few months demanding that they free up the
$344 million dollars they have promised for housing.
Now Iíve given you some of
the tools Iíve come to learn over the years and now Iíd like to give you some
concrete ways that you can make a difference.
These are some of the ways you can help:
a decision to prioritize upstream work: on housing, social assistance rates,
refugee issues or other needs.
- Can you
support local projects that are struggling for funding that deal with long
term solutions? Iím involved with the Furniture Bank which is planning to
submit a proposal for affordable housing above a new warehouse for its
operations. We need to raise a lot of money. To date we have raised $130,000
of the $1.2 million capital for this campaign.
- Sign on to
the TDRC list serve to keep up to date with information. Just send us an
- Do you
have something planned for National Housing Day on November 22 (this is the
day that the Big City Mayors signed on to the declaration that homelessness is
a national disaster) and as I mentioned it is the day we are doing a 48 hour
sleep out at City Hall and Queenís Park. In particular we need tents.
ordering some 1% buttons from TDRC for your congregation, your friends and
- Maybe your
church can sponsor the Homeless Vigil at the Church of the Holy Trinity.
Monies are always useful for the meal, for flowers or candles.
- 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.
closing, Iím grateful to be here speaking with you. I believe you have the
potential and the power to make great inroads in this province, at this time, on
the issues that you will be addressing in your workshops. I look forward to
seeing the power of your prayers and your political influence in truly making a
difference in our world.
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