Making Room, Creating Place: Announcing arts-based human rights legal education for sex workers.
This Wednesday, CERA will be joining Maggie’s Sex Workers Action Project for our first housing rights workshop for street-involved sex workers. During these workshops, participants will learn about their housing rights under law; learn skills to self-advocate; creatively engage with artistic message-making strategies.
We are excited to be working the wonderful folks at Maggie’s, South Riverdale Community Health Centre, and Regent Park Community Health Centre. And we’re excited to learn from participants about their experiences.
We know that sex workers face intersectional discrimination all the time, along with significant and distinct barriers to housing. In a survey of 34 sex workers, we heard that:
- 61% (of 24 responses) have faced discrimination from a landlord
- 34% face unaffordable rents
- 67% have ongoing issues with pests
- 56% have faced eviction
- 47% have been denied a unit because of their income source
- Most respondents said they feel landlords treat them differently for reasons related to their work.
In six sessions over the coming weeks we will be discussing these issues and thinking creatively about self-advocacy. Stay tuned for updates!
Thank you for support from:
CERA is pleased to announce that we have received support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to develop community based, eviction prevention strategies for seniors. As part of this initiative, we will identify eviction prevention strategies through a senior-driven process in the GTA. Using a collaborative gap analysis, we will gather information about the current needs of seniors; identify service gaps within programs that are already in place to assist senior tenants; identify solutions and strategies to prevent the eviction of senior tenants; provide best practice and policy directives; and identify next steps toward further assisting seniors and preventing evictions.
Stay tuned for exciting updates about this initiative in the coming months!
The Ontario Trillium Foundation is an agency of the Government of Ontario. We sincerely thank them for their generous support of our work.
There was a little bit of good news just before the New Year when the Ontario Liberal government announced $42 million in funding to help municipalities develop and implement their housing and homelessness prevention plans for 2013-2014.
The funding will help ease the transition that comes from the elimination of the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB) as of December 31, 2012. CSUMB, which was available to all Ontarians on social assistance, helped cover unexpected housing costs, such as rental arrears, and was an important tool to help keep low income families housed. The Liberals’ decision to cancel this benefit and pass on 50% of the funds to municipalities was an ill-conceived one; aside from offering less to those who need it most, many of the municipalities did not have programs in place to properly administer the funds.
This is still nothing more than a $42 million band aid. The Liberals have offered no real long term solutions to the problem they created by cancelling CSUMB. Until they do, this gesture towards our most vulnerable citizens will have to do.
Imagine you are in the common hallway of your apartment building with your 2 year old daughter. She is laughing, talking and running towards the elevator. You notice there are people coming towards her and she may be in their way, so you take her hand and guide her away from the centre of the hall. She protests vehemently and starts to cry. You try to explain to her why you have stopped her from running, but she is only 2 years old and has no interest in this reasoning. She flops herself onto the floor and rolls around crying even louder. You try to hush your daughter to no avail, while anxiously awaiting the opening of the elevator door so you can pick her up, get on and get out of the building. Those of us with children know this is not an unfamiliar scene. In fact, this may be one of several such scenes that you will deal with most days, when you have a 2 year old child.
Now imagine the next day you receive an Eviction Notice in your mailbox. It says you have disturbed the reasonable enjoyment of your neighbours by allowing your child to run freely and cry in the common hallway. You panic. You have finally moved into an apartment that is nice enough, clean enough, with rent that you can afford. It’s close to work, shopping, and daycare. It’s your home and you want to stay in your home. Then you suddenly feel angry because you think back to yesterday, when the incident occurred and you remember you actually were quite concerned about your neighbours in the hallway and did your best to try to keep your daughter from disturbing them. You now are panicking again. You tell yourself that you can’t lose this apartment, it’s not fair.
Indeed it is not fair. In fact it may be a violation of Ontario’s Human Rights Code (Code). Under the Code, children have the right to make a reasonable amount of noise, simply because they are children and children make noise. Parents have the right not to be harassed and threatened with eviction for regular children’s noise such as crying, laughing, playing and running. At a Landlord and Tenant Board Hearing, the adjudicator must consider the Code when making the decision to evict or not evict. Landlords are obligated to make accommodations where possible such as providing carpeting to reduce noise. For more information visit the Ontario Human Rights Commission website at: www. ohrc.on.ca
The National Council of Welfare recently released a report which stated that welfare rules are forcing people into destitution. The report explains: “It is tougher to get welfare in Canada today than during the economic downturn of the early 1990s because Ontario and most other provinces force people to drain their bank accounts and spend all of their savings before they qualify for help.” (Toronto Star, 14/12/10)
Ontario welfare rates are as follows: a single person receives $349 for rent, and $211 for basic needs, a total of $560 per month. The average rent for bachelor and one bedroom apartments in Toronto are $758 and $926. Single people don’t get enough to rent bachelors or one bedroom units in Toronto and are forced to live in rooms or become homeless. Single parents with two kids under 12 receive $595 for rent and $571 for basic needs, a total of $1166 per month. The average rent for a two bedroom apartment in Toronto is $1096, which leaves families with $70 after paying rent. A family with two adults and two kids under 12 receives $647 for rent and $619 for basic needs, a total of $1,266. The average rent for three or more bedroom apartments is $1290. Clearly these rates are nowhere near enough to pay housing costs, food, clothing, transportation and other essential needs. Most families receive Child Tax Benefits but this is clawed back from welfare payments.
The reality of these facts is that once an individual or family is receiving welfare, they have very few (if any) assets and little or no savings. So if they fall behind even one month in paying their rent, it can be disastrous. There is essentially no money left over to pay arrears and keep up with the rent at the same time. An example is a single parent with two children who lost her job six months ago. She is confident she will work again eventually, but for now she is finding it impossible to pay rent and cover all of her costs. She is facing eviction for one month rent. She wants to make a payment plan with the Landlord but she can only afford an extra $50 per month on top of her rent and even that is a stretch for her. The Landlord won’t accept less than $100 per month towards arrears. She was unable to pay that so she now faces a hearing at the Landlord and Tenant Board in January. “I never in a million years expected this to happen to me.” She says. “I am so scared and I just don’t know what to do.”
Since its inception in 1999, CERA’s Eviction Prevention program has helped over 10,000 individuals and families keep their homes. This is no small number, though the unfortunate truth remains that a much greater amount of households have been evicted over that time. Many of these are preventable.
The vast majority of evictions are due to arrears. For tenants who fall behind in their rent, time is crucial. Tenants more than two months in arrears have a much tougher time receiving financial assistance. We need to get the word out faster. We need to get a dialogue going sooner.
So CERA is putting the finishing touches on a pilot project that will do just that. Working with the City of Toronto and a large corporate landlord, we will soon debut the Rental Arrears Repayment Protocol. This is a simple, formalized agreement that can be initiated by either party as soon as a tenant is one month in arrears. Hopefully, this will reduce the need to file eviction applications at the Landlord and Tenant Board. We’re aiming to start the Protocol in two high-rise buildings later this summer.