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Homeless Activists Occupy Metro Hall

Temporary emergency shelter opened

by Justin Saunders

Organizers chastised the Ford administration for inaction on homelessness photo: DS Richardson
Organizers chastised the Ford administration for inaction on homelessness photo: DS Richardson
The occupation early in the evening photo: DS Richardson
The occupation early in the evening photo: DS Richardson
Police prepare to evict the shelter participants photo: DS Richardson
Police prepare to evict the shelter participants photo: DS Richardson

Several dozen anti-poverty activists, homeless people and their allies have occupied the rotunda at Metro Hall this morning. Citing 34 homeless deaths in 2012, and 8 already this year, organizers from the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) have declared an 'emergency homeless shelter'  in the building.

Speaking to a small crowd on the front steps, longtime OCAP organizer Gaetan Heroux noted that, in 1999, Metro Hall was opened by the city administration itself as a temporary shelter during times when shelter capacity exceeded 90%. Amid calls from the social sector for the city to take action on homelessness, OCAP pointed to even higher shelter overcrowding numbers today, and inaction on the part of the Ford administration, as reasons for today's action.

Responding to Rob Ford's noon press conference, where the mayor called the action a “cheap publicity stunt,” organizers accused the City of denying the reality of conditions in the shelter system. Heroux noted that, on a tour of the shelters this morning, shelter workers told him that shelters were full “every night,” and homeless people told him that they are frequently turned away.

Although security remains heavy at Metro Hall, city staffers didn't attempt to block people from entering. Apart from a brief scuffle with security and police over the use of sleeping bags, the shelter was opened without incident. Liisa Schofield stated that “this is now our space, we are not leaving.” Organizers have called for donations of “sleeping bags, blankets and pillows, mats and mattresses” as well as food and other items.

The occupation continues.

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Update: as of 9:00pm EST, a 30 minute eviction warning had been issued to the crowd of roughly 50 people. Earlier reports had indicated that the City of Toronto planned to shut down the shelter this evening. The crowd has so far refused to leave. 

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As of 10:30pm EST, all of the occupiers had been forcibly removed. A few dozen arrests occured, and the detainees were reportedly issued tickets. 


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