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Occupy Saved City of Toronto $83,440

TMC Crunches the Numbers

by Geordie Gwalgen Dent

PHOTO Deb O'Rourke
PHOTO Deb O'Rourke

Toronto - Occupy Toronto may have saved the City of Toronto approximately $83,440, according to estimations of services provided by facilitators and organizers within the camp.  

With the anniversary of Occupy Toronto coming up in one month, there have been a number of assessments of the social impact of Occupy Toronto and the Occupy movement as a whole.  

However, analyses of the services provided show that members of the camp were helping provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in food, shelter and equipment to city residents, many of whom are hard to house.
 
Occupy Toronto differed in many ways from other traditional social movements in Toronto in that the make-up of its members were not primarily middle-class.

The Quebec student movement, for example, has been dominated by middle-class university students. Occupy was/is unique because its core was made up almost entirely of people who are traditionally the hardest hit by neo-liberal policies towards the corporate and welfare state.

This is not to say that there were no middle-class people at Occupy, or that Occupy didn't have support from unions, churches and other organizations.  However, many of the people actively involved in the Occupy camp were people who were homeless and transient, out-of-work youth, and people with mental health issues. 

The benefits to society and the public purse of providing hard-to-house people with shelter, food and community are well documented.  What has been less well documented is that Occupy saved the City of Toronto and Province of Ontario $83,440.

How?

Occupy Vancouver released a report after being shut down pointing out that it had saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical, housing and food costs.  

In Toronto, according to facilitators and organizers, Occupy was housing an average of 200 people per night for 40 nights.  As the per diem cost for a shelter bed in the City of Toronto is $52.46, Occupy saved $419,680 in shelter costs.

Food was handed out in large amounts to Occupy.  The City of Toronto's Shelter Support and Housing Department budgeted over $6.5 million for food and snacks to feed just over 1 million people in 2011, or $6.88 per person.

Feeding approximately 1300 meals and snacks per day, Occupy saved $357,760 in food costs for the city.

Beyond this, gear was handed out to many Occupy members.  Approximately 400 sleeping bags were believed to have been given out.  Assuming a conservative cost of $50 a bag, an additional $20,000 would have been given out in bags alone helping those on the streets stay warm during the wintertime.  This doesn't include the thousands of dollars in other gear given out, including water bags and straw.

In total, $797,440 was saved by Occupy Toronto providing services for people in the city that need basic food and shelter.

If you compare this to the city's stated cost of $714,000, Occupy's net savings were $83,440.

Of course, the bulk of the city's cost was $661,500 for Toronto Police, and they wouldn't have been necessary if the vity hadn't chosen to enforce a trespass order on Occupy Toronto.  In other words, had the city left Occupy to continue they would have been saving taxpayers over $700,000 in services and shelter.

Protesters were thrown out of the park on November 23rd, after having camped there since October 15th, 2011.


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