Human Rights Case: Changing Discriminatory Bylaws
The Dream Team believes that housing is a human right and that preventing a person with mental health issues from having housing is a violation of human rights. The Human Rights Legal Support Centre (HRLSC) provided us with some legal assistance and we hired a planner to look at which municipalities around Ontario had zoning bylaws that were discriminating against people with mental health issues. After concluding our research, we filed applications at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) against Sarnia, Kitchener, Smiths Falls and Toronto for creating bylaws that discriminated against people with physical and mental health issues who live in group homes. As a result, all four municipalities amended their bylaws.
Awareness Campaign: Stitching the Safety Net
Psychiatric system consumer/survivors and others who live in poverty, along with those who stand in solidarity with us, are taking action to create a vision for a stronger social safety net. The current one is unraveling before our eyes—with massive cuts to health, social services, housing, education, daycare, etc. Together, we are stitching our own social safety net, to show the Ontario Government how it should be repaired. We have held workshops across the province, where participants share their experiences with the safety net, learn about cuts to social programs, and make their own squares of the safety net. We stitched over 600 squares together into a collaborative art piece: a 200-foot physical representation of what a strong social safety net looks like. Get in touch for us to bring it to your group/organization.
Postcard Campaign: More Affordable Housing
The Dream Team organized and promoted two postcard campaigns to “increase the supply of affordable and supportive housing across Ontario so that people facing mental illness can rebuild their lives and contribute to society.” We collected 2000 signatures in the first campaign and 4,000 in the second campaign, presented to the Liberal and the NDP caucuses, and were emphatically supported by George Smitherman and Marilyn Churley. This inspired David Miller to declare February 27 “Supporting Housing Day.” Nine days after our second press conference at Queen’s Park, the three levels of government announced the Affordable Housing Agreement, which identified supportive housing as one of the two specific target groups to receive more funding.
Constitutional Challenge: Right to Housing
We are currently battling federal and provincial governments in a Constitutional Charter challenge as part of a cross-Canada group called “The Rights to Housing Coalition.” Over the past 20 years, there have been many funding cuts that have had a negative impact on people who rely on supportive housing services and programs. Some of the people affected the most are the homeless who live on Toronto streets and people on O.D.S.P. Many people can no longer pay their rents. The result is that “security of the person” is compromised. Under section 7 of the Charter, we are all entitled to “life, liberty and security of person,” and section 15 guarantees the equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination. These policies have unfairly discriminated against people with low incomes and mental disabilities. We are asking the courts to take action to create a “right to housing” policy across Canada.
Task Force: Inclusive Employment Project
Thanks to funding from the Metcalf Foundation, members of the Dream Team have created a Task Force focused on the benefits of inclusive employment for psychiatric consumer-survivors. We will meet regularly for a year, conduct research, share experiences, and connect with organizations that focus on inclusive employment. The end goal is to create a presentation for companies in the private sector that highlights the benefits of hiring consumer-survivors. These benefits include reduced costs related to absenteeism and turnover, hiring productive and motivated workers with unique skills. Benefits to consumer-survivors include sharing skills and talents, financial gains and feeling purposeful and productive. for providing funding to run this Taskforce, allowing us to focus on this important topic.