Report Back from ONPHA’s (Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association’s) Annual Conference

The ONPHA conference takes place every October and it is fall highlight for the Dream Team.  We always attend en masse and frequently give presentations and participate in panels.  This year, Dream Team members were represented at two sessions: Tenant Power and Moving Forward to Inclusive Communities.

 ONPHA Session 505 Tenant Power:  Inspiring Change in Our Communities

Phillip Dufresne, one of the first members of the Dream Team was picked to be on this panel to show how tenants could be the catalysts for social change.  Phillip discussed the rich history of the Dream Team and highlighted our many accomplishments.  For a full history of the Dream Team, as well as our previous research projects, please consult the About Us and Reports pages on our site.

Other panelists included Catharine Lamoureux and Jennifer Wilson from, YMCA’s Centennial Crescent in Peterborough, which provides housing to women and children leaving abusive relationships. http://ywcapeterborough.org/centennial-crescent/

Session 707:  Moving forward to Inclusive Communities – Challenging Discriminatory By-laws Across Ontario.

The Dream Team co-presented a talk about discriminatory by-laws with Kenneth Hale, Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) and Kathy Laird, from Human Rights Legal Support Centre (HRLSC).

Peter Lye from the Dream Team began by explaining that our organization launched a challenge against the by-laws because it is the quickest, easiest way to support people.  Challenging such by-laws creates healthier and more inclusive communities.  Peter passionately argued that “supportive housing saves lives” and reminded the audience that February 12, 2013, marked the day that the 700th name was added to Toronto’s Homeless Memorial.  Peter touched on the “What Stops Us from Working” report, and the “Together against Stigma” conference.  He closed off by reminding us that Mental Health Commission of Canada’ “Turning the Key” report (2012) recommends the development of 100,000 supportive housing units over the next decade.

Phillip Dufresne of the Dream Team began his address by challenging some of the underlying myths that create the NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) attitude about supportive housing.  For example, he mentioned that property values actually go up, and the standard of living goes up as does the standard of living of the whole community.  Phillip further defined discriminatory by-laws by explaining that they often carry capping and distancing requirements.  This reduces the amount of supportive housing for people with mental and physical disabilities because it limits how many people can live in a group home in a given community and how much physical space needs to exist between group homes.

Kenneth Hale of (ACTO) spoke about a need for the media, community organizing and education to make an impact.  He outlined the role of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) which is in charge of the Planning Acts:  official plans, zoning by-laws, and appeals to the OMB.  It can also overrule provincial decisions.  Kenneth argued that we need provincial policies, for human rights protection. He also gave examples of some discriminatory by-laws such as the Toronto Shelter By-Law (2003-4) which dictates that emergency shelters be kept out of certain areas (to arterial roads).  The by-law also includes minimum distancing provisions, and requires site by site approval.  These rules made it harder to build more shelters.  This is discriminatory and a violation of the Charter of Rights. 

To learn more about ACTO please visit their site: http://www.acto.ca/ 

The presentation was wrapped up by Kathy Laird, from Human Rights Legal Support Centre (HRLSC) who expressed that human rights lawyers, and consumer survivors are faced with what feels and looks like discrimination.  She mentioned the great work of an organization called “Homecoming Community Choice Coalition”,  http://www.homecomingcoalition.com/  which  was established challenge the distancing requirements

To follow the great work of the HRLSC, check out their site: http://www.hrlsc.on.ca/