Stitching Our Own Social Safety Net

 

Organized by members of Houselink, the Dream Team, ChristianResource Centre (CRC) and the Health and Strength Action Group

Click on the logo to go to the ‘Stitching’ site.

Link and logo to political action campaign.
Background:

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 social safety net. Now that we have a new Premier, and the possibility of a provincial election, this gives us a real opportunity to organize to ensure our issues receive the attention they deserve. The social safety net is fast unraveling before our eyes, with recent massive cuts to almost every social program: health, social services, housing, education, daycare, etc. We will stitch our own social safety net, to show the Ontario Government how it should be done.

What to get involved?

The ‘Stitching’ coalition is holding ‘Art n’ Action’ workshops across Toronto!  Call us to do one with your group/organization.  During the workshop the participants will get to share their own experiences with the safety net, learn about various cuts to social programs and make their own square that we will stitch together to make a colloborative art piece.

Click on the link below to see some of the squares others have made:
http://stitchingoursocialsafetynet.webs.com/apps/photos/album?albumid=14665732

Stitching Our Social Safety Net

On Thursday October 17, 2013, on the International Day to Eradicate Poverty, the Dream Team and Houselink Community Homes unveiled their version of Ontario’s Safety Net in an event called “Stitching Our Own Safety Net.” People from all over Ontario came together and created artistic pieces to demonstrate their concerns regarding Ontario’s weakening social safety net.

The afternoon at Queens Park kicked off with musical performer Heinz Klein. This was followed by an introduction by Emma Frees who spoke about government cuts to social programs.

Andrea Rowe, a Ryerson placement student at Houselink spoke about the difference between rights and privileges.  She pointed out that because of the increases in tuition, post-secondary education is becoming reserved for the rich, and people from low income families are incurring major debt to fund their post secondary education.  Currently, approximately 70% of jobs require some sort of  post-secondary education.  The average student debt upon graduation is $37,000. Rowe called for the Ontario government to lower tuition fees by 30%, or at the very least, freeze tuition increases.

Next, Cheri Dinovo, Member of Provincial Parliament of Parkdale/High Park gave a compelling speech around the need to strength Ontario’s safety net, especially around education. DiNovo point out that Ontario spends less per capita on students than anywhere else in Canada.  She also advocated for an increase in minimum wage campaign, as well as a reduction in tuition fees.  Dinovo urged the audience to make their demands known to the elected officials in their riding.

Pamela Chynn spoke on equality of rights and abused women.  Chynn pointed out that women tend to flee from abuse relationships, but often have nowhere to turn, as shelters are underfunded which gives women no alternative sometimes but to return to their abusive partners. Chynn urged the audience to help protect the rights of women and children to flee from abusive situations by ensuring there are alternatives to escape abuse.

Christine Treboute spoke about her experience with supportive housing.  She got on ODSP and moved into George Herman House.  Her support worker was helpful and she made great relationships.  She had stability and her illness was in remission.   Supportive housing is important because people with disabilities need support.  Only 1% of the budget goes to supportive housing. 

Daniela Mergarten is a social activist and believes we need a raise in minimum wage.  The ODSP rates are not enough for food, shelter and clothing.  Mergarten said  “we need not just a roof over our heads, but a home.”  “Housing is not a privilege, IT IS A RIGHT.”  There are 119,000 individuals on the waiting list in Toronto for affordable housing. 

Next, Dominique Jacobs, Kathleen Franklyn and Ron Williams spoke about their experiences with living under the poverty line. Too many Ontarians are living under the poverty line.  There is not enough time to spend with family.  Jacobs advocated for raising the minimum wage to $14 to bring families out of poverty. Kathleen Franklyn  spoke about her experiences with the health care system of Ontario.

Andrea Hatala  pointed out how the rates for ODSP/OW have been frozen for 8 years, and have not caught up to inflation.   We need a poverty reduction strategy.  Recently, many cuts were made to social spending in ODSP/OW such as the Community Start Up Benefit which allowed families in need to dip into the fund 1 time to help with start up costs such as moving, etc.   

The Social Safety Net Calls for changes in these 5 areas:

1-   Restore social assistance rates to what they were before the Harris cuts.

2-  Raise minimum wage to $14/hr.

3-   Invest 1% of budget to safe, secure, affordable housing.

4-Fully fund dental services.

5-Lower post-secondary tuition fees by 30%.

The day finished with the  unveiling of the beautiful art work contributed by organizations and individuals all over Ontario.