Pictured: Pop up food and giftbag stations, cash donations, stuffed backpacks for children of those experiencing homelessness, water for shelters, funding the startup of a food bank, gift cards for those who can afford housing but not groceries. Ways to help that were collective and collaborative.
On July 25th, a group of local frontline leaders at the grassroots level of homelessness, under the banner of “The Forgotten 519”, collaborated to issue a list of demands to our City leaders, and an ultimatum if those demands were not met.
These demands were to end removal of encampments, pivot the CIR’s response model, and create two indoor 24/7 safe spaces, with a one week deadline to do so, and a hunger strike enacted if they were not met.
With at least 167 known homeless deaths since 2020, and a wait list of over 6,000 for Rent Geared to Income housing, these demands are clearly necessary and well intentioned.
I can confirm this from experience. I’ve spent the last fourteen years on the ground, providing in person supports to the unhoused,; whether it be healthcare, case management, or employment supports.
As a private citizen, and volunteer I also help in as many way as possible; whether it be food, rent supports, clothing, bills, presents, school supplies, technology access, advocacy, or simply a sympathetic ear and shoulder.
I support what The Forgotten 519 is trying to do and am here to do the work alongside them. I am completely on board with their noble intent.
With that said, I do not support The Forgotten 519's method of execution, and although I can offer my support of their mission, I cannot sign their petition.
We will not solve housing access through pointing fingers on Twitter and demanding fealty, using reputation and integrity as grounds for drawing a line and insisting someone is either with or against. There is more to London Ontario than Twitter, and you attract more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. Alienating potential allies with the @ button won't fix this.
. We will not solve housing access by issuing ultimatums to City Hall, and cannot capitulate to demands under duress of intentional harm to any person. Every single life has value, and creating further divide will push us further from solutions.
I believe that City Hall, its mayor, its councillors, and its staff are all aware of and working on the issues at hand.
"Do they even care" and "could they do more" are wildly different questions. I think we can answer both with a "yes".
I believe Craig Cooper and Kevin Dickins know how much more needs to be done, and what is at stake. I believe their departments and teams are committed to the work they are hired to do. I intend to have strong and positive relationships with City Staff, where we both hold eachother to a high standard of professionalism.
I can't support setting a precedent of avoiding collaboration and instead using force as a means of achieving aims on a self-determined and sole-sourced timeline. This is not how change is made. This is not how work is done together. This is not governance or leadership, and this is not how we achieve goals and outcomes.
As someone who stands 6’9” and weighs close to 300 pounds and most closely resembles a grizzlybear, I know first-hand the importance to not using sheer physical will or force as a means of achieving my own agenda, no matter how simple or easy or effective it may seem. This is not an option I choose or can support the use of.
I can't precede a possible term on council by supporting ultimatums like the one set this past week. If I support using a hunger strike once as a means to create a solution in 7 days when our city can't develop a high rise in less than 7 years, then my credibility and integrity as a leader can and subsequently will be deservedy put to test with every single important decision moving forward.
I support the rallying of collaborators; the evaluations of collective Knowledge Skills and Abiilities; and the shared action plan that comes out of calling to action, identifying resources, and maximizing those resources.
City Hall has stated that it cannot meet the demands of The Forgotten 519.
What CAN City Hall support in the last few months of this council term?
The City of London as a municipality cannot operate in a deficit. The funding for two 24/7 supportive spaces has to be found within the existing budget.
What agencies can City Hall engage in these solutions with long credible reputations?
What community stakeholders are ready to engage right now, and what can they offer?
I can't fund 24/7 shelter spaces. But I can support donations towards them, volunteers for them, and material goods needed to operate them. I'm doing that already to other organizaitons, and can do even more.
My personal and organizational donations are public and on this website. I have photos and receipts of the piles of donations of money and goods and time that I have facilitated to those in need for many years now.
I'm well known at organizations such as Centre of Hope, Mission Services, My Sister's Place, 519Pursuit, and SafeSpace as an ally that can be called upon to deliver when needed, who will also proactively offer resources and supports throughout the year.
I'm also just just one person in a City of over 440,000. Someone who grew up with nothing and made $61k last year. I know there are others out there with similar intentions and even more resources than I as a Non-Profit employee.
While we wait for City Council to decide what they CAN offer in this year's budget, instead of pointing fingers at eachother on Twitter, why don't we see what we can do collaboratively in the interim?
You have likely noticed and wondered "why hasn't he mentioned the provincial government?"
The Province needs to do more. Much more. Feds too.
With that said, I am a provincially funded employee, and I am the Vice Chair of the Board of an agency partially funded by the Province and by the City. As I write this today, I am operating under the request of being mindful of what I say with regards to levels of government that fund where I work and volunteer. I am as respectful of these requests as possible. I have strong opinions, but I also am accountable for them right now.
If elected on October 24, 2022, the gloves are off. As a City Councillor, I wlll be able to rally, lobby, use my indominable spirit and ability to network, connect, persuade, and create public good to have open and honest conversations with those in power with no fear for my job or the future of the organizations I volunteer for. I have good relationships with many councillors running for re-election, and am strong at forming new connections with those I currently do not know. We will do the work together.
As it stands, I am generally well-liked at the Provincial and Federal level across representatives and parties, and will use that to the advantage of those most needing our support, living at risk in our streets and doorways and unused land. Change is happening at a micro level, and can be sparked at a macro level too with the right advocacy and collaboration.
In the meantime, locally, as we await the City confirming what they CAN do, we need to bring all current local grassroots stakeholders to the table and come up with a plan that works for everyone, with basic human rights and the clear need for support and change to save lives at the forefront of that plan.
Many community leaders are already stepping up and putting plans to action, such as Rev. Kevin George at St. Aidan's Church.
I'm here to support Kevin's efforts too. Let's up the collaboration and lower the divisiveness.
My campaign manager lives in RGI housing, directly across from an encampment. Despite minding her own business, she is frequently subjected to harassment, threats, and vandalism, as someone who is one small step ahead of those in the encampment. We should be able to establish a location for encampment(s), and the support needed on site where all exposed to it feel safe at all levels. Tearing them down is not the answer, but the current setup is not working either. Let's leave the encampments alone, but also structure them in a way that lets everyone feel safe. Let's do better, together.
As someone of relative privilege compared to others, I know what I am capable of doing and providing. I also have ideas on more that can be done.
A few years ago, there were a few groups in our city based around the idea of “100 ___ who care”, who came together a few times a year and compiled individual donations into a large donation to a collective common cause for positive change.
Can we bring that back and make it monthly and direct the donations to a reputable agency working with the homeless until they can do something change-making like buy an apartment building for sale and turn it into supportive housing?
I'd love to see hard data in terms of what is out there and what the gaps look like, and to compile and execute a plan.
As an example of what is possible locally, I used to work in fundraising, and in my role my organization raised $440k in one weekend. Around that same time, another fundraiser for St. Joseph’s through a donation match raised $1.2mm in one day. London, a few years ago, had the most millionaires per capita in Canada. The resources are out there and need to be identified and engaged. The first step is often the most difficult and most crucial.
What can every single one of us be doing right now to save lives on the streets and give access to housing to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible? This to me is a more important question than can City Hall create enormous change in seven days.
If there’s a landlord or agency out there willing to collaborate, I bet I could set up an event next week where I find 120 people to come together and chip in $100 and use the money to pay $1,000 in rent per month for the next twelve months to get someone off the streets and into safe housing. It's been done before, let's go do it again.
I bet we could do that monthly if enough people step up to help and support. Change one life at a time while we wait for government to catch up.
Local grassroots workers operating as employees in this space, please tag me in. My track record as a volunteer is clear. I'm here to help even more once I know what we are working with and where the gaps are. Community is through collaboration. I also know a lot of resourceful and well intentioned people.
If I win my seat in October as the Ward 11 Councillor, you will have my support at the grassroots level as an elected official, after having it already as a volunteer.
But not through coercion.
Through mutual trust, conversation, and effort.
The at-risk lives on our streets in London Ontario surving homelessness, sex trafficking, an opoid crisis, AND a pandemic are worth it.
We both know it.
So, let's do the work together and get as many people to join us as we can find.
If we lead, they will follow.
(Edited to add links)