Fight to Win: Inside Poor People’s Organizing

My book about homelessness organizing and what we can learn about the government, homelessness policy and how power works is out!

Working from inside the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), drawing on interviews with OCAP members, over 5,000 pages of freedom of information request documents and many other City documents, I interrogate homelessness policy in Toronto.

This book shows that poor people’s organizing can be effective even in periods of neoliberal retrenchment.

Fight to Win tells the stories of four key OCAP homelessness campaigns: stopping the criminalization of homeless people in a public park; the fight for poor people’s access to the Housing Stabilization Fund; a campaign to improve the emergency shelter system and the City’s overarching, but inadequate, Housing First policy; and the attempt by the City of Toronto to drive homeless people from encampments during the COVID pandemic.

This book shows how power works at the municipal level, including the use of a multitude of demobilization tactics, devaluing poor people as sources of knowledge about their own lives, and gaslighting poor people and anti-poverty activists. I also detail OCAP’s dual activist strategy — direct-action casework coupled with mass mobilization — for both immediate need and long-term change. These campaigns demonstrate the validity of OCAP’s longstanding critiques of dominant homelessness policies and practices. Each campaign was fully or partially successful: these victories were secured by anti-poverty activists through the use of, and the threat of, direct disruptive action tactics.

Click here to watch the book launch with Desmond Cole, John Clarke, Jennifer Jewell and Azeezah Kanji.

Click here for the book trailer.