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.

Save the Housing Stablization Fund!

The Toronto city budget is being discussed right now and it includes a major cut to help poor people get and keep housing.

The HSF replaced the Community Start-Up Benefit when the Liberals eliminated it. The money is supposed to help people obtain or keep housing. Many women fleeing domestic violence, homeless people, people leaving institutions like hospitals and jails, or people facing other housing crises rely on this money to get housing. This can literally be a matter of life and death for some people.

The City has been denying people access to the money and now says that the fund is under-used and so it should be cut. This is bull-shit!

If you live in Toronto, tell your counselor to fight the cut!

If you don’t live in Toronto, tell our counselors to stop the cut!

Click here to get your City Counsellor’s contact information.

For regular updates, check the OCAP site.

Links on this page:

City Counselor contact

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty