Ottawa ACORN

404 McArthur Ave. (Heartwood House) Ottawa, ON K1K 1G8

Phone: 613-746-5999

ottawa@acorncanada.org

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YourOttawaRegion.ca: Organization fights against what it calls social injustice

Jan 21st - YourOttawaRegion.com came out with a great piece looking at Ottawa ACORN's work to ensure that Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program recieve the funding they deserve, it's reproduced below:

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now’s (ACORN Canada) latest campaign is getting set to launch. This year they want to make politicians sit up and notice there needs to be improvements to the social assistance system.

ACORN [Canada]’s purpose is to fight for social justice for low income families across Canada. There are 30,000 members in 20 neighbourhood chapters in six Canadian cities.

“We are focused on two points in this campaign – to increase the rates of Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program and ensure that the special diet allowance program remains in place,” ACORN board member Kathleen Fortin said.

The meeting will address member’s issues and work on building a strategy on how to get the attention of provincial candidates, MPPs and opposing parties as they get ready to start their 2011 election campaign across Ontario. Fortin said she hopes they will be able to make candidates take note of the needs of those living on an Ontario Works income.

The special diet allowance helps people on Ontario Works and on Ontario Disability Support program manage their health needs, such as diabetes. The McGuinty government announced in March 2010 that changes to the special diet will take place, meaning some who were once eligible for the extra $250 a month allowance will no longer be eligible. Fortin wants the special diet allowance to also be addressed because of concerns members have had about notices they received questioning their diet needs.

Member Profile: Marsha King

Marsha King was a founding member of Ottawa ACORN and, until she passed away in October 2010, a dedicated leader and community activist.  

She joined as one of the first dues paying members in the Vanier chapter of Ottawa ACORN, when an organizer knocked on her door wanting to know what kind of community issues she had.  It wasn’t long before Marsha was standing up in front of her neighbours at community meeting and leading discussing and planning sessions on how to win improvements for tenants and work to raise Ontario Works and Ontario Disability rates.

Marsha was also an active member of her union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC).  It was through her introduction into the union that Marsha first developed her commitment to social and economic justice.  The first time an ACORN Canada organizer knocked on her door, the fit was obvious and she never looked back.

Ottawa EMC: Red tents occupy Parliament Hill

Oct 28th, 2010 by James Rubec in the Ottawa EMC

EMC News - Affordable housing advocates are set up red tents on Parliament Hill on Tuesday, Oct. 19, to highlight the need for a federal housing strategy and the growing concern about homelessness across the country.

The demonstrations came on the eve of the final debate in the House of Commons on Bill C-304, an NDP bill that would commit Ottawa to drafting a plan that would address the housing issue.

Before this third and final reading, the Bloc Quebecois had been dragging its heels, choosing to leave Quebec out of the plan. However on Wednesday, they changed their minds and the plan had to be sent back to committee and adjusted. A date for a final vote is now up in the air, but advocates are optimistic about the bill's future.

Member Profile: Andrea Thomas

Andrea Thomas understands the power of a dollar.  She understood it when she came into Ottawa ACORN’s free tax prep site, hoping to save a couple bucks on the cost of her return and she understands what a couple extra dollars an hour would mean to low wage workers fighting for a municipal living wage policy.

That’s the kind of leader Andrea is.  A community leader from Ottawa’s Vanier neighbourhood who has been active in campaigns for fair housing and tenants rights, a living wage policy for Ottawa and taken part in countless community meetings.

As a mother of three, it hasn’t always been easy for Andrea to stay active in her local organization.  She says she’s driven by “knowing that through ACORN I can help my neighbours”, whether its working to get their landlord to do repairs or arranging transportation to City Hall for a meeting - and her neighbourhs know they can count on Andrea.  

When asked what she wanted Ottawa ACORN to work on in the last half of 2010, she replied “I hope that we win our living wage campaign, because its something working families desperately need”. Adding that “Ottawa need to understand that ACORN members are taking responsibility for our neighbourhoods, we know no one is going to fix that, we can only do that by organizing.”

 

Member Profile: Sheila Searles

Sheila Searles is a Leader from the South Ottawa ACORN. She's a woman who has always been an active in her community, having served on tenants associations and as the Shop Stewart for her union.

She first became ACORN member in early 2009 after attending her first local chapter meeting. Sheila first heard of ACORN when another member knocked on her door asking her to buy a raffle ticket to help support the leadership conference to Toronto last year.

Sheila has been an active and passionate activist in our housing campaigns since she joined and was part of the leadership team that negotiated major renovations from Ottawa Community Housing (OCH) in summer 2009.  Those negotiations lead to her building and the neighbouring building receiving much needed new investments including new carpets in the hallways, new paint in the hallways, new security camera, new lighting on the outside of her building, new alarm systems, and individual unit repairs. She continues to be a leader within her building and community and actively meets with OCH as a leader of ACORN to ensure repairs and issues are addressed.

Ottawa Metro: Affordable housing plan needed: ACORN

July 9th, 2010 by Steve Collins - Ottawa Metro

About two dozen people gathered outside cabinet minister John Baird’s constituency office to call for a national affordable housing strategy.

Members of the local chapter of the Association for Community Reforms Now (ACORN) came out in support of Bill C-304, a private members’ bill introduced by NDP MP Libby Davies.

“We’re one of the richest countries in the world, and every other (G-8) country has a national housing strategy. Shame on Canada for not having a national housing strategy,” ACORN board member Kathleen Fortin said. “There’s 10,000 people here in Ottawa on the waiting list for housing.”

After the rally, the group attempted to meet with Baird. Office staff refused to open the door, so demonstrators taped a sign to the office door and slipped an information sheet under it.

Ottawa EMC: Residents rally for housing strategy

July 15th, 2010 by Katie Stewart - OttawaEMC

EMC News- Ottawa residents rallied with ACORN last week to bring awareness and gain support of Bill C-304, which calls for a national housing strategy.

If passed, the bill would require the federal government to bring all levels of government together to enact a plan to increase safe and affordable housing across Canada.

"We need to build affordable housing in Canada. We're the only G8 country without a national housing strategy," said Ottawa ACORN member Sheila Searles, who is also an active tenant leader in her building on Russell Rd. that is owned by Ottawa Community Housing Corporation.

Even though Canada is one of the richest countries in the world, in Ottawa alone, there are over 10,000 people on a waiting list for affordable housing. People can wait close to eight years for a unit to become available and in Ontario, the wait lists have increased by 9.6% in the last year.

"Housing is fundamental. Without stable housing, your education and job are jeopardized, It's essential," said Shannon Lee Mannion, community leader for affordable housing in Centretown. "Affordable housing helps stabilize people. It's a life raft."

Currently, the bill has gained the support from the Liberal, NDP, and Bloc Quebecois parties. When the bill passed its second reading in Parliament in September 2009, all MP's from these parties voted in support of Bill C-304. However, the Conservative government has yet to come on board and support the bill. Only one MP from the party voted in favour of the bill. There are 137 Conservative members of Parliament.

"They don't care because they don't have to care," said Ms. Mannion.

The demonstration of about 30 people on July 8 took place on Carling Avenue in front of the office of Conservative MP John Baird in an attempt to gain support of the bill. Mr. Baird voted against Bill C-304.

"We want John Baird and the Conservative government to give at least some consideration to this bill. This is important. It's a national crisis," said Ms. Mannion.

Andrea Thomas who is a tenant leader on her block in the east end said that the Conservatives who voted against the bill should try living in affordable housing to see how it feels for people who depend it.

"We need more housing and we need to gain the support from the Conservative government," said Ms. Thomas.

When the ACORN group approached Mr. Baird's office to present him with an information sheet, they were refused entry and were eventually ignored.

Mr. Baird's office would not provide a comment to The EMC.

"It you pay tax dollars, you deserve to talk to your MP. It's appalling," said Kat Fortin, supporter of Bill C-304.

Tahir Nazari, who voted for Mr. Baird in the last election, said he would not be voting for him again.

"We should get a response. I am living in Ottawa housing and we are facing problems. No one is helping," he said.

Presently, Ontarians are still waiting for a provincial strategy for affordable housing.

kstewart@theemc.ca

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