Page 1

Groups To Admire

Older Women’s Network (Ontario) Inc. 115 The Esplanade Toronto, ON. M5E 1Y7 Telephone: 416-214-1518 E-mail: Website: Contact is a publication of the Older Women’s Network (OWN), an incorporated non-profit organization with a feminist outlook. It focuses, in particular, on issues affecting older women. Opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of OWN. Contact is published four times a year on the 1st of Mar., June, Sept., Dec. Firm deadlines for contributions is the first of Feb., May, Aug., Nov. Please be sure your event takes place after the publication date. Material submitted is subject to editing for clarity or length. E-mail submissions to: shirleylewis6@ or phone her at 416-601-9398. Contact Editorial Group: Vivian Banton, Sylvia Hall, Eleanor Batchelder, Shirley Lewis The annual membership fee of OWN is $35 (low income $25) for individuals and $65 for organizations. The membership year is Jan. 1 to Dec. 31. Members of OWN receive Contact free.

OWN Provincial Council 2010 - 2011 Chair: Mary Hynes Vice Chair: Shirley Lewis Past Chair: Erin Harris Treasurer: Marilyn Schafer Secretary: Margaret Hawthorn Directors: Bea Levis, Janice Tait, Ethel Meade Rona Macdonald, Eleanor Batchelder Please contact any Council Member through the Provincial Office at 416-214-1518


(OWN) Contact

Summer 2011

YWCA Toronto, The Largest Provider Of Housing For Women And Girls In The GTA By Patricia Moffat, Chair, OWN Ad Hoc Housing Committee

Affordable housing doesn’t get much better than the YWCA’s new Elm Centre, an innovative residential community located in the heart of downtown Toronto. Currently under construction and expected to open in the summer of 2011, the Elm Centre will have 300 affordable apartments for single low-income women with children, women living with mental health and addiction issues, and families of Aboriginal ancestry. Elm Centre will also provide housing for older women. The new building occupies a city block bounded by Elm, Elizabeth, Edward and Chestnut Streets. It will also house YWCA Toronto’s new administrative headquarters, the 200-seat Nancy’s Auditorium, a Women’s community meeting room, meeting spaces and a restaurant. Heather McGregor, CEO of the Toronto YWCA, valued friend and member of OWN, described at the 2009 OWN Housing Forum her agency’s long struggle to raise the 80 million dollar budget for Elm Centre, most of it from private sources “We are a large agency with a hundred- year history; no smaller organization could continued on page 3

Groups To Admire undertake, let alone succeed in, such a long and difficult struggle.” She contrasted this experience with the YWCA’s earlier housing endeavors, when government money was invested in affordable housing and “we didn’t have to raise a penny.” YWCA Toronto, apart from this exciting new project, provides an impressive range of housing services for women: • Shelter: The 1st Stop Woodlawn Shelter provides free shelter and support to women 16 years of age and older who are homeless or in immediate crisis. This program helps women get out of crisis and move on to independence and safety. • Emergency Shelter from Violence: YWCA provides immediate safety and shelter for women and their children fleeing abuse, offering on-site trauma and mental health support, addictions counseling, parent support and employment counseling. Women receive basic necessities like toiletries, diapers and clothing upon arrival. • Transitional Housing: Beatrice House is a free residential program and an earlychildhood development centre for women and children who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Up to 27 families at a time make their home at Beatrice House which provides support and the opportunity to set achievable goals. • Housing with rent geared to income:

The Pape Avenue, Humewood and Bergemot apartments provide permanent accommodation for single women and women with children. In addition to safe accommodation, the YWCA’s community programs offer support to help women and families heal and grow. Heather McGregor was named in 2010 as one of the Women Executive Network’s “Top 100” women for her work as an innovative trailblazer in the non-profit sector. In congratulating Heather, Dr. Kristin Blakely-Kozman, President of the YWCA Board of Directors, said, “Heather’s work is helping build a stronger and more inclusive Toronto for all. We are very proud.” THANKS OWN extends its grateful thanks to the following organizations for their support: • Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario • Loretto Ladies Colleges and Schools (Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary) • Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) • Ontario Trillium Foundation

Summer 2011

(OWN) Contact


60 Richmond Street East Housing Cooperative continued from page 1

Three-quarters of the co-op’s apartments are reserved for individuals and families displaced by the ongoing revitalization of Regent Park. The remaining units are primarily for members of UNITE HERE, many of whom will be able to walk to their jobs in nearby hotels and restaurants. The new co-op combines subsidized units with units priced slightly below market rents, thus creating a mixed-income community of a kind popular in the 1970s and 1980s when the St. Lawrence neighbourhood was created. Architecturally, however, 60 Richmond is an advance on its 20th century forerunners. Working to a tight budget of 20 million dollars, Teeple Architects used the latest “green” technology to keep costs down. An atrium that extends the full height of the 11-storey building brings light and air to all floors. A ventilation system transfers air from the hot to the cool side and there are heat recovery units in all apartments. Windows, many of which offer spectacular views from the living rooms, are limited for energy efficiency. Inexpensive, practical materials and finishes have been used wherever possible.

A green roof and terraces on several levels of 60 Richmond add to the energyefficiency of the building, Rainwater collection irrigates the gardens. Tended by the residents, the vegetables grown on a sixth floor courtyard, and in hanging baskets in the atrium, will be used in the restaurant and teaching kitchen projected for the ground floor. In turn, compost from the kitchen will be spread on the garden, thus completing the virtuous cycle. As well as providing a space where individual residents can engage in communal activities, the raised courtyard will serve as a gathering place for the families living in the larger apartments. One of the patios scattered throughout the building contains a secure children’s playground. Sixty Richmond received the 2007 Canadian Architect Award of Excellence and came first in the residential category in the 2010 PUG (People’s Choice) competition. Christopher Hume, the Toronto Star’s architecture critic, gave it an A+. At 60 Richmond, Teeple Architects Inc. has demonstrated that a combination of innovative thinking, high standards of sustainable design and cost-effective methods of construction can produce exemplary housing that ordinary people can afford.


The Ad Hoc Housing Committee research documents are stored in the Alfreda Mordas Reading Room, available to the OWN membership and authorized visitors. Please phone before visiting the Reading Room to ensure that the office is open because the OWN office is staffed by volunteers. 416-214-1518 4

(OWN) Contact

Summer 2011

Peterborough OWN Chapter Report By Jill Jones

Our small group of committed members has once again been very busy over the winter. We hosted a fundraiser on Mar. 3 at Sadleir House with the very talented musician Anne Lindsay, who is known as “Canada’s uniquely talented fiddler.” And gals – we sold out the concert!! The Peterborough Chapter made $315 for future work. Please check out Anne’s website to see her photo and check out her music. http://www. Many thanks to Erin Harris who came to Peterborough to help host the event and brought a wonderful letter thanking Anne and offering her an honorary membership in OWN. Anne was thrilled and is very interested in working on a similar project with the Toronto OWN. We also had a very busy International Women’s Day co-hosting three events for the day. There was a community gathering from 10 am to 2 pm which attracted 170 female high school students

for workshops on violence against women; a feminist discussion held at Catharine Parr Trail College which attracted almost 60 women; and then the evening ended with a feminist cabaret held at a local bar featuring our local “Raging Grannies” as well as my own group “Chosen Sisters.” We are very involved in the federal election campaign and currently are working with our local Women’s Events committee, which has issued a letter of challenge through the local newspapers to all of our federal candidates asking them to provide answers on women’s issues and status during this campaign. On Sat., Apr. 16, we were part of a community coalition hosting a “Soapbox Orator” series during this election designed to entice a dialogue on issues. I spent one hour as a “Soapbox Orator” talking at the Peterborough Farmer’s Market about women’s issues in this election. Will report on the success of this in the next Contact. Stay tuned….

Anam Cara Fund The OWN Anam Cara Fund is a way of building a legacy of being and belonging at OWN. Through many generous donations of friends and family, over 25 women have been honoured and commemorated, in our Anam Cara tribute book, for their activism and humanity. Anam Cara is one of our fundraising strategies for 2010-2011. Your donation should include a photos and a written tribute. Anam Cara tributes are donated by friends, as well as family. It is not necessarily a memorial to the dead. Many women listed in the Anam Cara book are alive, and well and remain active and activist.

Summer 2011

(OWN) Contact


EEK! Stories to Make You Cringe By Shirley Lewis

• Do my eyes deceive me?? I don’t think so. But according to the media, there are some very odd transportation decisions being made. Instead of four (count them, 4!) new rapid transit lines previously announced, it seems, that Mayor Ford, and the Ontario government are jointly spending 8.4 billion dollars for ONE subway line on Eglinton Avenue plus the City of Toronto is liable for all costs incurred for the work already done on the original project. And what does this come to? Well, $49 million so far on wasted work for the plan that was killed. That’s right – it costs more than 49 million dollars to change your mind in midstream. And that’s an estimate – it may be much higher. EEEK! • Bill 3-393 passed The House of Commons Mar. 9, 2011 by a handsome majority. African Grandmothers groups across Canada were but one of the many activists who lobbied for the passage of this act, which makes generic AIDS drugs more affordable in the developing world. Liberal Senator Sharon Carstairs sponsored the bill as it moved through the Senate. However, Industry Minister Tony Clement made sure that the legislation was stalled, and for a second time the bill died on the order paper when the Government fell and the current election was called. How shameful! Senator Carstairs


(OWN) Contact

Summer 2011

As a result of the stalling tactics of the Conservative senators, thousands of people, especially women and children, will die of treatable diseases such as AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis (TB). EEEK! • The appointment of Julian Fantino to the minor cabinet position of Minister of State for Seniors was an odd choice, says Sun Media’s David Akin, if only because of the strange bedfellows it has made.


Fantino’s new ministerial boss Diane Finley once signed a petition condemning his conduct as OPP chief - and the head of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) is none other than Susan Eng, who he was accused of harassing with a secret wiretap when she was head of the Toronto Police Services Board. “I can’t think of a worse figurehead” for the seniors portfolio, declared the Toronto Star’s Heather Mallick. “Canadians need an experienced leader but instead have been given Fantino, who is “not a distinguished politician with a background in medicine, social services, pension management, or even promoting startling ideas for helping a huge greying generation.” EEEK!

The Housing Struggle continued from page 1

Kris Purdy was the facilitator and Judy Rebick delivered the Call to Action. In December 2009 OWN submitted a report to the Ontario Government consultations on Affordable Housing. This report and a PowerPoint summary of its recommendations can be found on the OWN website: Our submission pointed out that women are doubly affected by the lack of affordable housing because we live longer than men, earn less, have fewer retirement benefits and take time from our careers to care for children and elders. In the past ten years, rents in Ontario have risen 17% and incomes have increased only 4%. Early in 2010 OWN Council approved the formation of an Ad Hoc Committee on Housing. A core group of members who had worked on the Forum was joined by other OWN members, some of them—like Bea Levis and Kate Chung— with many years of housing advocacy experience. (A full list of committee members appears at the end of this article.) In this special Housing Issue of Contact, you will read about the Committee’s issues and activities in the past year and some of its plans and ideas for the future. Following our chosen themes—partnership and communication— we launched a Housing Literacy series to educate ourselves and others about affordable housing models and to highlight the issues facing midlife and older women today and in the future.

Because talk should lead to action, we have also supported committee member Kate Chung’s initiative to establish a dedicated fund for the next OWN housing initiative. The as yet un-named fund will be titled according to the name selected in our “Name The Fund” Contest that was announced in the spring 2011 issue of Contact. As Chair, I have been an OWN representative, with Ethel Meade and Edna Beange, on the Ontario Advisory Committee on Seniors Housing which brings together non-profit organizations. OWN’s 2009 recommendations to the Affordable Housing Consultations were presented to this group, and in turn I was able to bring back to the Housing Committee current information abouthousing issues and research in Canada and around the world. In the spirit of partnership and communication, Shirley Lewis and Joan Campbell have developed a housing e-list and Margaret Jarvis is putting together a digital bulletin board of current housing information, opinions and research. Contact readers who are interested in contributing ideas or volunteer time to the work of the OWN Ad Hoc Housing Committee would be most welcome. Committee Members: Thelma Allen, Joan Campbell, Kate Chung, Pam Churchill, Erin Harris, Margaret Jarvis, Bea Levis, Shirley Lewis, Honey Rosenthal, Carolyn Singer.

Summer 2011

(OWN) Contact


Feminist Book Discussion Groups Own Co-op Book Group

115 The Esplanade Second Tue. of the Month, 2: 00 pm May 10, Fault Lines, by Nancy Huston Jun. 14, I Am My Father’s Son, by Dan Hill No meetings in July or August Coordinator: Leslie Lawlor 416-363-9219; North York Central Library

5120 Yonge St. Willowdale First Wed. of the month, 1:30 pm May 4, Three Women, by Marge Piercy. 1999 Jun. 1, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture by Ariel Levy. 2005 Jul. 6, The Wife’s Tale, by Lori Lansens. 2009 Aug. 3, Shadow Maker: The Life of Gwendolyn MacEwen, by Rosemary Sullivan. 1995 Coordinator: Eleanor Batchelder 647-235-0843; Northern District Public Library

40 Orchard View (near Yonge and Eglinton) Third Wed. of the month, 2:00 pm May 18, Infidel, by Aayan Hursi Ali Jun. 15, The Winter Vault, by Anne Michaels Jul. 20, Veiled Threat: The Hidden Power of the Women of Afghanistan, by Sally Armstrong Aug.17, February, by Lisa Moore Coordinator: Adrienne Taylor 416-481-2356;

In The News • Woman to Run Marathon on Ice to Benefit Homeless

An ultra-marathon runner will attempt to be the first person to run alone 370 km in the Northwest Territories alone, from Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk and back. Alicja Barahona will run on a barren ice road made famous on the television show “Ice Road Truckers.” There are no shelters on the road, so it will be just Barahona, ice, snow and wildlife during her four-day run. Barahona was born in Poland, moved to Canada in 1981 and became a citizen, then moved to New York in 1991. She started running in 1996 and she has run several ultra-marathons around the world, including a 600-km race in Niger and 268 km through the Sahara Desert as well as 560 km closer to home in Alaska. She placed first in the women’s category for all races. Her run, beginning Apr. 6, 2011, is to raise awareness and funds for homelessness in the North. • “Sistering” Fundraiser a Gourmet Success

Mar. 8, 2011 was a rollicking splash of a night – admittedly only for the rich, at $500.00 a ticket – which featured Toronto’s best female chefs serving gourmet delights to 120 guests, with the proceeds supporting “Sistering.” It was a bold move to host such a lavish event, held at the posh Liberty Village, with a gourmet four-course meal accompanied by a host of wines – but did it pay off? Indeed it did. The event yielded more than $60,000 in aid of Sistering. continued on page 17


(OWN) Contact

Summer 2011

Join the Toronto Challenge on June 12 OWN members who are keeping healthy and active should be interested in participating in the Toronto Challenge Walk which takes place in downtown Toronto. Since the beneficiaries of this 20th anniversary walk are the Toronto seniors, options include a 1 km walk, a 5 km walk, or a 5 km timed run. It’s the largest annual fundraiser for seniors’ programs across Toronto. Participants are encouraged to collect pledges for the organization of their choice – this can include the Good Neighbours Club, Sunshine Center for Seniors, Dixon Hall, among many others. Starting from Metro Hall at John and Wellington, this downtown walk/run starts at 9:30 am on Sun. June 12. Any OWN members want to form a team? Call the OWN office and if enough people are interested we can support one of our favourite seniors organizations funded by the City of Toronto.

Pre-Authorized OWN Support

Have you considered pre-authorized chequing as a way to pay your membership and support the work of OWN? Five dollars off your account each month would hardly be missed. Even ten dollars is not so much to dedicate to the life and health of OWN. Please consider supporting OWN on a month-to-month basis. It gives us monthly working capital to continue offering services to all members. OWN needs your ongoing support. Senior Women’s Afternoon at the Movies June 10 The next Senior Women’s Afternoon at the Movies will be on June 10 at 2:00 pm(doors open at 1:30) in the Elizabeth Beeton Room at the Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge St. We will be showing Shirley Valentine, a 1989 comedy featuring Pauline Collins, who was nominated for an Academy Award in 1990 for her role as Shirley. The story revolves around a bored British housewife whose horizons are limited until a friend takes her on a holiday to Greece. Summer 2011

(OWN) Contact


Retirement Homes Regulation A Big Letdown

By Ethel Meade When seniors’ organizations first heard that a provincial Bill to regulate retirement homes was to be introduced, we were all delighted. We have never forgotten the fire at Meadowcroft Place Retirement Home in 1995, when eight senior residents died because there was no plan for emergency evacuation. Nor have we forgotten the scandal at Birchmount House. Birchmount had been a Long Term Care Home, but inspectors found so many violations of the legal standards of care that the government withdrew their license to operate. (the only time in Ontario’s history that a nursing home had been so penalized). The owners didn’t even blink. They changed the sign on their building to read Birchmount Retirement Home and went on doing business as usual. Therefore, we who have lobbied for many years for regulation of retirement homes had high hopes that the new Bill 21 would lead to the adoption of a system which effectively protects those who live in retirement homes. Unfortunately we were hugely disappointed because Bill 21 establishes a two tier system of long term care. Previously for many hears, retirement homes were an intermediate class, serving those who no longer felt safe living at home alone, but not ready or eligible for Long Term Care Homes. Now, by specifying that care services from health professionals are a requirement for a licence to operate a Retirement Home, Bill 21 has made Retirement Homes


(OWN) Contact

Summer 2011

equivalent to Long Term Care Homes, except that Retirement Homes are unsubsidized and profit-making so they remain free to charge what the market will bear. So now, if you have plenty of money (many of the more luxurious homes cost $3,000 a month or more) you can get your long term care in a Retirement Home. If you are, like most of us, unable to pay that kind of fee, you can go into a Long Term Care Home when your name finally comes up on the waiting list. Or, if you have very little money and don’t have family or friends nearby to help, you can go into one of the boardinghouse kind of retirement homes, where the meals may not be nutritious or appetizing, the only programming is one TV and the help you get is minimal. We have called these “black market” retirement homes. Despite the unanimous opposition of seniors’ organizations, the desires of the big international corporations who operate luxurious, expensive retirement homes won the day. Bill 21 has now been passed and a first draft of the regulations has been published and we had until April 11 to register our position on them. We have not been as concerned about the standards of care being proposed as with how and whether they will be enforced. Inspectors are to be hired, but they are to be paid from the licensing fees that are to be collected -- no government money will be provided. The amount of these fees has not yet been determined and we know the operators will be fighting for the lowest fees they can manage.

The big question is “Will there be enough money to hire enough inspectors to really enforce the fine standards in this legislation?” The whole system is to be operated by a Retirement Home Regulatory Authority (RHRA) appointed by the government. What are the qualifications for being appointed to this Authority? If most of them are connected, openly or invisibly, with the operators of Retirement Homes, the bias towards the operators’ interests will be strong. We believe that the Authority should be tripartite: three members representing the operators, three representing the seniors’ community and three from government departments actively concerned with this legislation. If the number of inspectors is inadequate, then enforcement of standards becomes over-dependent on complaints. But no matter what reasonable process is set up to deal with complaints, how easy is it for a person who depends on life-preserving help to complain about those who help her? The power imbalance between a vulnerable elder and those who help her is enormous, making the fear factor a major obstacle against laying complaints. A system analogous to an ombuds office must be established so that it will not only be safe to complain, but will also be seen to be safe. For this to be effective, there also needs to be assertive and repeated public education. (We have just heard from the Task Group on Financial Literacy that 150,000 seniors eligible for Old Age Security are not receiving it. They either do not know that the benefit exists or do not know that you have to apply for it.)

Finally, we are deeply concerned about the “black market” retirement homes. These are mainly operated by empty-nesters who have too many bedrooms and not enough money. Their concern is to enhance their own retirement income. They may be kind and caring people who do their best to provide the best possible care – or they may be selfish money-hungry people who want extra income but want it at the lowest cost to themselves in money, energy and attentiveness. The latter operators may skimp on meals, provide no programming other than a single TV, hire fewer than the needed number of attendants and not care whether the attendants have any kind of training. If they have staff during the day, they may consider their own presence sufficient for the evening and the night. It is not unknown for such operators to decide to go to a movie in the evening, leaving no one in charge. This is why we disagree with the proposed regulation to define a retirement home as having six or more residents. We think it should be lowered to four so as to include more of these low-end operations. Again, to be effective, there needs to be public education on a large scale and over a long period. The government needs to make the regulation of retirement homes so well known that anyone looking for a home will ask first of all, “Are you a licensed operator?” This is an Ontario election year. The points enumerated above are good questions to be asking the candidates in your riding. Ethel Meade is an OWN Council member with outstanding expertise in elder affairs.

Summer 2011

(OWN) Contact


Ad Hoc Housing Committee Activities By Patricia Moffat, Chair, OWN Ad Hoc Housing Committee

In her “Call to Action” at OWN’s 2009 Housing Forum, Judy Rebick reminded us that the second wave of feminism began with small groups of women meeting in their living rooms. The people who plant the seed usually have no idea how the garden will look at the height of summer. “We can help ourselves” Judy said “and we can help each other.” Recognizing the need to educate itself, the Ad Hoc Housing Committee decided to find affordable housing models and ideas and share them with others. Erin Harris arranged for the committee to meet with the board of SuitePeas, a group of women in Oakville with a proposal and a charitable number; their plan is to provide shared housing for older women in large older homes divided into small private suites with some shared facilities and services. This model reminded us of Glebe House, a shared housing facility developed by OWN members in Peterborough. Kate Chung subsequently led a group of several committee members to visit Whole Village, an intentional community in Caledon Ontario. Its members describe it as “an ecovillage and biodynamic farm,” its vision is to “create a community with a commitment to sustainability and land stewardship while providing a place to “farm and live in harmony with the natural habitat.” Community members are housed in a large new low rise building with 11 units,


(OWN) Contact

Summer 2011

ranging from bachelor to two-bedroom apartments, all with views of the pastoral setting. We learned that intentional communities can be difficult to establish and a challenge to maintain. Whole Village operates a market garden that provides produce to the surrounding community. Some of our members plan a return visit to their bed and breakfast program. After these visits, the committee decided that it was time to inaugurate a public lecture series to continue the process of educating itself. The first of these Housing Literacy talks, held Jan. 20, 2011 in the OWN Co-op Meeting Room, featured the founder and director of “Options for homes,” Michael Labbé, who gave an informative talk on “Building Not-for-Profit Condominiums.” Committee member Margaret Jarvis, who bought her own condo through “Options for Homes”, introduced the speaker. The noon time slot, designed to facilitate attendance by women who work in the downtown area produced a good turnout. The second lecture in this series, “What Really Works in Creating Affordable Housing?” will be held on Tues. May 17 at the same time and place, featuring the Woodgreen Supportive Housing Program. The committee has gathered information from several OWN members about housing models they have visited in Denmark and Sweden, and another member is interested in investigating and developing a program for women who wish to share their homes rather than sell them. We are also trying to learn from the past by reflecting on established agencies and programs which have developed and changed far beyond their continued on page 13

Ad Hoc Housing Committee

continued from page 12 founder’s original design. Two examples are Sistering which grew from an original staff of four paraprofessionals in 1981 to a staff of over 20, and Casey House which opened in 1988 as a 13-bed residential hospice and morphed into to a collaborative agency that provides services wherever they are needed: in clients homes, at clinics or aboard the mobile health bus. OWN’s challenge for the future is to find and share creative solutions to the housing needs of midlife and older women, joining with like minded individuals and groups as we have in the past.


Great Housing Information from the Internet • If current trends continue, the

City of Toronto will eventually be sharply divided into a city of wealthy neighbourhoods and poor neighbourhoods with very few middleincome neighbourhoods. This is the conclusion of a new report released in December by the Cities Centre, written by J. David Hulchanski with the support of a research team from the University of Toronto and St. Christopher House. Entitled The Three Cities Within Toronto; Income Polarization Among Toronto’s Neighbourhoods, it can be accessed at: Assets/Social+Work+Digital+Assets/ Three+Cities+Report.pdf

• The United Way has done a study of housing in Toronto called Poverty by Postal Code 2: Vertical Poverty. It presents new data on the growing concentration of poverty in the City of Toronto and the role that high-rise housing is playing in this trend. It examines the quality of life provided to tenants in high-rise buildings today. The full report is available at: verticalpoverty Everything you ever wanted to know about housing in Toronto is gathered up in a new document, entitled Toronto Regional Housing Data Bank. It’s a first attempt to “inventory” the affordable housing needs of the GTA. Information from Halton, Durham, Peel, York and the City of Toronto has been assembled to create a regional housing picture, covering 5 themes: The Toronto Region, Population and Household Characteristics, Housing Supply and Cost, Poverty and Housing Need, and Programs and Policies. Thick and meaty, it’s a dandy reference tool. Download the whole document from: http://www.

Summer 2011

(OWN) Contact


The North of Steeles Group (NOS) By Rachel Tamari

There are eight members in our North of Steeles group. All of us would like to participate in OWN events but most of the time none of us do. The reason of staying away is the distance; insufficient public transportation, long drive, heavy traffic and parking problems are coming to mind before we’d venture downtown. The NOS group has been together for three years, meeting on the third Monday of each month. Some of our meetings were exciting, some mediocre, some outright boring. Before we almost have given up, a new idea was born. I have been always envious of my city friends who enjoyed participating in series of lectures at George Brown, Ryerson and/or U of T. (York U. and Seneca do not offer anything of the like.) Why? When I shared my thoughts at a NOS meeting, “Let’s bring continuing education to our neighbourhood,” decided the six of us who attended that fateful meeting in early 2009. We didn’t have the faintest idea how should we proceed, nevertheless had a good brainstorming and came up with a plan. We had some contact with the McConaghy Seniors’ Centre in Richmond Hill (Yonge St. & Major McKenzie) and met Jennifer, a seniors’ coordinator. Luckily, she was open-minded and responsive to our quest. With our help she received funding from Trillium and set up a task force consisting of four NOS members, two staff and one from the 14

(OWN) Contact

Summer 2011

board. We had several exciting sessions. As we suggested, Jennifer approached Sandra Kerr, coordinator of the seniors program at Ryerson. Sandra provided us with four well-attended sample lectures in May 2010. Based on this experience, a series of four lectures, titled “America, what went wrong?” (Prof. Hugh Innis) and a discussion group on current events (cofacilitated by our own Marilyn Whiteley) on current events were advertised in Richmond Hill’s fall and winter Community Recreation Guide. The response was encouraging. Even though the program was not widely promoted, both groups have been attended by twenty people each. For the winter lecture series we were lucky to have the same excellent lecturer. This time the topic was “The Great Thinkers”. Though quite a few people were on vacation, we did have a full house again. And the flyer on the Spring Lecture Series (April-May) is out already and people are looking forward to the continuity. It looks like both the Lecture Series and the Discussion Group are here to stay for years to come. Mission accomplished! Isn’t it amazing what six women can do, if they really want?

Recommended Reading Cohousing: A Contemporary

Approach to Housing Ourselves, by Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett. Ten Speed Press, 1994.

Reviewed by Kate Chung

How do we create affordable housing and build community in these harsh times? One possibility is “cohousing,” in which every household has private space, while sharing elements in ways which make housing more affordable and which entice residents into getting to know and support each other in myriad ways. Communities vary in the extent and design of the shared spaces. All include a “common house” with community kitchen and dining room, where anywhere from 3 to 7 dinners a week are shared, and a laundry and clothes lines. Most also include a play room, teen room, TV room, recreation room, gardens, and patios. The shared space allows individual units to be smaller, with just a kitchenette. This book traces the beginnings of cohousing in Denmark and follows the trail of eager adaptation to North America (mainly USA). The book is full of bright photos of various cohousing communities, ranging from the luxurious to simple apartments and even social housing designs, and gives insight into how these communities are planned, built and maintained, as well as the benefits unique to such partially shared accommodation.

This writer has visited many of the communities described and can vouch for both the pains and pleasures of this style of living. While cohousing development has burgeoned across Canada and many more books, periodicals and websites have sprung up since this book was written, it remains the classic introduction to this mode of living. “Cohousing” is highly recommended reading for anyone looking for ways to create innovative, affordable housing. It is available from the Toronto Public Library.

Housing Literacy May 17 at OWN The OWN Ad Hoc Housing Committee is hosting the next informal lecture in its Housing Literacy Series on Tuesday May 17. The noon hour meeting will focus on the housing activities at WoodGreen Community Centre, one of the highly successful agencies serving the housing needs of all age groups, including seniors. This is an informal event, held over the lunch hour with drinks (tea and coffee) provided for the “brown bag lunch that each participant brings. Although the program is formatted to inform the Ad Hoc Committee, it is open to the public and will be welcomed to our deliberations.

Summer 2011

(OWN) Contact


Women To Admire - Profile Edna Beange By Shirley Lewis

Anyone in Toronto who looks into the affordable housing issue quickly discovers the name of Edna Beange. Long a Leaside community activist for social justice issues, Edna served as City Councillor in the 1970s and 1980s. Her activism on behalf of the elderly, the frail and the disabled, led her to a leadership role on the ground floor of the Coalition of Homesharing Programs, which was so popular in the 1980s. She chaired the Board of Sharing, a program of the [then] Ministry of Housing which emphasized the connection between health and housing. She is one of the planners and organizers of “How to Build Affordable Housing Now” an annual seminar, show and exhibition, and her interest in home sharing led her and her organization to work with the City of Toronto and the Social Planning Council, among other social agencies that promote affordable housing. Home sharing programs in the 1980s screened and matched individuals interested in shared accommodation. In 1985 the Ontario Ministry of Housing began co-funding programs with municipal governments through cost-sharing 16

(OWN) Contact

Summer 2011

arrangements. At its peak there were 17 different home sharing programs, but by 1993 the Ontario government withdrew its funding and home sharing programs fell by the wayside. Edna Beange has many strings to her bow, and she turned her attention to other aspects of housing, including life lease housing, an appealing concept developed for mature adults and seniors. She now lives in SAHIL Gardens, a life lease development originally conceived by members of the Leaside United Church (the acronym stands for “stay at home in Leaside”) Edna continues to serve in many capacities -- in her nineties she seems as energetic as ever. She served on the Toronto Seniors Task Force as a citizen member, as well as the Seniors Advisory Board of Iris for Seniors, a consulting firm focusing on seniors’ issues and senior care. She represents OWN on the Ontario Seniors Secretariat Advisory Committee on Housing. She is an honorary member of Hospital Special Needs Inc. – and this is only a partial list.She is currently a Board member of the Toronto Council on Aging (formerly the Toronto Seniors Council). If we look at all the awards she has been granted, such as the Queen’s Jubilee award and the Agnes McPhail Award, we would run out of space. Suffice to say that she is one of our OWN to admire, indeed.

In The News

continued from page 8 This stalwart group has been helping homeless women in Toronto for 30 years, feeding hot meals to more than 200 women a day, seven days a week. The proceeds will be used to expand, renovate and re-furbish its deteriorated kitchen facilities. • Our City, Our Services, Our Future: women’s action activities

On Mar. 2, 2011, facing cuts to key public services including transit, libraries, recreation, and community centres, women representing diverse communities and groups gathered in honour of International Women’s Day to give a letter to the mayor and to ask that services be reinstated. …And on Apr. 9 the Good Jobs For All Coalition had an impressive Community Day of Action demonstration at City Hall to challenge the conservative agenda that Mayor Ford has presented. The event was sponsored by many groups, including the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF), Canadian Labour Congress and the Canadian Federation of Students Ontario. • First National Conference on Homeless Women to be Held in London Ontario

May 9-11, 2011 is the date for the All Our Sisters 2011 National Forum, the first Canadian forum specifically addressing security of housing, homelessness and safe communities for women living in Canada. Service providers, community members, policy makers, government officials, academics, change agents, and women with lived experience are slated to come together in London, Ont. to promote safe, sustainable

housing for women. This conference will foster the development of new collaborations and will be a forum for creating a sustainable national network to develop strategies for building safe communities that are inclusive of all women in Canada. Details listed on website: • Women’s Worlds 2011 This international conference is being held in Ottawa Jul.3-7, with a roster of dynamic women speakers from all over the world. Canada is hosting this 11th meeting, which has previously been held in Spain, Korea, Uganda and other exotic locations. For full details visit: • Women’s Shelters are overcrowded everywhere – but this week the focus was on

Alberta. A report released in Edmonton on Apr. 15, 2011 by the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters says 37 women staying at the province’s shelters on a single day in November reported having been threatened with a gun before seeking help from the shelters, and that 62 of the women in the shelter were pregnant at the time. The Council’s 2010 data count was done on Nov. 25, the annual International Day to End Violence Against Women. On that day, there were 816 women and 771 children staying at 42 domestic violence shelters around the province. The Council says another 51 women and 79 children had to be turned away from shelters because of lack of space. Visit their website for full details: documents/

Summer 2011

(OWN) Contact



TCHC makes a too-convenient villain Excerpted from the Toronto Star, Sun. Mar 6, 2011, by Christopher Hume

The fact we know so little of what actually happened at TCHC hasn’t tempered our desire for its destruction, even if it turns out to be self-destruction. The truth that might once have set us free has been crushed beneath the growing weight of our collective bitterness. No doubt there were serious financial breaches at the housing corporation, but there’s more to an organization with a budget of $600 million, a $6 billion portfolio and 1,400 employees than a couple of Christmas parties and chocolates for departing workers. What about Regent Park? The mayor may be unaware, but TCHC has pulled off one of the most remarkable rebuilding programs anywhere in the world, one that will see the aging and misguided social housing scheme remade from top to bottom during the next decade or two. The process is well underway, and not only has the post-war community been hugely improved, so has the city. The corner of Dundas and Parliament Sts., historically one of the most wretched in Toronto, has been transformed. What former TCHC CEO Derek Ballantyne managed to pull off at Regent Park is truly amazing, even unique in city annals. That mustn’t be forgotten in the gleeful outburst of anger that has swept the city. Let’s also not forget that TCHC was created in 2002 when the “senior” levels of


(OWN) Contact

Summer 2011

government — that would be Ottawa and Queen’s Park — simply abandoned what was left of their social housing and dumped it on the city. Poorly constructed and even more poorly maintained, the corporation’s vast stock would cost countless millions to clean up. Instead, the agency is underfunded, overlooked and much maligned. The Toronto media, now an enthusiastic participant in Rob Ford’s race to the bottom, is content to join in the howls of populist outrage. It’s a toss-up who’s more obnoxious — the accuser or the accused. The mayor’s answer to the whole affair — privatization — is one we’ve heard many times before. If that really were the solution, organizations such as TCHC wouldn’t exist in the first place; there would be no need for them. But as we all know, there is. Indeed, the need has never been greater, especially in Toronto, where the number of poor is growing along with the gap between them and the rich. Not only is TCHC unable to keep up with demand — the waiting list for social housing can be up to five years long — it can’t keep up with basic maintenance, either. The complex infrastructure — physical, social, intellectual — that has made Toronto so famously liveable has eroded to the point of no return. Rather than deal with tough issues such as this, our mayor focuses instead on those that appeal directly to our sense of outrage. That’s so much more satisfying, and, for the time being, politically rewarding. But at best it merely hints at the real mess that needs cleaning up. More important, perhaps, it’s a way to let the rest of us off the hook. Much better to blame the government than ourselves. It’s not

that we don’t spend enough on public housing, but that the taxes we do pay are wasted. In other words, it’s their fault, not ours. If you want to comment on this article, your opinion could be published in our “Letters to the Editor”

Equality Day April 17 was a lively day at OWN when 60 OWN members enjoyed the movie “Constitute!” commemorating the historic Ad Hoc Women’s Constitutional Conference held in 1981 in Ottawa which led to the entrenchment of women’s rights within the repatriation of the Canadian Constitution in 1982. This was followed by a panel of OWN members who were lucky enough to have attended this historic meeting, who discussed their memories of intense activity and a led to a discussion of how women can influence events in today’s political climate. Thanks to all who organized and participated in this event.

Historic Poetry Reading A piece of history in the making! On May 12/11 at 7.30 p.m. at the ARTA Gallery in the Distillery District--Dorothy Rath (who read with Ann Elizabeth Carson and Olive Senior at OWN in February) and actor John Rammel will read from Dorothy Raths’ book An Unlikely Affair, her 30 year correspondence with Irving Layton. Sponsored by Old Town Art Beat.

Summer 2011

(OWN) Contact


OWN Calendar May to August 2011 Planning in advance can lead to scheduling problems, so be sure to check closer to the time on the OWN website:

MAY 2011

May 4 (Wed.) May 10 (Tue.) May 11 (Wed.) May 12 (Thurs) May 17 (Tue.) May 18 (Wed.) May 26 (Thurs.) JUNE 2011

June 1 (Wed.) June 5 (Sun.) June 8 (Wed.) June 9 (Thurs) June 10 (Fri.) June 14 (Tue.) June 15 (Wed.) June 23 (Thurs.) JULY 2011

July 2 (Sat.) July 6 (Wed.) July 13 (Wed.) July 20 (Wed.) AUGUST 2011

August 3 (Wed.) August 17 (Wed.)

See details for each event elsewhere in this issue

North York Book Group OWN Co-op Book Group In My Own Voice Writing Group La Vie en Rose French Club Housing Literacy Series – WoodGreen Housing Northern District Book Club La Vie en Rose French Club

North York Book Group OWN Annual General Meeting In My Own Voice Writing Group La Vie en Rose French Club OWN Film Afternoon – Shirley Valentine OWN Co-op Book Group Northern District Book Group La Vie en Rose French Club

Friendship Link North York Book Group In My Own Voice Writing Group Northern District Book Group

North York Book Group Northern District Book Group

Older Women's Network newsletter, Summer 2011  

Quarterly newsletter from advocacy organization in Toronto; this issue is a special on Housing