Lobby Day 2019 - Advocating for More Supportive Housing Units to Help End Chronic Homelessness

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TPAC held our second annual Municipal Lobby Day on April 8th and 9th, 2019.

For Lobby Day 2019, TPAC headed to Toronto’s City Hall to ask that city councillors renew their commitment to build more supportive housing units to help end chronic homelessness. Supportive housing is a housing model that provides affordable housing that includes assistance and services on-site. These could include addiction services, mental health services, social services, or other disability assistance services. Supportive housing can assist people who are homeless and face barriers to obtaining housing including mental illness, substance use, and disability.

As a part of lobby day, 34 medical students on TPAC met with 17 city councillors or their staff to discuss our ask to city council, which was:

  1. To commit to building 7,200 supportive housing units over this term of council (2018-2022), consistent with their previous commitment to build 18,000 units over 10 years in Social Planning Toronto’s “Prosperity Pledge” for the 2018 election. 

  2. That all proposed plans that intend to build upon the 11 city-owned Housing Now sites include a commitment to provide supportive housing that adequately consults with community stakeholders.

We appreciated the councillors’ engagement with our discussion and received commitments to take action from some and advice from others!

Hear from a few of our past TPAC members about their experiences with TPAC and Lobby Day 2019:

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“Prior to medical school, I was an activist involved in various struggles for social, economic, and environmental justice, and during my MPH I studied feminist and decolonizing approaches to health justice and the global political-economy of health. TPAC was a group advocating on issues of homelessness, and being new to Toronto, I joined to start building my activist community here. I met with people living at Seaton House, a men's shelter in downtown, and during the TPAC training symposium, we heard from people with lived experience of homelessness and the intersections with gendered, colonial, and racial oppression. This was deeply impactful for the group, and grounded our discussions with city councilors in community, which is the essential first step to any form of advocacy.”

- Nikisha Kharé, 2T2

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“As the research lead for the Toronto Political Advocacy Committee, I came to learn about the importance of involving the voices of the homeless community in our research efforts. There is nothing worse than a project or a study about a historically marginalized group that is developed and conducted in isolation from that group. People will always know what is best for them, and it is up to us, as medical students, to use our privilege to amplify the voices of the community, as opposed to speaking on their behalf.”

- Tommy Hana, 2T1

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“During undergrad, I learned about Rudolf Virchow, the founder of modern pathology and social medicine. He once famously posited that “Medicine is a social science, and politics is nothing else but medicine on a large scale.” I have only been in medical school for a year, but my peers and I can already recount countless examples of how social determinants have impacted the health of our patients. Marginalized populations deserve better, and TPAC Lobby Day was a valuable opportunity to share our perspective as medical students with important decision makers.”

- Fanny Cheng, 2T2

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“As medical students in Toronto, we can all see the major impacts that social determinants of health like food insecurity and unstable housing have on patients and their families. Coming into first year, I wanted to learn how to advocate for these patients - specifically the homeless population in Toronto - but I wasn’t sure how to go about this in a meaningful way. Luckily, through TPAC, I have been able to cultivate advocacy skills ranging from social media advocacy to lobbying a municipal councillor about our ask of supportive housing. I believe that TPAC helps medical students learn how to effectively advocate for our patients and that we will carry these important lessons forward into our future careers in medicine.”

- Lauren Beck, 2T2

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“Being part of TPAC this year reinforced for me how critical it is to engage with the communities we aim to serve. Taking medical students into the community and watching them gather stories that informed their advocacy was incredibly meaningful for me. I learned so much about the power of humility and allowing our patients to guide us. I hope that the medical students who participated remember the importance of amplifying patient voices in our work. I know I will!”

- Asia Van Buuren, 2T1


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“I came into medicine with a passion for advocacy and social justice. As medical students, we have so much privilege, and should use that to help improve our health system and create more equitable communities. TPAC gave me so much: it taught me more concrete skills about how to conduct health-based advocacy on a municipal scale. But even more than that, it connected me with passionate community members and folks with lived experience of homelessness that showed me how important it is to conduct advocacy that is informed by and with community.

- Chloe Brown, 2T1

If you would like to be part of our team this year and help us continue in our advocacy efforts, apply here by September 16th at 11:59pm! https://forms.gle/1L6vZ7eDycMLAbTC8