CERA - Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation
Our Impact Why We Exist
Discrimination is a key barrier that prevents people from accessing and keeping the housing they need. Since 1987 we have been working with tenants, landlords, community partners and the public to build awareness about housing rights, and to build the capacity of Ontarians to recognize and defend their human rights.
Our Story What We Do
For nearly three decades, CERA has been using human rights tools to combat housing insecurity and homelessness across Ontario.
Our model for change-making involves three levels of intervention - from the individual tenant, to their community, to the legal framework in which their housing rights exist:
- Unique Services for Tenants and Housing Seekers: Our direct service model is primarily phone-based, and serves over 1,500 marginalized users per year. Our intake services are fast and responsive, and we engage clients as team members in creative problem-solving as we work to prevent homelessness and overcome discrimination.
- Creative Public Engagement and Education: Our innovative outreach approach responds to real needs across Ontario and include strategies such as youth-focused interventions incorporating the arts (see below), and culturally-specific housing rights training for First Nations tenants in remote areas. CERA knows that partnerships make us stronger, and we work closely with groups across the province to reach those in need.
- Legal Initiatives that Challenge the Housing Status Quo: In addition to on-the-ground supports for individuals and communities, our staff lawyer works tirelessly to improve housing policy and set legal precedents that benefit marginalized renters.
The people we work with say it best:
"Now that I know my rights I'm much more confident and inspired to take a stand if I face discrimination" - Youth Workshop Participant
"As a newcomer to Canada, I was not at all knowledgeable about Canadian law as it relates to landlords and tenants. The information provided to me by CERA allowed me to secure housing without paying more than I needed to - the landlord wanted additional funds up front because I was receiving OW." - CERA Client
"In our daily lives, it is a rare event that we talk about our housing rights or how to challenge those who violate them. Not only was [CERA's] workshop useful, but it is absolutely necessary to engage youth in being active participants in social change... I applaud CERA for bringing this brave, inspirational, relevant work to the youth of Regent Park" - Project Partner at Regent Park Community Health Centre
Our Programs How We Do It
Youth Housing Rights - Knowing Your Rights is the First Step
Since 2011, CERA been engaging young people who face discrimination in the housing system to understand their rights and develop skills to self-advocate. For youth who are newcomers, aging out of care, or who are racialized, knowing their rights is often the first step to understanding how to make change.
Toronto's Vital Signs Report tells us:
"Racialized, immigrant, and newcomer youth are over-represented among the “hidden homeless” population, and many feel a sense of “shattered expectation”:
- Language and cultural barriers, and lack of status, personal ties, and history in Canada make newcomer youth amongst the most vulnerable of homeless youth.
- A 2009 survey of 244 homeless youth in the city found that nearly a quarter had been born outside of Canada. A 2014 report from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto paints an interesting portrait of Toronto’s homeless newcomer youth:
- More than one in three participants identified as “LGBTTIQ”, compared to one in five homeless youth in a 2013 City of Toronto study.
- The average age at which they first experienced homelessness was 17.
- Two-thirds cited family conflict as the main reason for their homelessness.
- One in four (25.9%) reported having experienced some form of trauma.
- One in four are parents.
- Over a quarter held Refugee Claimant status.
- Many experienced a sense of “shattered expectation” after arriving in Canada — their experiences did not live up to their hopes and their settlement experiences were not positive.
- Almost half (46.9%) reported Ontario Works as their main source of formal income, while another third (32.8%) reported income through paid employment."
For all of these reasons - and so many others - young people face dsicrimination in housing. We work with them to challenge it.
What You Can Do
Support CERA Today. Housing discrimination is still a reality. With your contribution, CERA can help marginalized Ontarians realize their housing rights.
- $10 educates a tenant about her housing and human rights
- $30 supports our Hotline for one hour
- $75 can prevent an eviction into homelessness
We receive no stable ongoing funding from any source. In order to continue providing our services, we rely on individual project grants and direct fundraising. We gratefully accept donations of any amount. Join CERA's community. Stay up to date about our work and ways to get involved with our quarterly newsletters.