South of Carlton Community Action Committee (SOCCA)
The South of Carlton Community Action Committee was formed by a group of residents in the South of Carlton neighbourhood in 1970. Initially organized to deal with issues related to the South of Carlton neighbourhood (area between Jarvis, Carlton, Parliament and Queen Streets), the organization eventually gave birth to several different sub-committees related to different issues. The South of Carlton Working Committee, for example, worked with city planners to create a comprehensive plan for the neighbourhood, the streets committee focussed on traffic, parking and public safety, and the South of Carlton Skid Row Committee worked to improve the lives of poor people living on Skid Row.
Housing was always one of the most important local issues for SOCCA. During the 1960s the surrounding communities were destroyed through urban renewal projects and the South of Carlton area became one of the last refuges for poor and working-class people. After urban renewal was discontinued, however, local fears about housing did not stop, as the recent influx of wealthier residents who renovated housing in the surrounding area threatened to increase rent prices. In 1975 SOCCA applied for a Neighbourhood Improvement Program (NIP) grant, part of which would go to renovate local buildings and sell them at a discount to housing co-ops and non-profits. They were approved for the NIP grant but the federal grant agency denied their right to spend it to subsidize housing, stating that it should be spent on beautification projects. Understanding that "beautification" without providing low-income housing would increase rent prices and drive out poorer residents, SOCCA refused the grant.
Related to housing SOCCA also engaged in a lot of outreach work and research on the so called "skid row" in their neighbourhood. Many people from around Toronto complained about the men on skid row as drug addicts or alcoholics but SOCCA worked with people on Skid Row to help create studies that reflected their real problems rather than blamed them and advocated for planning decisions that would improve their lives. The South of Carlton Skid Row Committee worked with the city to create an influential "report on skid row" in 1977.
7 News: (May 29, 1970); (Feb 1, 1975); (April 12, 1975); (April 17, 1976); (Dec 17, 1977)