The first time I learned about CERA, I was homeless and looking for a place to live. It was 2009 and I was 22. My application for an apartment had been rejected because I was “too young.” I called CERA and explained the situation. CERA contacted the landlord and explained the law, advocating to reconsider my application. Within a couple of days, I was offered the apartment. I moved in, and I ended up living there for three years.
Discrimination almost kept me homeless. But CERA’s human rights advocacy got me housed.
In 2013 I needed CERA’s help again. I was applying for apartments for myself and my daughter, and we kept getting rejected everywhere we applied. There was one specific apartment that I liked, and over the phone it was available. But then when I arrived it suddenly “wasn’t available.” When I checked online the listing was still available…I contacted CERA again.
(For context here, I’m a Black Trans man living with complicated health issues, and CERA has done research into just how prevalent it is to face housing discrimination as a person of colour in Toronto. I’ve also faced discrimination based on my age and my gender identity.
CERA learned that the unit was indeed still for rent. A staff member followed up with the landlord, and again, CERA’s advocacy resulted in getting offered the apartment. However, I didn’t end up moving in because it might have been an unsafe environment for my daughter and I. I am still grateful for CERA’s model of advocacy and working with me to claim my rights.
Even though I didn’t take the unit, CERA’s human rights advocacy gave me back my dignity. Housing and dignity are connected and CERA understands this. And so do I from my cycles in and out of shelters.
In 2016 I got involved with CERA again, this time as a Youth Housing Rights Advisor. I worked with other young people to help CERA improve its supports for youth, and I got to learn about housing law and public education. Today, I’m a volunteer co-facilitator for CERA’s growing Youth Housing Rights Program, which connects with young people on the margins to build legal and self-advocacy skills through arts-based workshops. I love working in the community; I love being a co-facilitator; and I love to spread knowledge about rental housing, the law, and strategies to reclaim our dignity. The number of kids that come up at the end of our workshops to say “we never knew this legal information” is astonishing. I love how CERA uses Ontario’s Human Rights Code as “legal teeth” to help vulnerable people get or keep their housing. We need more tangible supports like CERA!
There will always be a very big place in my heart for anyone struggling with housing or facing discrimination, and I’m so grateful for the ways CERA has supported me over the years, and how their team continues to help people from all walks of life realize their rights.
Learn more about Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation in Ontario (CERA)