During the COVID-19 pandemic, coordinating quick access to housing is more important than ever. Housing cures homelessness and is the best protection against COVID-19. The ability to protect and serve people experiencing homelessness is dependent on securing permanent, long-term housing. While the COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder of how vulnerable homeless people are in our community, it is also an opportunity to change, transform, and prioritize efforts to house people experiencing homelessness.
As with all our emergency responses to meet basic needs, we are grateful for additional funds to solve short-term crisis issues but we know that investing in the economy, jobs and social assistance infrastructure needs to be at the forefront of all our COVID19 responses.
- We need to consider changes to precarious work practices i.e. PSW workers working several part-time jobs at low wage, grocery store clerks earning low wages, etc. We need to consider how today’s “heroes” are treated during the pandemic recovery period.
We also know that abuse doesn’t stop during a pandemic. Unfortunately, it is likely that abuse worsens in isolation. #HeretoHelpGB was launched and will continue to work with all partners to support vulnerable women and families.
- In the past year, women’s shelters in the Grey Bruce Region (The Women’s Centre Grey Bruce Inc. and Women’s House Serving Bruce & Grey) served 1,549 women and managed 11,679 crisis, support, and advocacy calls.
- #HeretoHelpGB is a community collaboration of local social services working together to provide as much support as possible to women and children experiencing abuse and violence in Grey and Bruce counties during this difficult time.
- The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH) has developed a new COVID-19 resource, “Getting Back to Housing: How Canadian communities are adapting Coordinated Access to accelerate connections to permanent housing and build momentum to end homelessness once and for all.”
- This guide outlines realistic and practical approaches to help local communities adapt their homelessness response system to coordinate, activate, and accelerate housing opportunities during the pandemic. It digs into the key components of a housing-focused response including access, triage and assessment, prioritization, matching and referral, and other helpful tips—all with a COVID-19 lens.
- The Housing Action Group meets weekly to discuss homelessness outreach and response to housing challenges across Grey Bruce. Partners are dealing with a lot of eviction prevention and lack of vacancies in the area. Noting that some motels have increased rents.
- Food delivery has been set up by partners (YMCA, OSHaRE, UW, Habitat for Humanity and Grey County) to reach people housed in motels.
- The YMCA Housing has housed 74 people (382 nights of shelter) from 1 April to 30 April 2020.
- Federal and Provincial Housing Benefits have been topped up as of April 1st and Grey County and Bruce County Housing is working through their wait lists.
- Canada Child Benefit: families will receive a one-time additional payment of $300 per child.
- Social Services Emergency Benefit: effective Friday, May 1, the government will be extending the Emergency Benefit as a monthly benefit for three months (i.e. May, June and July 2020).
- The extended Emergency Benefit is intended to provide emergency financial support for special services, items or payments to address health and safety issues related to COVID-19 to social assistance benefit units not in receipt of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).
- Recipients who have received the March/April Emergency Benefit and who qualify for the extended benefit will automatically receive the extended benefit in May, June, and July.
- Exception: Consistent with the treatment of earned income for youth under 18, adults in full-time secondary school, and full-time post-secondary students, the CERB will be treated as fully exempt for these benefit unit members. These CERB payments will not impact eligibility for the Emergency Benefit.
- New Emergency Benefit applicants will need to request the benefit and outline their COVID-19 related needs. It will not be issued proactively.
- While verification of costs is not required, caseworkers should use their discretion to confirm that clients are facing extraordinary expenses before issuing the benefit. The type of expense will need to be recorded. Examples of these expenses include: PPE, cleaning supplies for those who have a household member who is COVID19+ , delivery costs of food, medical supplies, etc. while self-isolated or quarantined, travel costs to pick up essentials.
- Clients will be asked to provide information on their need for the benefit. A flat monthly rate of $100 for singles and $200 for families may be issued to all eligible benefit units.
MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORTS
A Roadmap to Wellness: A Plan to Build Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions System, was launched which offers access to standardized, high-quality care and supports in communities across Ontario.
Child and Youth Mental Health Day (May 7th): the government has given additional funding to programs such BounceBack and Kids Help Phone.
SUPPORTS FOR PEOPLE WHO USE DRUGS
Alison Govier has compiled many resourceson the Community Drug & Alcohol Strategy website.
Wellness Together Canada, is a new online portal that provides Canadians with free resources, tools, and professional support services to help with wellness and resilience, as well as mental health and substance use.
Addiction Services at CMHA Grey Bruce remains open, providing services online, over the phone and in some cases face-to-face. Group programming is canceled until further notice.
The Rapid Assessment & Addiction Medicine (RAAM) Clinic & the Withdrawal Management Program at Grey Bruce Health Services remain open to clients at this time. Call (519) 376-3999.
The Methadone Clinic (Ontario Addiction Treatment Centre) in Owen Sound remains open, with social distancing measures in place. Call 1-877-937-2282 or 519-371-0007.
The Needle Exchange and Naloxone Distribution at Grey Bruce Public Health remain open. Harm Reduction supplies can also be obtained at GB Works Needle Syringe Program locations across the counties.
Some Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings have moved to online platform. AA – http://aa-intergroup.org/directory.php NA – https://georgianheartlandna.org/
For professional cessation support for smoking or vaping, call the Smoker’s Help line at 1-877-513-5333 or visit Smoker’s Help line website.
Talk Tobacco is an Indigenous Program to Quit smoking and Vaping through Smoker’s Helpline: For help and information on quitting smoking, and vaping and commercial tobacco use call 1 833 998-8255 (TALK).
- Guidance documents from Grey Bruce Public Health:
Food Security Action Group: 15 members of the group met on Friday, May 1st to discuss distribution logistics, challenges and management of food banks, community meal programs and community gardens. The group shall meet biweekly via zoom. The next meeting is Friday, May 15th, 10am-11:30am.
Community Meal Program: while we have seen a steady flow of people visiting food banks, a significant demand for community meal programs has seen 12,053 meals served from March 15th to May 1st, 2020 – a 297% increase compared to pre-pandemic meals. The United Way BG has compiled a snapshot from just 5 programs but we know that there are other meal programs that have contributed hundreds more.
Digital Community Plant Sale: under COVID19, we are seeing garden centres open up and people are being encouraged to grow food at home. The Meaford Community Gardens grows organic food for the local food bank – Golden Town Outreach. They have gone online with a Seedling Plant Sale with delivery service.
The Federal government announced today they will be bulk purchasing food to distribute to food banks to support the food and agriculture industry.
Stay well, Jill