Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 76

Dear Colleagues, 

For those with limited income, for those who menstruate managing periods can often become complicated and expensive. Food Banks Canada reports that on average, people who menstruate spend 3,000 days of their lifetime menstruating. 

Spending money on period products can often mean making tough decisions when it comes to choosing to stay healthy and clean during cycles or using that money for food or transportation. Menstrual equity is critical for women and girls to fully participate in school, work and society. 

  • The Ontario government has launched a new program that will see Shoppers Drug Mart provide 6 million essential hygiene items for free, annually, to school boards in Ontario for the next 3 years. For now, only period pads will be available, though the plan is to eventually include tampons as well. 
  • Its Personal Period started out as a donation drive collecting menstrual products to assist local Grey Bruce youth, to advocate for more products within the school boards and erase the stigma around menstruation.
    • They have launched a new website and Grey Bruce resource map. 
    • Their recent survey in Grey Bruce found 50% of people surveyed who mensturate experience period poverty. 3 out of 4 people surveyed have missed work or school due to menstruation. 
    • Bruce County libraries are now on the map with available products. 
    • SOAHAC has some free reusable feminine hygiene products for clients.  Call 519-376-5508 and ask to speak to one of the Nurses for more information.
    • Most Food Banks offer free feminine hygiene products but only a few advertise that these are available. It might be something to add to your 211 Food Bank posting.

HOUSING SUPPORTS

  • Homelessness Enumeration:  Grey County and Bruce County are working with community partners to conduct a one-day survey for individuals experiencing homelessness. Everyone counts. Partners have been hearing from people who are sleeping on the street, couch surfing, or temporarily housed. 
    • While the survey is a point-in-time count for the day October 18th, partners can still interview people this week that were homeless on that day. It is recognized that across a rural Region it may take time to reach more people at our various hub spots. .For more information contact  josh.gibson@grey.ca or tdickson@brucecounty.on.ca 
  • Home heating: Heating oil prices nationally were reported to be up by 52% on average last week over about the same time last year.
    • It’s illegal to disconnect someone from electricity during winter and the Ontario Energy Board’s expectation is that natural gas companies won’t cut people off either, as both are regulated utilities.
    • The electricity and gas providers fund the Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP), which helps cover people in emergencies with up to $600 towards utility arrears. Contact 211 for intake for the LEAP program.
    • The United Way Utilities Fund helps people with wood, propane or furnace oil to heat their homes. It provided $24,600 in furnace oil grants, $33,750 propane grants and $85,172.69 in wood-fuel grants from July 2020 to June 2021. 

FOOD SECURITY SUPPORTS

  • The Bruce Grey Food Data Collection Hub continues to provide real time data on community food programs. The Hub is a finalist in the Pillar Awards
  • Community Meal Programs:  135,891 meals provided and demand has continued to grow through all stages of the Pandemic.  
    • OSHaRE – 77,830; Gilles Hache’s program – 12,742; HCSS – 7,802; Canadian Mental Health Association – 6,701; Chesley Baptist Church Hot Meal Program – 6,189.  The contributions of 5 smaller meal programs have also been very appreciated by their communities.
  • Food Rescue: from January to August 2021, 47,500 kg of food has been received, sorted, weighed, and shared.  OSHaRE, Beaver Valley Outreach, Southeast Grey Community Health Centre, and the Walkerton Food Bank have all reported food rescues in 2021.
  • Food Banks: from January to October 2021, 113,670 kg of food has been distributed to more than 11,200 households by 18 food banks.  On average, food bank users are 31% children, 58% adults and 11% seniors.  
    • The Salvation Army South Bruce Peninsula -1,278; Walkerton Food Bank – 1003; Kincardine Ministerial Food Bank -781; and the Markdale and District Food Bank -582.  Space precludes listing all of the food banks, but even the smallest is making a big difference.
    • The Owen Sound Salvation Army (source: Owen Sound Sun Times) reported it has distributed 3,240 food bundles; 
  • Community Gardens Network has contributed more than 15,000 kg of fresh produce with 56% of the food grown having been donated to Food Banks and Meal Programs.
  • Volunteers have donated more than 27,400 hours to their various community food organizations by the end of September. OSHaRE volunteer data is expected to be an additional 900 to 1,000 hours in September. 
  • Second Harvest: released new research into Canada’s Invisible Food Network. They found there are 4 times more charitable food providers than grocery stores in Canada. This is a massive but unconnected patchwork of services trying to support 6.7 million Canadians while they themselves are still reeling from the impact of the pandemic on the charitable sector. Read the full report here: https://buff.ly/3iIqLZ8

INCOME & EMPLOYMENT SECURITY

  • The Ontario government has announced it is set to bring in the province’s strictest-ever rules for companies that recruit temporary workers, including a system for shutting down temp agencies that exploit staff.
    • More than 2,000 temporary help agencies in Ontario place hundreds of thousands of workers in seasonal and short-term employment each year, in sectors ranging from tourism to office work to agriculture. 
    • Inspectors found $3.3 million in unpaid wages.  Some temp firms — including some who recruit temporary foreign workers — have been caught failing to comply with Ontario employment law on paying workers minimum wage, overtime and vacation pay.
  • Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) which supports low-income seniors has been impacted by its interaction with federal pandemic benefits. 
    • Nearly 1 in 3 seniors who work received some amount of CERB.
    • The GIS is an important tool to reduce poverty for seniors, the recipients of which are 70% women. 
    • A loss of GIS disproportionately impacts First Nations, Inuit, Métis and racialized seniors who access GIS at more than double the rate of their white counterparts.  
    • Low-income seniors who rely on GIS do not qualify for social assistance and have no other sources of income to which they can turn.
  • The Poverty Task Force has signed an open letter written by the Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) calling on the Federal Government to fix the problem of GIS benefit reduction or elimination which many low income seniors are currently experiencing due to their receipt of CERB in 2020. Partners can endorse the open letter at this link by Thursday October 21: https://forms.gle/ef41yZhobf8Cf1B39 
  • Grey County Children’s Services: Staffing challenges are limiting licensed child care capacity In Grey County resulting in an increasing waitlist. Over 800 kids are on the waitlist in September and centres are running at 70% capacity. 

MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORTS 

  • CMHA Grey Bruce Mental Health and Addiction Services has introduced a single phone number to access all local programs and services across the organization. Call 519-371-3642 or toll free 1-888-451-CMHA (2642).
  • Mobile Health Outreach: the first mobile outreach at the Owen’s Farmer’s market saw 15 agencies come together to meet with approximately 80 participants. Direct health, housing and addictions support was provided as well as new intakes for programs. Food/drinks was provided by OSHaRE for 79 people and 24 emergency food hampers by the Salvation Army Owen Sound.

FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES

  • Na-Mi-Quai-Ni-Mak Community Support Fund: is available to support Indigenous communities, Survivor Organizations, registered non-profits, and others with small grants for memorial activities. Communities and Residential School Survivors know what activities best support healing, memorials and remembrance in their communities. The program will support communities in pursuing the activities they feel are best.

INFORMATION SUPPORT

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 75

Dear Colleagues, 

On Monday, October 18, Grey County and Bruce County are working with community partners to conduct a one-day survey for individuals experiencing homelessness. Everyone counts. They want to hear from those who are sleeping on the street, couch surfing, or temporarily housed.

This review will be a point-in-time count that provides a snapshot of the number of people experiencing homelessness in both Counties. The information provided will help both Counties better understand the current scope of homelessness in the area and data will be used to inform future decisions around needed supports and services.

  • Organizations/agencies/community members are asked for their help in directing people to various hub sites where staff and volunteers will be able to meet with individuals experiencing homelessness. 
  • Anyone experiencing homelessness is asked to complete the survey. 
  • Information collected will remain anonymous. 
  • The enumeration will collect demographic information using a set of standard questions.The same survey is being used by both Counties. 
  • All participants will receive a gift card as thanks for supporting the survey. 
  • Volunteers will be available to answer questions and help connect people with available supports.   
  • The survey can also be completed by phone by calling 516-376-5744.
  • For more information about the housing and homelessness survey, please contact josh.gibson@grey.ca or tdickson@brucecounty.on.ca 


Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 74

Dear Colleagues, 

Cathy Hird wrote in a Owen Sound Hub article that “one day is not enough”. Many partners hosted or participated in National Truth and Reconciliation Day/Orange Shirt Day last week. But we must continue to improve relations and to understand what actions we are committed to as “treaty people”. 

While May 5th, 2021 was Red Dress Day, this week is Red Dress Awareness Week. October 4th marked Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Awareness Day. A day when we honour the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people, support grieving families, and create opportunities for healing.

The 2021 National Action Plan responds to the many demands to end violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people. It is meant to honour and respect Indigenous and 2SLGBTQQIA+ peoples’ values, philosophies, knowledge systems, and agencies through the prioritization of Indigenous-led solutions and services, developed in partnership and sustained through the adequate resourcing of this work. 
The National Action Plan responds to the Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Métis Perspectives of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and LGBTQ2S+ People report.

The National Action Plan is not meant to be frozen in time; it is evergreen, recognizing the urgency for immediate action, but also the importance of continuing to cultivate transformative change over time.

COVID19 IMPACT SURVEY – GREY COUNTY & BRUCE COUNTY

  • A county-wide survey is asking Grey County and Bruce County residents how COVID-19 has impacted their daily lives. Residents are being asked to provide feedback on a range of social, economic, and health-related questions. The survey is in partnership with the University of Guelph. Results will help the County and local municipalities make important decisions regarding pandemic recovery efforts. Go to: Grey County Survey or Bruce County Survey

MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORTS

HOUSING SUPPORTS

  • Tamarack Is hosting a mid-Ontario Rural Community of Practice (CoP)  on Tuesday, October 12th from 1-2pm. Dominica McPherson, Coordinator of the Guelph-Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination, will help to kick off our conversation by sharing their YIMBY campaign and how they have reduced overall chronic homelessness by 25% and youth chronic homelessness by 76% in the community. Contact Jill Umbach if you want to join the zoom call. 
  • Rentsafe Owen Sound Collaborative: our Landlord Survey is still open. Recently Erica Phipps and Jill Umbach joined Mary Jane Murray on Rogers TV.  Start at the 30 minute mark for the Rentsafe interview

INCOME SUPPORTS

  • New Rules for Employment Insurance: There are new pandemic-related changes coming to the Employment Insurance system that took effect Sunday, September 26. This is a list of a few changes. To see all criteria, visit Service Canada at  https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei.html
  • Eligibility: In the last year, EI applicants received a one-time top-up of hours to help them qualify. This ends and is replaced by a requirement to have worked 420 hours to qualify. These hours will be in place until September 24, 2022. 
  • To qualify for EI-Sickness benefits, the government is again requiring a medical certificate proving the applicant is sick and can’t work. This requirement was waived over the last year because of COVID-19. 
  • Benefits: The weekly minimum payment will decline to $300/m from $500/m.  
    • Regional unemployment rates will once again be used to calculate the duration and value of benefits. 
    • Anyone with an existing EI claim won’t see any changes to the value or duration of their benefits with the new rules.  
  • Seasonal workers in 13 regions will still be eligible for 5 extra weeks of EI regular benefits until October 2022. This is specific to seasonal workers who started claims between August 5, 2018 and this coming October 30th and depends on them having 3 claims for regular or fishing benefits in the last 5 years, and at least 2 starting around the same time of year. 

FOOD SECURITY SUPPORTS

  • Meals2Motels: After 19 months, the United Way is phasing out of the Meals to Motels program as of September 30th. Close to 12,500 OSHaRE meals were delivered to those housed in motels. 
    • OSHaRE remains available to support people with meals twice a day. 
    • The YMCA Housing team will ensure there are frozen meals at the Key Motel in Chatsworth.
  • OSHaRE served more than 10,000 meals in August 2021. In all of 2019, OSHaRE served 22,000 meals. 
    • Pre-pandemic, OSHaRE was serving about 100 meals per day, and that rose to about 300 to 350 in the spring of 2020. Currently they are serving  between 150 and 200 people at lunch Monday to Saturday and from 280 to 350 at dinner Monday to Friday. All meals remain take-out due to the pandemic.
    • OSHaRE has observed that the rising cost of food and cost of living in general means they are seeing more people that need our service than ever before. There is no sign of the need waning.
  • Since March 2020, the Owen Sound Salvation Army has provided practical food assistance valued at $1,001,890.00. 
    • They have added an additional 321 new households that have never needed to use Food Bank services since the start of the pandemic.  

  FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES

  • The United Way has released its 2022 call for United Way grants. Deadline is December 10th, 2021. Contact Francesca Dobbyn to discuss ideas and potential partnerships.  All the details, online application links, PDFs of the questions and any updates are on the United Way’s website: https://unitedwayofbrucegrey.com/about-us/community-impact-grants/2021-granting-call/
  • The Ontario government has announced a new $1.6 million Anti-Racism Anti-Hate Grant Program. Eligible organizations, including community-based, not-for-profit organizations, can apply for grants of $40,000 over 2 years for independent projects, or $100,000 over 2 years for partnerships between two or more organizations.

 Stay well, Jill