Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 40

Dear Colleagues, 

Well, we knew it was bound to happen but we were not sure that it would impact us here in Grey County and Bruce County.  But the Ontario government has announced a lockdown from December 26th, 2020 to January 21st, 2021 for all of Ontario.

While we have shared out with everyone some emergency housing and Christmas assistance (community meals, food bank and toys) programs in last week’s update, we are now including lockdown updates for social programs starting December 26th, 2020.  

Please call 211 or search http://informationbrucegrey.ca/ for the latest updates. We shall also endeavour to update our Poverty Task Force COVID19 Resource Page. 

Thank you to everyone who has spread so much Christmas cheer at this time of the year!  And who have been working for so many months. Deep breaths. We can keep going and serving our community!  #togetherwearestrong #greybrucestrong  

INCOME SUPPORTS 

  • Bruce County Human Services: Bruce County offices are closed from 12noon on Dec 24th – Jan 4th.  Staff are available for emergencies from Dec 29th – 31st (1-800-265-3002). As per the Provincial Shutdown their offices will be open by essential appointment only until Jan 24th.
  • Grey County Social Services: Grey County offices are closed from  12noon on Dec 24th through to Jan 4th. Ontario Works and Children’s Services will take emergency calls from Dec 29th – 31st (519-376-7112, press 2). And Housing Services at: 
  • Grey Bruce Schools: are closed for holidays and returning to online schooling on January 4th, 2021. Elementary school students are planned to be able to return to in-person learning on January 11, 2021. Secondary school students will continue learning remotely until January 25, 2021, at which point they may resume in-person learning.  
  • In January 2021, students aged 13 through Grade 12 will be eligible for funding under an expanded Support for Learners program. Parents or guardians will receive a one-time payment of $200 per eligible student to help offset education expenses. Support will be available for those who attend a public or private school or who are homeschooled.  
  • Application instructions will be available on the Support for Learners web page starting in January 2021.  Secondary school student applications will be open from January 11, 2021 to February 8, 2021. 
  • Support for Learners for children/youth aged 0 to 12 and for children/youth aged 0 to 21 with special needs is currently open and the application deadline has been extended to February 8, 2021.
  • Childcare programs will remain open. Before and after school programs are not allowed to operate from January 4-8, and may not charge fees or penalize families during this time. Emergency childcare will be provided for some essential workers.
  • COVID 19 Energy Assistance: The government announced it will hold electricity prices to the off-peak rate of 8.5 cents per kilowatt-hour for all time-of-use and tiered customers on a temporary basis starting January 1, 2021. 
  • This low rate will be available 24 hours per day, seven days a week for a 28-day period. The off-peak price will automatically be applied to bills of all residential, small business, and farm customers who pay regulated rates.  
  • COVID 19 Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) Any residential, small business, or registered charity customer with an overdue electricity or natural gas bill will now be eligible to apply to CEAP. 
  • A residential customer can receive up to $750 to help cover their electricity bill and an additional $750 for their natural gas bill. 
  • Small businesses can receive up to $1500 for each. Newly eligible customers can apply for these enhanced benefits through their local utility, starting in January 2021.  
  • Mobility for Good For Seniors: TELUS has launched a new program for seniors who receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and can provide an Old Age Security Statement. 
  • They are eligible for: A free smartphone and a $25/month plan that includes unlimited nationwide talk/text and 3GB of data. This offer is contract-free. Seniors who take advantage of the offer can cancel at any time without incurring additional fees. 

FOOD SUPPORTS 

  • Christmas Assistance and Dinners that are currently listed on 211 are divided by County. Christmas Assistance and Dinners in Grey and Christmas Assistance and Dinners in Bruce
  • The Salvation Army food truck will be providing Christmas meals from the OSHaRE parking lot in Owen Sound from 11:30-1pm on Dec 25th. 
  • OSHaRE was preparing 100-120 meals a day. Recent grants have allowed them to purchase new equipment and enough pots, pans and supplies to cook 300-350 meals a day.  This has made things easier on their staff and volunteers; as well as expanding their ability to support programs outside of Owen Sound.   
  • Curbside services: under lockdown, many food services will be moving back to curbside services.  We are in the midst of updating our lists but the following contact information will remain the same:  
  • Grocery Stores in Grey Bruce (April 2020)
  • Pet Resources Grey Bruce (April 2020)
  • Tamarack Institute blogged about the work of Grey Bruce community meals and food banks collective work and the data collected.  

HOUSING SUPPORTS

  • Safe N Sound will remain open as a drop-in centre during the lockdown.  They will be open from 9am-3pm and 5pm-9pm, M-F. 
  • CMHA Community Connections and H.O.W. GB are both open in Owen Sound and across Bruce and Grey.  Outreach, Residential and Group services will continue to operate status quo. The hours at both sites are 8:30am-4:30pm.
  • YMCA Community Initiatives – Emergency Shelter remains open. Please contact 211 (24 hrs/7 days/week) and/or 519-371-9230 x 5 to reach a YMCA Housing Stability Worker, M-F, 8:3am-4:30pm.
  • Grey Bruce Public Health: harm reduction services are running except for Dec 25th, Jan 1st. 
  • CMHA Mental Health & Addictions Outreach Supports: services can be accessed through CMHA Grey Bruce at 519-371-2390, M-F, 8:30am-4:30pm.  Please call the emergency mental health crisis line at: 1-877-470-5200. 
  • Hope for Wellness Indigenous Hotline: for traditional health during crisis contact: 1-855-242-3310. 
  • Housing Support List (August 2020)

ORGANIZATION SUPPORT 

  • The Community Foundation Grey Bruce and the United Way Bruce Grey awarded their second round of Emergency Community Support Fund to local programs.   
  • The Ontario government announced today it is providing nearly $41 million to help 486 non-profit organizations across the province to rebuild and recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. These grants are part of the first round of funding through the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s Resilient Communities Fundwhich closed for applications on December 9th, 2020. 

Stay well, Jill

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 39

Dear Colleagues, 

We started this year, finalizing a baseline for collective action of partners at the Poverty Task Force table. One that would be more impactful on poverty reduction in Grey County and Bruce County. And then a pandemic hit. Below is a bit of a timeline of strategic poverty related reports throughout the year. 

  • In February 2020, we completed our Poverty Task Force baseline 2020 IMPACT Report.  This baseline and targets were written prior to the pandemic, but they are intended to have a longer term impact. 
  • While we had planned to carry out a series of workshops to complete a Shared Measurement Framework for 2020, this activity has been pushed to 2021. 
  • In April 2020, Campaign 2000 summarized many key recommendations in their  Make Child and Family Poverty History: a vision for Ontario’s Next Poverty Reduction Strategy.  This report was also written prior to the pandemic, but the recommendations within are intended to help people in low income in the long term. 
  • Since March 2020, the Poverty Task Force and the United Way of Bruce Grey have released 38 Community Updates with reports on our local, provincial and national response to the pandemic. 
  • Most recently, the 2020 Pandemic Report The Strength in our Numbers which collected data from a wide range of partners. 
  • Almost $3.5 Million has gone out in our communities, almost half has gone into food and food-related issues, shelter 2nd highest area with almost 5,000 nights of shelter. 
  • In Dec, 2020, Campaign 2000 released its 2020 National Report Card Beyond the Pandemic: Rising Up for a Canada Free of Poverty
  • Nearly 1 in 5 children lived in poverty (1,337,570 or 18.2%) in Canada in 2018. 
  • The national child poverty rate declined by less than half a percentage point between 2017 to 2018, from 18.6% to 18.2%, representing 19,410 children fewer in poverty. 
  • The Canada Child Benefit (CCB) had a significant impact on child poverty rates the year it was implemented, but this lack of progress suggests that benefits were front-ended and short lived. In 2018, the CCB protected 662,080 from falling into poverty. 
  • 1.2 million children were food insecure in 2017-2018, representing the highest number recorded since food insecurity monitoring began in Canada. The CCB has been shown to reduce severe food insecurity in families. 
  • Well-designed government transfers can reduce poverty. In 2018, total government transfers reduced the child poverty rate from 33.1% to 18.2%, reflecting a difference of 1,084,910 fewer children living in poverty. But transfers alone are not enough. 
  • Canada must aim to reduce poverty by 50% according to the CFLIM-AT calculated by taxfiler data by the year 2025 and must ensure the same rate of reduction for marginalized communities where prevalence is higher. 
  • Pandemic recovery is dependent on the creation of a well-resourced, publicly funded universal childcare system, eliminating fee subsidy systems that create barriers to access for low-income families. 
  • Access to adequate housing is key to maintaining public health. Substantial new investments are needed that meet the needs of diverse communities, and that fulfill the federal government’s human rights obligations and gender-based plus (GBA+) commitments of the National Housing Strategy. 
  • Now is the time to implement universal pharmacare with new legislation and an initial investment of a $3.5 billion annual pharmacare transfer to the provinces and territories with the condition of providing universal public coverage of essential medicines, with a shift to full pharmacare over 5 years. 
  • Economic fallout from the pandemic has affected already vulnerable workers and shone a light on abysmally poor labour standards. Canada must immediately implement $15/hr minimum wage; legislate paid sick days; lengthen the duration and improve access to emergency measures; strengthen the Employment Equity Act and attach Community Benefit Agreements; and reform Employment Insurance over the longer-term.
  • Encouraging job creation and connecting people to employment – making investments in education, employment services, and training programs so people can get the skills and experience they need. 
  • Connecting people with the right supports and services – improving access to supports that address health and well-being and enabling access to education, training, and employment, leading to increased community participation.  Working on a Community Housing Renewal Strategy, redesign Child Welfare and create more child care spaces.
  • Making life more affordable and building financial resiliency – reducing the cost of living, increasing tax benefits/credits, utility supports and payday loan protection. 
  • Accelerating action and driving progress – using evidence and working across sectors to support economic recovery and developing integrated solutions that better connect the province’s health, social, and economic systems.
  • Achieving Indigenous Prosperity and Well-Being – focused on economic development, healing and well-being, Supportive Housing, foundation of Indigneous Women’s Council that will respond to human trafficking, child/youth and family health and respond to the Final Repot of the National Inquiry into Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. 

We do not know what poverty in Ontario will look like when this outbreak ends, but we can be certain that it will intensify for the most vulnerable. It is important to continue to meet the basic needs for the most vulnerable but continue to create awareness and advocate for change. 

INCOME SUPPORTS 

  • COVID-19 Benefit Repayments The Government of Canada is asking those who received COVID-19 related benefits in error to voluntarily repay those COVID-19 benefits in full by December 31st, 2020. The deadline is “to prevent errors in tax returns and when calculating any benefits or credits they may be entitled to.”
  • Canada Child Benefit, Trillium Benefit, GST/HST Credit, Guaranteed Income Supplement are some benefits that depend on tax filing each year. 
  • For Canadians living on low incomes, the government is offering more time and flexibility in how and when the benefits in error are repaid by the recipient.
  • The government is not currently considering an amnesty, but “are looking to find ways to minimize the impact.”
  • Change in Electricity Prices for households and small businesses: Effective January 1, 2021, the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) has lowered electricity prices. 
  • The Ontario government will also decrease the Ontario Electricity Rebate from 33.2$ to 21.2% effective January 1, 2021. This means typically, residential customer bills will stay stable.

FOOD SUPPORTS 

  • Community Meal Programs, Food Banks and other organizations are extremely busy with distributing food hampers, meals, gift cards and toys for this holiday season. Over 113,000 meals have been provided by 10 Community Meal Programs across Grey Bruce. The data collected on www.brucegreyfood.com indicates that meals have plateaued due to maxed out capacity and the need remains larger. 
  • Many meal programs will be open through the holidays and food banks will be offering emergency assistance. Meals to motels shall continue to be provided to people taking shelter. And many individual organizations and schools are sharing food, clothing and toys to their respective communities. Please contact 211 for holidays hours and service
  • Christmas Assistance and Dinners that are currently listed on 211 are divided by County. Christmas Assistance and Dinners in Grey and Christmas Assistance and Dinners in Bruce

HOUSING SUPPORTS

  • The province announced that Grey County would receive an additional $433,900 from the Social Services Relief Fund, bringing its total to more than $3.5 million since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. And Bruce County will receive an additional $167,600.   The funding will go towards supportive housing. 
  • COVID-19 Rental and Utilities Relief Funds are available in Grey and Bruce Counties. 
  • A new Out of the Cold Shelter has opened for the winter in Goderich for Huron County. 
  • A new emergency shelter has opened on Saugeen First Nation to address an ongoing need in the community. 
  • A new Housing and Justice Report by the Provincial Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee has outlined how supportive housing in Ontario could more effectively meet the needs of justice involved individuals and reduce strain on the health and justice systems. 

YOUTH SUPPORTS

  • Fight4Freedom is delivering a two-part online training for youth in Grey-Bruce on January 11th and 18th, 2021.  The first part of training will focus on human trafficking and online safety. The second part will focus on boundaries, consent and healthy relationships.  If interested, registration is required.  Register at https://bit.ly/TeenTrainingRegistration 
  • In January 2021, Sheatre has invited youth aged 14-25 to join a digital studio for artists to work and play with theatre, music, and dance.  They have partnered with local and mobile studios. The cost is free for registered participants and the deadline to register is January 9th 2021. Contact Kit Boulter (they/them) at kit@sheatre.com to connect.

TRANSPORTATION SUPPORTS

  • Home and Community Support Services (HCSS) and it’s transportation service is open for booking requests for medical rides both local and long distance, rides to grocery shopping, pharmacy, hair dressing, etc., They do have some limitations but the schedulers can solve those as they come up with the clients.   On-line bookings can also be made by going to their webpage www.hcssgreybruce.com or call 519-370-0558.  

Stay well, Jill 

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Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 38

Dear Colleagues, 

As we move to the end of 2020, many organizations are preparing year-end reports. This year has definitely seen changes within many local organizations – both in what they are doing during the emergency and the way that services are delivered. Everyone has added more projects and more time as emergency funding has flowed. 

  • The United Way of Bruce Grey’The Strength in Numbers: United Way Bruce Grey Pandemic Report  tallies up the collective efforts of many community partners to respond to emergency needs over the last 9 months in Grey Bruce while acknowledging there is much to be done to address underlying weaknesses in our social structures. 
  • The United Way of Bruce Grey has released a new video that shares the stories behind the data in its Data Collection Hub for Food Programs 
  • 211 Ontario‘s recent report Connection in the Time of Isolation presents data on the needs within the community in their 6 month report. 
  • Many reports compare the significant increase in services delivered compared to pre-COVID19 and make recommendations for change to address food security such as in Feed Ontario’Hunger Report 2020 
  • Trish Hennessy and the team at Think Upstream reflect on the social determinants of health and going forward in their collective piece Hindsight in 2020. With the roll out of a vaccine in the future, more and more people are talking about what inequalities have been revealed and the rallying cry is to “build back better”. 

“If there is one thing Canada must do in our post-pandemic recovery, it is to not forget. Going back to normal is not good enough.” — Danyaal Raza, family physician at St. Michael’s Hospital (Unity Health Toronto) & Assistant Professor (University of Toronto)

FOOD SUPPORTS 

  • Many thanks to everyone that has shared their information to 211/Information Bruce Grey regarding Christmas assistance and dinners. Christmas Assistance and Dinners are listed on 211 and are divided by County. 
  • Please note that many community meals programs that have been distributing food daily or weekly shall continue throughout the Christmas holidays. In some cases, extra food is given out on Dec 24th to get people through Dec 25th. 
  • Please call ahead or check 211 for uptodate listings on the ongoing services provided through the holidays. 

HOUSING SUPPORTS

  • A reminder of the Winter 2020 Emergency Housing List
  • Over the holidays, emergency housing staff of various organizations – YMCA Housing, Safe N Sound, M’Wikwedong, The Women’s Centre and the Women’s House as well as the police shall be ensuring that anyone in need of shelter is served. 
  • Please contact 211 for 24/7 accurate information on how to access services. 

COMMUNICATION AND SYSTEM NAVIGATION SUPPORTS

VIOLENCE PREVENTION SUPPORTS

  • As part of the 16 Days of Activism on Violence Against WomenViolence Prevention Grey Bruce is posting daily activism blogs on their website.
  • Tanya Coulter (Indigenous Healing and Wellness Strategy Program Coordinator, M’Wikwedong Indigenous Friendship Centre) asks herself “How do we activate our activist self when we are collectively overwhelmed and exhausted?”  In her article she answers: “How we are able to cope, manage and respond to the stressors brought about by this worldwide pandemic are intrinsically connected to our Social Determinants of Health and our Allostatic Load.  One’s Allostatic Load is defined as “the wear and tear on the body” which accumulates as an individual is exposed to repeated or chronic stress. We must activate our awareness to consider both aspects.”  And we need to “remind us yet again to be more compassionate and more kind and more forgiving.”
  • The Public Health Agency of Canada is inviting eligible organizations to submit a Letter of Intent (LOI) for projects that build the evidence-base about preventing and addressing family violence and its health impacts. Details on the proposal are at this link
  • Applications must be submitted using the Agency’s Preventing and Addressing Family Violence LOI Template. To obtain a copy of the LOI Template, please contact: phac.chpv-pscv.aspc@canada.ca with the subject line “LOI Preventing and Addressing Family Violence”. LOIs must be submitted by 11:59pm EST on January 27, 2021.

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 37

Dear Colleagues, 

Lately there has been a lot of discussion about how we take care of people in the community and how we have mobilized to meet basic needs – food, shelter, clothing, access to healthcare, etc. 

  • A new food app from the United Way has gone live and tracks how we are feeding people across Grey Bruce.  The app allows food banks and meal programs to enter data, download reports and create dashboards that visualize their impact and food insecurity trends in their communities. This was created in partnership with NPX and Bruce Power.
  • It also has a public dashboard for the community to access the data at  www.foodbrucegrey.com 
  • 9 out of 15 community meal programs have distributed 113,090 meals. Food banks have assisted 9,189 people. Volunteers with 22 organizations have logged in 13,402 hours.  

We know that food and shelter are points of engagement with people to also assess other needs and make referrals to other services.  

Our next meeting of the Poverty Task Force is Friday, December 18th, 10am-11:30am.  All members are invited and it is open to the public as well. 

MENTAL HEALTH AND ADDICTIONS SUPPORTS 

  • The second wave of the pandemic has intensified feelings of stress and anxiety, and increased despair, suicidal thoughts and hopelessness in Canadians. 40% of Canadians say their mental health has deteriorated since the pandemic began.   Read recent CMHA report at https://cmha.ca/documents/summary-of-findings   
  • The ongoing pandemic affects front line workers and volunteers. Take a look at the “Are you thriving or surviving?” infographic with your team. (Attached) Where are individuals at? Check for burnout for essential workers. 
  • On December 3rd, Public Health sent out an OPIOID ALERT. 
  • There have been at least 5 overdoses this week in Grey Bruce, 2 of them fatal.  In one instance, the use of Naloxone was unable to reverse the overdose. 
  • A new RAAM Clinic (Rapid Access Addiction Medicine) opened up on Saugeen First Nation on Dec 3rd. 
  • Contact the Public Health Unit to pick up Naloxone kits and access training.   
  • Overdose is a medical emergency. Call 911 or go to the Emergency Department. 
  • The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act provides protection from simple possession charges when 911 is called for an overdose.
  • Public Health says the Overdose prevention line is a vital phone service for people that are using drugs alone. It is a service that allows users to call so that they can be safe while using alone.  Overdose Prevention Line: 1-888-853-8542 An operator will stay on the line with the user while the drug is used. In the event that the user becomes unresponsive, the Prevention Line operator will call 911 to make sure that help arrives 
  • For additional Addiction Services: 
    • ConnexOntario 1-866-531-2600 
    • Withdrawal Management/RAAM Clinic (Rapid Access Addiction Medicine = Clinic) 519-376-5666 
    • G&B House 519-376-9495 
    • Ontario Addiction Treatment Centre 519-371-0007 
    • CMHA Grey Bruce Mental Health and Addiction Services 519-371-3642 
    • Mental Health Crisis Line Grey Bruce 1-877-470-5200 
    • https://www.publichealthgreybruce.on.ca/Your-Health/Harm-Reduction

HOUSING SUPPORTS 

  • The Meals to Motel Program has delivered 5,185 meals at the end of November. In November alone, they served 911 meals. The shelter program is run by YMCA Housing, The Women’s Centre and M’Wikwedong Housing support. 
  • The Rental and Utility Relief Fund is being offered through the Social Services Relief Fund as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. If someone has suffered income reduction due to lost hours, or complete job loss as a result of the pandemic and are presently in rental or utility arrears please call Grey County office at 519-376-5744 or click on the link to review and complete an application.  Or Bruce County office at 519-396-3450 or click on this link. 
  • Grey County local non-profit housing is seeking Board members.  https://brucegrey.cioc.ca/volunteer/record/V-GRE0123
  • The Canadian Housing and Renewal Association’s Indigenous Caucus released the results of a nation-wide survey on perceptions of off-reserve Indigenous housing. The results reveal a majority of Canadians want the federal government to develop an urban, rural and northern Indigenous housing plan to address the significant housing disparities facing Indigenous peoples.  
  • 6 in 10 Canadians would support a national strategy to help improve housing for off-reserve Indigenous peoples. A key driver of support for the strategy is awareness that the housing situation for Indigenous peoples living off-reserve is worse than for non-Indigenous peoples. 
    • If the federal government were to introduce this kind of strategy, 70% of Canadians find it important that Indigenous peoples are involved in the implementation and oversight of the housing strategy. 

Stay well, Jill