10 Engaging People with Lived/Living Experience

 

The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force Coordinator Jill Umbach joined Tamarack Institute’s 10 Lived/Living Experience Advisory Committee in 2018 as part of the Vibrant Communities‘ multi-sectoral poverty reduction work.  Since 2013, members of our Community Voices have been working with the Poverty Task Force as an advisory committee made up of people with “grounded expertise”.  People with grounded expertise deeply understand the realities of poverty in Bruce and Grey Counties. Their stories and experiences serve as powerful tools for building compassion and for disrupting and clarifying a community’s understanding of its roots causes and scope.

Group of people reflecting people with lived experience being engaged.

Informed by the 10 Lived/Living Experience Advisory Committee and interviews with our Community Voices a Guide has been written to support poverty-reduction groups to meaningfully engage people with lived/living experience. It celebrates the potential that can be unlocked when these individuals are included and empowered to drive anti-poverty work.

10 – Engaging People with Lived/Living Experience includes:

  • 10 really good ideas for engaging people with lived/living experience;
  • 10 stories that inspire (including #10 story of our Community Voices)
  • 10 useful resources;
  • 10 ways to get started.

The Guide highlights leading practices, inspires new thinking, and serves as a reminder of how critical engagement of people with lived/living experience in poverty reduction truly is.

Take Your Learning Further (links to resources from Section 4):

   1.  Social Inclusion Policy: Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction

   2.  A Guide to Creating a Culture of Inclusion: Saskatoon Poverty Reduction Partnership

   3.  Toronto Lived Experience Advisory Group (LEAG): Application Form

   4.  A Case Study in Authentic Engagement: Poverty Solutions Halifax

   5.  First Voice Protocol: EndPovertyEdmonton

   6.  Creating Community: Hastings Prince Edward Poverty Roundtable

   7.  Lived Experience as Expertise: Regional Municipality of Waterloo

   8.  Nothing About Us Without Us: Lived Experience Advisory Council

   9.  Lived Experience in Paid Staff Roles: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (recording available here)

  10. Rights-Based Participation and Accountability in Canada’s National Housing Strategy

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We All Live Here: Building Bridges

Not everyone experiences life the same way.  We live in the same environment with the same expectations but different realities. The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force supports people with grounded expertise to participate in solving our community problems.  Members of our Community Voices are graduates from the Getting Ahead program.

In 2018, we completed 4 Getting Ahead sessions in Hanover, Kincardine, Owen Sound and Walkerton with a total of 222 graduates. Getting Ahead is a 15 session (3 hours/session), 8 week program designed to help people create their own path for making a stable, secure life for themselves and their family.

A Getting Ahead Program Evaluation (Wahler, 2015) found that “the program … facilitates positive changes in poverty-related knowledge, perceived stress, mental health and well-being; social support, self-efficacy, hope; and goal directed behavior and planning amongst participants.”  Read the full study at GA-Program-Evaluation-Results_21 Oct 2015. Four sessions are scheduled in 2019 in Markdale, Wiarton, Port Elgin and Owen Sound funded by Grey County and Bruce County.

In 2018, a new Building Emotional Resources course for Getting Ahead graduates was piloted. The  Pilot has been picked up to run for 12 weeks in Hanover in March 2019.

This program is for people who have lost their way at some point and want to get ‘themselves’ back.  Getting Ahead graduates use a workbook full of exercises that invite them to reflect on their life and the way they deal with problems, with losses, and with their emotions.

Taking a constructive approach, participants increase their awareness, build more resources and become stronger as they move from one exercise to the next.   Read more in Emilia O’Neill-Baker’s article “Build Emotional Resources to Own More of Yourself”.

Bridges Out of Poverty promotes an active partnership between people of different economic backgrounds – based on mutual respect – to address poverty in a systematic way. Since 2015, the Bridges Action Group has been coordinating training with community groups on the Bridges Out of Poverty concepts.  In 2018, we provided 2 trainings (39 people) and offered many awareness sessions in Grey County.

The next component of the Bridges Out of Poverty program is the formation of Circles™.  Circles™ is a supportive, intentional, reciprocal, befriending relationship comprised of a Getting Ahead graduate and their family who are moving out of poverty (Circle Leader) and 2 to 4 community-based middle class people (Allies) willing to befriend the family and support their way out of poverty.

Since 2017, the Bridges Action Group has been working on a Circles™ design.  We have been meeting with Circles Canada and organizations in Ontario implementing various models while determining various cost factors.  In 2018, the YMCA coordinated a Poverty Simulation with Circles Sarnia-Lambton and Getting Ahead graduates for professionals in Elmwood. And we hosted a Circles Information Session in Hanover in 2018.  We continue to work on a design and funding for the model in 2019.

Equity and Inclusion: Community Voices engage with City of Owen Sound Council

Renee Schlonies and Tanya Butt presenting to City of Owen Sound Council on behalf of Community Voices

Two Graduates of the Getting Ahead program and Communty Voices members, Renee Schlonies and Tanya Butt asked the City of Owen Sound Council to consider the views of people on low income when making their decisions.

The Community Voices co-chairs provided a snapshot of poverty in Owen Sound. Recent political and economic conditions have contributed to the decline of full-time jobs and an increase in poverty.

  • 60% of people on low-income are working
  • 20% of employees in Grey County have multiple jobs
  • 95% of all new jobs created in Ontario were part-time
  • 1 in 3 jobs in Ontario is temporary, contract, or part-time.
  • Full-time at Minimum Wage of $11.25/hr ($23,400) falls well below
  • Ontario’s Low Income Measure:
  • $23,861 (1 person)
  • $29,706 (2 persons)
  • $36,520 (3 persons)
  • Living Wage for Owen Sound $21.01

Community Voices submitted an Equity and Inclusion for People Living in Poverty position paper to the City showing how people on low income contribute to our community, identifying barriers and inequities; and suggesting recommendations to the Council.

People who live on low income do contribute to the economy and quality of life in the city! The low income community often provides care for each other’s children and exchange food, sharing what each household has. There are networks of support, information exchanges, and some people become community advocates.  Many of those on social assistance or ODSP invest in the community by actively volunteering for community organizations.  Volunteers sustain non-profit agencies such as day-away programs, shelters and food banks. 

When we are on social assistance, we often work part-time and therefore receive reduced amount of assistance.  While social assistance is not taxed, we contribute to taxes through purchase of goods and services; and property taxes are collected from our rents. 

We participate in civil society,  advocate for equity and inclusion, and raise future leaders by educating our children.   Low income communities encourage the creation of programs that can benefit people across all income levels, by sitting on boards and committees, and by sharing stories with decisions makers. 

Our vision includes:

  • a poverty-free city is where people living in poverty are actively involved in decision-making processes at the City and in the community.
  • More affordable and well-maintained housing is available.
  • Healthy food is accessible close to where people live.
  • The City is free of financial predators that perpetuate the cycle of poverty.
  • People in Owen Sound earn wages adequate to support a healthy, active standard of living.
  • Living Wage is instituted throughout Owen Sound.
  • High quality bridging programs are accessible to people transitioning from income assistance to the paid labour force.

It is important that people living in poverty participate in solving community problems, not just their own.  Getting Ahead graduate 2013