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 

image.png

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 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 36

Dear Colleagues, 

Keeping our family and friends safe this Christmas is a priority for all of us in the community. As we move into the “season of giving” let’s also think about how we can support organizations on the frontlines by donating our time or financial support safely. Consider simple ways we can reach out to an isolated senior or take care of our own financial (and mental) health this season.  

While organizations providing Christmas support this year have had to change their ways of distributing support it is incredible how much the community is giving to ensure that people have enough.  

FOOD SUPPORTS

Right now community food programs are focused on registering families and individuals for Christmas hampers, meals and toy drives. 

  • We saw a sharp increase in demand for most community food organizations in October and an increase in numbers registering for hampers, meals and toys at Food Banks as well as an increase in numbers accessing the food bank for the first time in November. Over 100,000 meals have been served since March 2020 and November numbers have not been included.
  • People can call 2-1-1 or search on 2-1-1’s Information Grey Bruce to find out what is available in your local community and find out how to register for Christmas programs. Programs require registration for hampers and toys!  Please check for deadlines!! 
  • Bruce Power has released new funding for social programs under its Be the Light Campaign: Beating COVID19 Together.  Bruce Power is making a $350,000 contribution in grocery gift cards to schools, county housing services, long-term care homes and women’s shelters.  Of that $350,000 –  schools, county housing services, and women’s shelters will distribute 3,000 grocery store gift cards to help those in need; $100,00 to school breakfast club programs and $10,000 towards winter coats. 
  • Bruce Power has also launched an online fundraiser with the United Way of Bruce Grey to collect cash donations in place of Bruce Power’s annual on-site toy drive. They say it has raised $27,000 for nine local toy drives and hamper programs.

INCOME SUPPORTS 

  • Parents of children aged 12 or younger will again be able to receive a one-time payment of $200 per child, and $250 for children 21 years of age or younger with special education needs. Payment should be received before Christmas. 
  • The Grey Bruce Free Community Volunteer Income Tax Clinics are listed on 2-1-1.  Throughout the year some organizations are offering filing services. 
  • Prosper Canada is hosting a one-hour webinar on adapting to a virtual tax clinic model on 2 Dec 2020, 1-2pm. Register now to hear speakers from the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP/CRA) about key considerations for Canadian practitioners operating tax clinics in 2021, as well as how to access CVITP program training and support.  
  • This year, due to the implications of the extension of the CRA tax filing deadline, many seniors in receipt of the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), Allowance or Allowance for the Survivor benefit, have not yet submitted their 2019 income tax information. 
  • Since GIS and the Allowance are paid, in normal circumstances based on the previous year’s income, these clients would have had their benefits discontinued July 2020 if not for interim measures approved for July to December 2020. 
  • Clients are encouraged to submit their income information as soon as possible, so as to avoid any interruption in the payment of GIS, Allowance or the Allowance for the Survivor in January 2021. During the week of October 5, 2020, Service Canada sent reminder letters and Statement of Income forms to clients in receipt of these benefits whose income information for 2019 had not been received.
  • If community members or individuals do not have access to the internet or face other barriers, the Service Canada Outreach Support Centre will ensure they get access to the critical benefits they need. Client can call the toll-free number (1- 877-355-2657) TTY: 1-833-719-2657 from 8:30am to 4:00pm Monday to Friday.  If you have any questions, please email  ESDC.ON.CSE-ECC.ON.EDSC@servicecanada.gc.ca 
  • A recent Income & Employment Action Group discussion focused on protecting vulnerable people from the predatory nature of payday loans. Loans Canada recently posted an analysis on how vulnerable people are under COVID19. With growing financial distress due to COIVD-19, a report by a CCPA political economist and senior researcher says the Government of Canada needs to tighten the regulations around payday lenders including “[axing] interest rates at once and [requiring] banks to offer adequate and inexpensive services to low-income households”. This is a necessary step to protect the most vulnerable Canadians from falling victim to the predatory nature of payday loans. 
  • SWIFT Network: More than 3,900 households and businesses to see improvements in broadband internet services in the municipalities of Meaford and West Grey and throughout the Townships of Chatsworth, Georgian Bluffs and Southgate.
  • The newly announced projects will collectively service more than 230 kilometres of underserved roads to deliver high-speed connectivity to many more residents living in Grey County

HOUSING SUPPORTS

  • Safe N Sound is now open evenings from 5-9pm to provide staff and space around emergency shelter as of today.   About 35 to 45 people a day stop into The Space to seek help with things like emergency shelter and harm reduction. There are at least 25 people who are homeless and still living in tents in Owen Sound. The YMCA Housing works with Safe N Sound and Grey County to provide transitional and longer-term shelter.  
  • This month, the CMHA has expanded its Mobile Mental Health and Addiction Response Team (MMHART) and is operating it in partnership with the West Grey Police Service, Hanover Police Service, Saugeen Shores Police Service and the South Bruce Ontario Provincial Police Detachment. 
  • The Meeting Place is conducting informal, in-depth discussions with current long-term and short-term rental homeowners in Northern Bruce Peninsula, to gain perspective on barriers to long-term renting and what’s needed for support and resources for either landlords or tenants to make it work. 
  • Given the high expense of becoming a homeowner on the Northern Bruce, and the number of housing units available only as short-term rentals, it is becoming increasingly difficult for seasonal workers to find affordable housing. Currently, if there are long-term rentals available, they are extremely difficult to track down and often too expensive for the seasonal worker to obtain.
  • By having in-depth conversations with landlords of all types we’d like to see if there is scope for change and the possibility for even a modest transition to both types of rental inventory in the community. If you are willing to be part of the conversion please contact Hazel Smith, Sparks facilitator, to arrange a meeting. All options available: face to face at The Meeting Place or by phone or digitally.  Contact Hazel via email hazellyder@gmail.com or call The Meeting Place at 519 596 2313 and leave a message.  
  • Concerns raised by our Income & Employment Security Action Group about CERB repayments and clawbacks from people on social assistance are increasing. A recent article indicates tenants with low income are struggling to pay the rent.   

CHILDREN & YOUTH SUPPORTS 

  • CMHA is offering the ASK workshop – a training specifically created on how to talk to kids about death and suicide. This training is ideal for service providers, educators and other concerned community members and is being offered at a reduced rate of $100 to residents of Grey and Bruce through the generous funding of the Community Foundation Grey Bruce. For those interested in attending and the fee is a barrier to participating, there are 4 scholarship spaces available for each workshop. To register and inquire about the scholarship spaces, please e-mail Jackie Ralph at jralph@cmhagb.org.
  • The Federal Government announced over $542 million in funding to advance First Nations, Inuit, and Métis engagement to co-develop the implementation of theAct respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, and to assist Indigenous communities and groups in building the capacity to establish their own child and family services systems.  

Stay well, Jill