Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 111

Dear Colleagues, 

It feels like the Grinch is affecting this year’s holiday celebrations with housing/ rental prices rising along with food and other basic needs. Economists are predicting a recession that will continue to impact vulnerable families and our local partners are gearing up to provide emergency support throughout the holiday season.  

  • Rentals.ca reports the average rent in October across Canada was $1,976, across all types of properties, from bachelor apartments to three-bedrooms. That’s an increase of 11.9%, higher than Canada’s inflation rate of 6.9%.
  • Atlantic Canada has seen rents rise at 32.2% and Ontario at 17.7% in the past year. 
  • For most tenants covered by the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA), there’s a maximum amount the landlord can increase the rent by each year. The rent increase guideline for 2023 is 2.5%. Read more on the CLEO: Steps to Justice website to learn the guidelines, understand the exceptions and how a landlord has approval to raise it more. 

Statistic Canada has released its latest income inequality data of how well tax filers did in 2020. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives‘ report analysis of this data stated “the pandemic’s economic crisis affected Canadians very differently depending on their income level. The lower the income, the harder the hit—and conversely, the higher the income, the softer the landing.” 

  • The bottom 50% of tax filers saw their market income (income before taxes and government transfers) drop by 14%, due to the substantial job losses, most heavily among minimum wage workers
  • However, thanks to pandemic income supports, such as CERB, the bottom 50% of tax filers saw a 20% increase in their total income and the bottom 90% of tax filers—the vast majority of Canadians—saw an 9% increase in total income. 

Feed Ontario Hunger Report 2022 has found that that there more people are visiting in 2022 over 2021:  

  • 20% increase in food banks usage is 20% in 2022 over 2021 
  • 56% increase over the monthly average leading up to the pandemic
  • 64% increase of first-time use of food banks compared to 2021.
  • 47% increase in people with employment accessing food banks since 2018.  

Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act

Bill 23 was passed on November 28th, with many organizations and municipalities expressing great concerns that it was introduced without full consultation. A recent Maytree article challenges the government and readers to think differently about the problem to lead us to different solutions. 

“Defining this as a crisis of affordable housing and homelessness, rather than simply a crisis of supply, will clarify our goals: who we need to target most urgently (people living in poverty), what their needs are (long-term, affordable, and adequate housing), and who is responsible for delivering (all levels of government).” 

Organizations continue to submit feedback to the government: 

  • The Poverty Task Force published a Bill 23 response blog post and carried out media interviews
  • The Ontario United WaysTower Renewal Partnership, and Neighbourhood Change Research Partnership submitted feedback to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing on municipal rental replacement by-laws under the Municipal Act, 2001 and City of Toronto Act, 2006. 
  • The Association of Municipalities of Ontario submitted feedback on proposed amendments to the Greenbelt Act to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.  
  • The government is still accepting public feedback on its proposed amendments to the Greenbelt Act. 


  • Christmas Food Hampers, Meals and Supports: 211 is the best way to call and go to: https://www.informationbrucegrey.ca/ 
  • Good Food Box: prices will increase in January 2023 to $22/box, but the United Way has received funding to keep the current $20/box price for customers through the winter season. Expect to see a price increase in the Spring. 
  • Farmer Wellness Initiative: Ontario farmers and their families can access free counselling sessions. Accessible 24 hrs, 7 days/week, 365 days/year, in English & French, farmers can call 1-866-267-6255 to speak to a counsellor. www.farmerwellnessinitiative.ca
  • Food for Fines: all Bruce County and many Grey County libraries including Owen Sound are allowing people to bring in non-perishable food items and receive dollars to put towards your fines. The program runs until December 11th, for every non-perishable food item you donate, you will receive $5 put towards your fines.  
  • West Grey Library: has done away with all fines but is still supporting the food banks by offering a Gift Wrapping Station with proceeds to the food bank today. 
  • Safe N Sound: Laundry services are closed while renovations are underway. Clothing is still available along with other supports. 
  • SOS Mobile Outreach Services and Clinics shall run throughout the holidays.  


  • M’Wikwedong IFC – Renaissance Outpatient Treatment Program: starts Mon, Dec 12th, M-Thurs 12-2:30 for 12 weeks. Registration starts in-person on Monday. Contact Dave Lewis, M’Wikedong IFC Addictions Counsellor, iaaw@mwikwedong.com, 519-371-1147 ext 236.
  • Grey Bruce Health Services Wellness & Treatment Centre Community Education Drop-in Session: will take place at TheXchange (825 2nd Ave. E., Owen Sound) on Dec 15th, 4 -7pm. Questions about the session can be sent to communityquestions@gbhs.on.ca.
  • Grey Bruce Crisis Support Program: The Province has announced one-time funding of $500,000 to Grey Bruce Health Services to help expand its Crisis Support Program in 2022-2023. This funding will help sustain and enhance capacity in mental health and addictions services and supports, specifically within the mental health, addictions, eating disorders, complex mental illness sectors.


  • National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women was marked on December 6th with vigils throughout Grey and Bruce Counties.  Between November 26, 2021 and November 2022, 34 femicides have been reported in Ontario. Making up less than 5% of Canada’s population, Indigenous women make up 16% of femicide victims.Human Rights Day will be marked on December 10th. 
  • Community Voices: changing the narrative regarding vulnerable populations is a letter to the editor written by Jacob Morris-Wheeler.
  • Owen Sound Police Services Board, in collaboration with the Owen Sound Police Service, is carrying out a survey on community perceptions of crime, neighbourhood concerns, and satisfaction with police services and public safety in the City of Owen Sound. Survey closes on 31 December 2022. 


  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Grey Bruce in partnership with Arran Elderslie Youth Council and Trinity Theatre launched the Grey Bruce Youth Council. Monthly groups will be taking place every last Wednesday of the month.  To learn more email tianna.krampien@bigbrothersbigsisters.ca or call 519.376.4449
  • The Well Community Collective held a stakeholder workshop at Keystone on Nov 29th, 2022 to discuss and promote Youth Wellness Hubs. They seek to collaborate, co-design and partner with youth and communities to create equitable, accessible and low-barrier youth wellness services in Bruce, Grey, Huron and Perth counties. 
  • Integrated Youth Services Network of Networks: the Federal government and health partners announced up to $18 million for a Canada wide Integrated Youth Services Network of Networks (IYS-Net) and the development of a Integrated Youth Services National Data Framework and Infrastructure. 


  • Reaching Home Rural and Remote Funding: United Way Simcoe Muskoka has announced that the 2023-2024 call for proposals is now open. Visit their website to learn more. Application deadline is Jan 18th, 2023 at 5:00pm.
  • Canadian Women’s Foundation Community Needs Grants: is now accepting proposals to support gender justice work, with a focus on small grassroots organizations. Visit their website to learn more. Application deadline is Jan 26th, 2023, 5pm. 

Stay well, Jill 

Media Release: Help available to file tax returns

February 22, 2018

The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force and Grey Bruce Health Unit encourage everyone to file a tax return, especially those with low or modest income. Filing a tax return helps identify benefits they can collect and may result in more money back. Getting help with filing tax returns is available throughout Grey Bruce. The Task Force has created a list of Free Income Tax Preparation Assistance services to help people find the service closest to them.

“Many people have no idea they can get money back. They fear being told to pay the government for large back taxes. But this is not the case for most people on low income.” Says Jill Umbach, Coordinator of Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force. “It is important to file this year to take advantage of tax credits to increase your annual income. You don’t have to file your previous taxes first to catch up. Many community tax clinics will help you to file for previous years as well.”

There are good reasons to file:
1. To qualify for programs including the Canada Child Tax Benefit, the GST/HST credit, and the Ontario Trillium Benefit, which all pay cash when you qualify.
2. To take advantage of certain tax credits like the Working Income Tax Benefit.
3. To recover any tax you may have overpaid from your pay cheque.

People on low income may not have access to affordable or relevant tax filing services and may not know about benefits and assistance available to them including targeted approaches suited to their specific needs.

Tax time is a good time to apply for the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP). Those who have not applied to OESP may be missing out on a monthly benefit towards their hydro bill, starting at $35.00 and upwards, based on income. The United Way of Bruce Grey and Grey Bruce Community Income Tax Clinic can assist with an application.

Free tax services are available to people on low income all across Grey Bruce. Call 211 or check online at 211 Information Bruce Grey.

For More Information:

Jill Umbach, Planning Network Coordinator,  Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force, 519-377-9406, jill.umbach@gmail.com

Allison Murray, Health Promoter, Grey Bruce Health Unit
519-376-9420 or 1-800-263-3456 ext. 1343

Dealing with the cost of utilities in Bruce Grey_a new report

15 October 2013

A recent report by Bruce and Grey Counties summarizes the changes in job security and the impact of the rising cost of utilities.

It is estimated that about 1 in 3 Canadians live pay cheque to pay cheque and support service agencies in Bruce and Grey Counties find that most of the people they serve fall into this category. This means that a sudden change in a household’s situation, such as job loss, sickness or family break-up, can easily lead to housing affordability issues, including utility arrears.

Poverty is a root cause for this precarious position and the rising cost of utilities is yet one more issue that households in poverty have to cope with.

In Bruce and Grey Counties, the face of poverty is changing – service providers are starting to see seniors who are facing challenges and this was not the case in the past. While many seniors no longer have a mortgage on their home, many have modest, fixed incomes that are no longer sufficient to cover the rising costs of maintaining their homes, including utilities. Some seniors are particularly affected and anecdotal accounts have reported seniors going to bed in snow suits, using barbeques in their kitchens or reducing food purchases as a way to cope with utility costs. Many people refuse to ask for help with their utilities until the situation is quite dire, which in turn requires more community resources to resolve.

Recent data on service inquiries underscore the growing impact of utility issues. Community Connection/Ontario 211 receives calls and provides information on the services available in local communities. In 2012, the agency received a total of 2,401 call related to housing need from Grey County residents. Of these, 79% (1,895 calls) were related to utility arrears. Similarly, the agency received a total of 1,060 calls from Bruce County residents and 86% (919 calls) were related to utility arrears.

The issue of utility arrears affects the whole community and addressing it requires the collaboration of multiple stakeholders, including support service agencies, governments, utility providers and the clients themselves. Workshop participants proposed a number of solutions to help address the issue of utility arrears in Bruce and Grey Counties. The challenge ahead is how to advance possible solutions and make progress in alleviating utility arrears issues.

As part of the workshop, participants suggested possible next steps, including:
• Continue to meet on this issue and engage other stakeholders, such as the Legal Clinic and Poverty Task Force
• Increase political awareness on the issue
• Undertake educational activities for clients, including workshops and developing educational material
• Advocate for additional LEAP and CHPI funding
• Fundraise in the community

See the full report: Utilities Workshop – What We Heard Utility Workshop FINAL October 3, 2013

Update on status of available funds for Utilities Assistance

23 September 2013

United Way Bruce Grey Utilities Support Update 

Union Gas, Westario   Please advise customers that there will be no more funding until the New Year and they are to call 211 at that time.

Hydro One   Please advise customers that there will be no more funding until the New Year and they are to call 1-855-487-5327 at that time.

OIL, WOOD, PROPANE, WATER/SEWER -> Please advise customer to call 211 but that there are no current funds available and that they will be put on a waiting list.

Holly Devlin, AFCC

Community Response Co-ordinator



United Way Bruce Grey

Change starts here.


380 9th Street East Owen Sound ON N4K 1P1

519 376 1560 | 800 794 1728 I fax 519-376-5458