Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 107

Dear Colleagues, 

When I think of bananas, I think of food. I don’t think of housing. But I heard this term BANANA – “Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything” (or “Anyone”) – for the first time in our Housing Community of Practice meeting. This is an often used term by politicians and analysts when they face community opposition to certain land development. I don’t know how I didn’t hear it before? 

Doug Griffiths, in his book 13 Ways to Kill Your Community says that every city has its share of bananas. But we need to remind them that people experiencing homelessness in our communities are homegrown. They are our friends and family. So we need to tell people “don’t become a banana when it comes to development.”

Thinking about the term ‘affordable housing’, Doug Griffiths recommends that this term should be replaced with ‘diversified housing’ or his most preferred ‘appropriate housing’ to eliminate stereotypes. 

  • Bruce County has released its newest toolkit –  Affordable Housing Development Toolkit.  It is focused on supporting the creation of new affordable multi-residential and ground-related housing. 


  • M’Wikwedong Indigenous Support Housing: has seen a decrease in the safety of the people on their housing lists. Previously, 70% of people were precariously housed and 30% of people were experiencing homelessness. That has flipped to 70% of people experiencing homelessness. 
  • Homeless on Homelands: the Women’s National Housing & Homelessness Network and the Indigenous women-led Keepers of the Circle have submitted 2 Human Rights Claims to the Federal Housing Advocate. They spotlighted the housing need and homelessness for marginalized women and gender-diverse people. 
  • Giiwe Sharing Circle/Housing: a recent sharing circle was held with housing partners at Silver Lake Camp. Lori Kewaquom and Lorne Pawis led the work of building relations and grounding ourselves.
    • Advocacy for Healing Program: is aimed at supporting the Saugeen First Nation members and families who have been affected by indigenous historical traumas.  Contact info:  Lori Kewaquom, Advocacy Program Coordinator, (519) 389-1164, lori.kewaquom@saugeen.org
    • M’Wikwedong IFC Cultural Resource Program: contact the new Coordinator Lorne Pawis, 519-371-1147 x 231, crc@mwikwedong.com.
  • Giiwe Retreat: 2 December 2022.  A full day retreat is planned at Silver Lake Camp, Sauble Beach. Contact Diane Giroux for details. giiwe.home@gmail.com.
  • Gladue Courts: M’Wikedong IFC has announced a new Indigenous People Court system for self-identifying Indigenous adults and youths, including Metis and Inuit and First Nations. They’re intended to help rectify the over-representation of Aboriginal people in custody, a reflection of intergenerational harm and the impact of colonialism. 
  • Treaties Recognition Week is November 6-12 in Ontario. Treaties Recognition Week honours the importance of treaties and helps Ontario students and residents understand the significance of treaty rights, treaty relationships and their relevance today.


Work is being done on addressing the homelessness situation and building more medium-term support beyond the Short Term Shelter Program. 

  • Grey County Short Term Shelter Program:  Anne Marie Shaw spoke to Grey County Council highlighting the significant community need for the program before the winter season. (At 1:38:49 mark)
    • The By Names List has seen a huge increase in the number of people sheltered from 25-30 people in 2020 to 107 in 2022. 
    • 30 motel rooms are secured for shelter and they are full. 
    • 900 nights of shelter were provided in September at an estimated cost of $80,000. This is not sustainable based on the current provincial funding.
    • Hotels are low barriers but do have rules. Thus some people are asked to leave. More and more cases are complex requiring 24 hr mental health care that is not currently available in the area. 
    • 11 people were housed off the By Names List in October. 
    • We are still experiencing not enough support to keep people housed and not enough affordable housing stock. Rental rates are above OW/ODSP housing allowances. 
    • Bayview Treatment Center is underway led by Grey Bruce Health Services and 14th Street transitional supportive housing is on schedule for 12 new beds and support from CMHA. 
  • Warming Centres: plans are underway with lower-tier municipalities to provide warming centres. In Owen Sound, discussions are underway to support Safe N Sound to provide extended hours. All Warming Centres shall be listed on 2-1-1. 
  • Access to safe spaces remains a critical issue for many street-involved people. Solutions are still not sufficient access to washrooms and drinking water.  
  • RentSafe Owen Sound Collaborative: the Tenant-Landlord Survey has been extended to November 11th. Erica Phipps spoke to the reasons for the data collection and rental housing. 
  • Vital Signs on Housing: 1 Dec 2022, 4pm – 6pm, a virtual public conversation is being planned. Lightning speakers will spark conversation from many of our local initiatives. More details to come. 


  • Canada Housing Benefit program: a proposed one-time top-up, tax-free payment of $500 to provide direct support to low-income renters—those most exposed to inflation—who are experiencing housing affordability challenges is planned for the end of the year. Pending Parliamentary approval and Royal Assent of enabling legislation.
  • GST Tax Credit announcement that it will be doubled for 6 months.  Single Canadians without kids will get up to $234 more, couples with two kids will get up to $467 more, and seniors will get $225 more on average. 
  • Climate Action Incentive Payment (CAIP) is being dispersed. The CAIP is a tax-free payment created to help offset the cost of federal pollution pricing. 
  • Utility Alert: the United Way has issued an alert on the increasing price of oil and propane gas costs and changes to the delivery policies.
    • There has been a 31% (oil) and 42% (propane gas) increase. Oil and Propane companies are now placing minimum orders that exceed their grant capacity ($700). And these companies are requiring any arrears to be paid before delivery. Challenges also exist with limited area coverage and difficulty for households to find/change providers.
    • Electricity rates are dropping this winter. 
  • Utility Supports:  are available from the United Way of Bruce Grey grant: $700 and Homelessness Prevention Initiative (Grey or Bruce County Social Services): $800 grant for single, $1500 for family.
  • United Way Utility Assistance Program supported 303 households in 2021-2022. Of those households, 32% of households have children and 61% of the households are trying to manage on a single income. They saw a 14% increase in wood applications and 136% increase in average arrears for Hydro One customers. Average arrear support payment was $1,733 in 2021-2022, a significant increase over average in 2020-21 of $420. A total of $173,321 was paid out for arrears and $232,594 was granted to households in need. 
  • Fraud Alert: be aware of a company called Ontario Green Savings posing as a government program.  


  • Expanded Health Benefits: the Ontario government is seeking public feedback on plans to expand benefits like health, dental, prescription drug and vision care to more workers who need coverage. An online public survey ends December 16th, 2022.
  • Mobile Mental Health and Addiction Response Team (MMHART): CMHA and the Owen Sound Police launched on November 1st, a new mobile crisis intervention program that will consist of CMHA mental health workers embedded with the police  Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), 
  • Health Quality Care: serious challenges to the quality of care in our health care services are continuing to impact on vulnerable people.  We are seeing walk-in clinic closures, Emergency Room closures, shortage of health staff and long wait lists for health services.  Patients who require post-hospital care are being discharged into homelessness. The government will charge long-term care patients who won’t leave a hospital. 


  • Ontario Trillium Foundation Resilient Communities Fund: supports the recovery efforts of organizations impacted by COVID-19 and helps them respond with immediate, medium, and longer-term recovery projects. Projects should be focused on developing new approaches; starting new activities; adjusting strategies, or planning for future challenges. The Fund is set to open for application intake on November 9, and it closes on December 7. Link – https://otf.ca/our-grants/resilient-communities-fund#eligibility

Stay well, Jill 

Housing is a Human Right

Canada has adopted a Rights-Based approach to its first-ever National Housing Strategy on November 22nd, 2017.  They have announced their new strategy with a $41 billion budget over the next 10 years.

In addition to existing programs,  what is new?

$15.9 billion for a National Housing Co-investment Fund 

  • $4.7 billion in financial contributions and
  • $11.2 billion in low interest loans to developers that meet certain criteria including ensuring that:
    • 30 per cent of units in a development will rent for less than 80 per cent of median market rents for at least 20 years.
    • At least a 25 per cent reduction in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions over national building and energy codes.
    • 20 per cent of units meet accessibility standards.

$200 million Transfer of Federal Lands to housing providers on condition that they meet environmental, socioeconomic and affordability standards.

A separate Indigenous People Housing Strategy will be developed with their input.

What is the need locally? 

  • 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.
  • 1 in 5 children live in poverty in Ontario
  •  17% of Grey County and Bruce County children under age 17 live in poverty.
  • 21 food banks exist in Grey County and Bruce County. 16% of the population of Bruce and Grey Counties have accessed a food bank.
  • In Ontario, the average food bank client spends 70% of income on rent.
  • Waitlist for Affordable Housing in Grey County has increased by 15% in the last year. 730 families are on the wait list.

How far the budget reaches down to support our Municipal budgets for affordable housing is still to be determined.  But the Federal leadership sets the direction for budge allocations going forward!

Measuring Homelessness in Grey County and Bruce County  

Our Housing Action Group will be monitoring and reporting on developments.   Currently, our Housing Action Group are developing the program design and implementation for Ontario’s Homelessness Enumeration on April 23rd to 27th, 2018.  This will be a Point-in-Time  Rural Survey carried out in partnership with community agencies and volunteers.

The report of Ontario’s Expert Advisory Panel on Homelessness (the Panel), A Place to Call Home, stated: “Over the past several decades, homelessness in Canada has been on the rise” (2015, p.7). The experience of homelessness is understood to be a severe form of deprivation for people affected by a wide range of factors over which they have no control, such as unemployment or precarious employment, challenges with finding affordable housing, and economic hardship. Further, homelessness has
unequal impacts that are linked with racialization, gender, sexual
orientation, age, ability, language, immigration status, socioeconomic
status, mental health and addictions issues, regional location, and
Indigenous identity. Learning more about the prevalence and realities of
homelessness can galvanize community stakeholders who want to
develop more effective ways of addressing it.

Read more about Grey County’s Trends and Analysis as part of its County of Grey Housing  and Homelessness Plan (2014-2024) and Bruce County’s Long-Term Housing Housing Strategy (2013-2023).

District of Muskoka scraps development charge waivers for affordable housing

Huntsville Forester

ByAlison Brownlee,  June 26th

HUNTSVILLE – The District of Muskoka has scrapped development charge waivers for affordable housing and has replaced them with a new program.

“The development charge waivers were the best plan we had in the early stages,” said Huntsville Coun. Fran Coleman. “I didn’t want to do away with those waivers until we came up with a better plan. And I think this is it.”

Coleman made her comments at a district council meeting on June 17.

The new program involves two bylaws.

“One bylaw would create a framework for program initiatives that will flexibly respond to the wide range of housing needs,” stated a media release. “A second bylaw redirects current district expenditures into the program in a phased manner over the next five years.”

The district will fund the new affordable housing initiative by redirecting about $325,000 in annual expenditures on waivers for development charges as well as about $215,000 in savings from social assistance expenditures beginning in 2014, according to the release.

Stephen Cairns, commissioner of finance and corporate services, stated in the release that the previous development charge waiver has assisted development of modest single-family homes since 2009. “We have invested over $1 million in reimbursements and we could use these funds much better and more strategically to fund multi-residential and other housing programs.

Rick Williams, commissioner of community services, noted that there are housing shortages for low-income seniors, low-income single adults, adults with disabilities and single-parent families with children under age 18.

“Each of these groups is growing across Muskoka and we are not seeing the development of quality rental accommodation to meet these needs,” stated Williams in the release. “Our wait list for rental accommodation continues to grow at a rate of 75 units per year on top of the 650 already waiting. We need to change that.”