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.

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Rural Homeless Enumeration 2018

full length of man sitting outdoors

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In April of 2018, Bruce County and Grey County each conducted a homelessness enumeration using a Period Prevalence Count (PPC) methodology in their respective counties.

The problem of homelessness is most often associated with urban communities, however, a growing body of research over the past 15 years has shown that the problem is also prevalent in rural Canada. The size and the dynamics of the problem in these rural areas is still largely unknown, in part because of unique problems that
rural areas pose for data collection. Rural areas often have fewer services geared towards people experiencing homelessness and the services that are available often serve a large geographical region.

A recent study conducted in rural and northern Ontario found that only 32 percent of service providers in these regions are able to keep ongoing records of their at-risk and homeless populations. This problem is compounded by the fact that rural areas tend to have smaller populations spread out over relatively large geographic regions, making it more difficult to locate those who sleep rough or stay in unsafe dwellings.

The homelessness enumeration was the first of its kind to be conducted in Bruce County and Grey County – the result of a mandate set by the provincial government in 2016 with the passage of the Promoting Affordable Housing Act and the commitment to end chronic homelessness by 2025.

Beginning in 2018, all Ontario municipalities are required to conduct a homeless enumeration every two years with the goals of:

  • Improving community awareness and understanding of homelessness;
  • Helping to monitor and assess developing trends over time;
  • Providing a method through which to measure progress; and
  • Strengthening efforts to end homelessness.

The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force Housing Action Group identified organizations across the two counties that work with people experiencing homelessness as hub sites where enumerators would be located to conduct surveys. Front line social service workers were provided enumeration training on the survey tool, empathy training and information on services/programs available for people experiencing homelessness.

Results

Bruce County: over the course of the enumeration week, a total of 17 individuals experiencing homelessness were counted in Bruce County. Eleven of them completed questionnaires.  Read more in the full report: 2018 Homeless Enumeration – Bruce County.

Grey County: over the course of the week 33 individuals identified as experiencing homelessness and 29 completed the survey.  Read more in the full report to council.

Next Steps

The results are large enough to demonstrate homelessness exists in Grey County and Bruce County. Although the results presented are not generalizable to both counties’ population, they are sufficient to demonstrate that homelessness is a socioeconomic problem in Bruce County and Grey County.  The results suggests avenues for further study, particularly in regards to youth and seniors’ homelessness.

These results will be used in the consultation sessions for the update to Bruce County’s Long-Term Housing Strategy and Grey County’s 10 Year Housing and Homelessness Plan.

 

Putting a spotlight on poverty

United Way of Bruce Grey and the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force wants to put a spotlight on poverty in our community.

Basic needs are increasingly out of reach for people living on low-income, and people with insufficient income face impossible choices every single day. For people living with disabilities, further barriers related to employment, social exclusion, and higher cost of living make it even more difficult to thrive without comprehensive supports.

After the 1.5% rate increase in October 2018, a single person receiving Ontario Works will still be 65% below the poverty line receiving only: $ 732/month.

On average,1 949 households per month access Ontario Works in Grey County and Bruce County in 2018.

July 2018 profiles:

Of the July case load:

  • 1148 clients, or 62% were single,
  • 595 clients, or 31%, were sole supporting parents
  • Balance were dual parent families or couples with no children.

ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) has a caseload of 6855 households in Grey Bruce. A single person on ODSP is 55% below the poverty line receiving $1 151.

Ontario’s low income cut-off puts the poverty line at $2 080 for a single person.

The lonely girl cries in the street

Any increases to Ontario Works caseloads are attributed to positive changes in regulations around income supports such as child support no longer being considered income, increase asset limits which allow people to keep more of their earned income and savings as well as the eligibility requirements for youth 16 and 17 living on their own.

Transitioning people out of poverty and to a life of sustainability requires many supports. Access to transportation, childcare that is affordable and fits the schedule of the jobs available.

We also need to ensure that the right supports are there for the right demographic of people needing supports. With 62% of recipients being singles, we need to ensure there are supports beyond those just focused on children and families.

The United Way of Bruce Grey and the Poverty Task Force look forward to working with the new Provincial government on addressing rural poverty needs.

Microsoft PowerPoint - PTF Election Graphics_4August2018

 

For more information:

More than the Ripley Apple to Discover at the Bruce Botanical Food Garden

Mikayla Smailes at the Bruce Botanical Food Gardens

By Mikayla Smailes, Dietetic Intern

Do you enjoy freshly picked produce? Take a short trip to Ripley and gain bonus passport punches at the Bruce Botanical Food Garden! I am a Dietetic Practicum Student with Grey Bruce Public Health. On Tuesday July 10, I had the pleasure of accompanying the Food Security Action Group as they discovered the gardens and their programming. Nan Grant, a volunteer with the BBFG, and Amber, a summer student, guided us through 250 different species of edible, organic plants. Both shared their passion for the gardens and for promoting food security in our region.   

As we travelled through the garden, Nan described how it was designed as a “body of health,” which organizes plants with similar health benefits together. In the garden, one “body of health” is dedicated to the digestive system; in this area thyme, basil, and lavender are planted together. As I explored the garden I noticed that the aroma of the many plants, especially the lavender, was healing in itself.

Bruce Botanical Food Gardens

The BBFG is a not-for-profit organization that describes themselves as being “small but mighty.” For the past 6 years they have welcomed the community to explore the 1 acre garden. Last year alone they had over 4,000 visitors. This garden has become a tourist attraction as it is solely comprised of heirloom and heritage plants grown from seeds that have been “pure for at least 100 years.”  During my visit I was introduced to many new plants, including gooseberries, lovage, golden raspberries and the Ripley Apple. I was delighted to learn that the Ripley Apple is a new apple species that was selected by 324 community taste tasters from the wild varieties discovered near the old Ripley rail-line, and is now featured at the BBFG. The apple represents “the strength of community”, and more importantly “the strength of Ripley.”

The Ripley apple is not the only way community members have helped build the gardens. The BBFG encourages any community member to join in planting, harvesting, and maintaining the garden’s sustainability. Have you ever wanted to learn about saving seeds, harvesting and cooking with fresh herbs? Knowledgeable volunteers also promote food literacy by hosting cooking classes and workshops. The BBFG relies on their partnerships with Bruce County, Huron-Kinloss, the Old Order Mennonite community, local church groups, schools, the private sector, and local families in need. The BBFG is always open to explore new opportunities to team up with other organizations to promote healthy communities. This living market operates with the support of dedicated volunteers, the generosity of local organizations, and the donations of visitors. The BBFG accepts donations, but encourage the public to enjoy the bounty of the garden even if you are unable to donate. This space is for everyone to experience and I’m already looking forward to my next visit!