Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 11

Dear Colleagues, 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, coordinating quick access to housing is more important than ever. Housing cures homelessness and is the best protection against COVID-19. The ability to protect and serve people experiencing homelessness is dependent on securing permanent, long-term housing. While the COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder of how vulnerable homeless people are in our community, it is also an opportunity to change, transform, and prioritize efforts to house people experiencing homelessness. 

As with all our emergency responses to meet basic needs, we are grateful for additional funds to solve short-term crisis issues but we know that investing in the economy, jobs and social assistance infrastructure needs to be at the forefront of all our COVID19 responses.  

  • We need to consider changes to precarious work practices i.e. PSW workers working several part-time jobs at low wage, grocery store clerks earning low wages, etc. We need to consider how today’s “heroes” are treated during the pandemic recovery period. 

We also know that abuse doesn’t stop during a pandemic. Unfortunately, it is likely that abuse worsens in isolation.  #HeretoHelpGB was launched and will continue to work with all partners to support vulnerable women and families. 

WOMEN’S SUPPORTS

  • In the past year, women’s shelters in the Grey Bruce Region (The Women’s Centre Grey Bruce Inc. and Women’s House Serving Bruce & Grey) served 1,549 women and managed 11,679 crisis, support, and advocacy calls. 
  • #HeretoHelpGB is a community collaboration of local social services working together to provide as much support as possible to women and children experiencing abuse and violence in Grey and Bruce counties during this difficult time.

HOUSING SUPPORTS 

  • The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH) has developed a new COVID-19 resource, “Getting Back to Housing: How Canadian communities are adapting Coordinated Access to accelerate connections to permanent housing and build momentum to end homelessness once and for all.”  
  • This guide outlines realistic and practical approaches to help local communities adapt their homelessness response system to coordinate, activate, and accelerate housing opportunities during the pandemic. It digs into the key components of a housing-focused response including access, triage and assessment, prioritization, matching and referral, and other helpful tips—all with a COVID-19 lens. 
  • The Housing Action Group meets weekly to discuss homelessness outreach and response to housing challenges across Grey Bruce. Partners are dealing with a lot of eviction prevention and lack of vacancies in the area.  Noting that some motels have increased rents. 
  • Food delivery has been set up by partners (YMCA, OSHaRE, UW, Habitat for Humanity and Grey County) to reach people housed in motels.
  • The YMCA Housing has housed 74 people (382 nights of shelter) from 1 April to 30 April 2020. 
  • Federal and Provincial Housing Benefits have been topped up as of April 1st and Grey County and Bruce County Housing is working through their wait lists. 

INCOME SUPPORTS

  • Canada Child Benefit: families will receive a one-time additional payment of $300 per child. 
  • Social Services Emergency Benefit: effective Friday, May 1, the government will be extending the Emergency Benefit as a monthly benefit for three months (i.e. May, June and July 2020).  
  • The extended Emergency Benefit is intended to provide emergency financial support for special services, items or payments to address health and safety issues related to COVID-19 to social assistance benefit units not in receipt of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). 
  • Recipients who have received the March/April Emergency Benefit and who qualify for the extended benefit will automatically receive the extended benefit in May, June, and July.
  • Exception: Consistent with the treatment of earned income for youth under 18, adults in full-time secondary school, and full-time post-secondary students, the CERB will be treated as fully exempt for these benefit unit members. These CERB payments will not impact eligibility for the Emergency Benefit. 
  • New Emergency Benefit applicants will need to request the benefit and outline their COVID-19 related needs. It will not be issued proactively.  
  • While verification of costs is not required, caseworkers should use their discretion to confirm that clients are facing extraordinary expenses before issuing the benefit.  The type of expense will need to be recorded. Examples of these expenses include: PPE, cleaning supplies for those who have a household member who is COVID19+ , delivery costs of food, medical supplies, etc. while self-isolated or quarantined, travel costs to pick up essentials.
  • Clients will be asked to provide information on their need for the benefit. A flat monthly rate of $100 for singles and $200 for families may be issued to all eligible benefit units. 

MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORTS

Roadmap to Wellness: A Plan to Build Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions System, was launched which offers access to standardized, high-quality care and supports in communities across Ontario.

Child and Youth Mental Health Day (May 7th): the government has given additional funding to programs such BounceBack and Kids Help Phone.  

SUPPORTS FOR PEOPLE WHO USE DRUGS

Alison Govier has compiled many resourceson the Community Drug & Alcohol Strategy website.  

Wellness Together Canada, is a new online portal that provides Canadians with free resources, tools, and professional support services to help with wellness and resilience, as well as mental health and substance use.  

Addiction Services at CMHA Grey Bruce remains open, providing services online, over the phone and in some cases face-to-face. Group programming is canceled until further notice. 

The Rapid Assessment & Addiction Medicine (RAAM) Clinic & the Withdrawal Management Program at Grey Bruce Health Services remain open to clients at this time. Call (519) 376-3999.

The Methadone Clinic (Ontario Addiction Treatment Centre) in Owen Sound remains open, with social distancing measures in place. Call 1-877-937-2282 or 519-371-0007.

The Needle Exchange and Naloxone Distribution at Grey Bruce Public Health remain open. Harm Reduction supplies can also be obtained at GB Works Needle Syringe Program locations across the counties. 

Some Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings have moved to online platform. AA – http://aa-intergroup.org/directory.php NA – https://georgianheartlandna.org/

For professional cessation support for smoking or vaping, call the Smoker’s Help line at 1-877-513-5333 or visit Smoker’s Help line website.

Talk Tobacco is an Indigenous Program to Quit smoking and Vaping through Smoker’s Helpline:  For help and information on quitting smoking, and vaping and commercial tobacco use call 1 833 998-8255 (TALK).

FOOD SUPPORTS

Food Security Action Group: 15 members of the group met on Friday, May 1st to discuss distribution logistics, challenges and management of food banks, community meal programs and community gardens. The group shall meet biweekly via zoom. The next meeting is Friday, May 15th, 10am-11:30am. 

Community Meal Program: while we have seen a steady flow of people visiting food banks, a significant demand for community meal programs has seen 12,053 meals served from March 15th to May 1st, 2020 – a 297% increase compared to pre-pandemic meals. The United Way BG has compiled a snapshot from just 5 programs but we know that there are other meal programs that have contributed hundreds more. 

Digital Community Plant Sale: under COVID19, we are seeing garden centres open up and people are being encouraged to grow food at home. The Meaford Community Gardens grows organic food for the local food bank – Golden Town Outreach. They have gone online with a Seedling Plant Sale with delivery service. 

The Federal government announced today they will be bulk purchasing food to distribute to food banks to support the food and agriculture industry. 

Stay well,  Jill

Respect, validation & listening: Fall Food Gathering 2018

Food Security and Mental Health
Alison Govier and Dave Roy from CMHA-GB shared with us mental health strategies, data, services and programs in Grey Bruce.

Our 2nd Annual Grey Bruce Fall Food Gathering on September 20th brought together food system players to connect, collaborate, share, and learn.

The Grey Bruce Sustainability Network and the Food Security Action Group of the Poverty Task Force focused this year’s event on the intersections between food, mental health, and the environment.

People with mental health experiences are members of our family and community therefore we all have a role to play in mental health. “The problem is the problem – not the person.” shared Dave Roy of CMHA-Grey Bruce.  “We need to respect, validate and listen to people.”

It is important that people come to our community food hubs and know that they have been heard.   While Dave Roy and Alison Govier shared with us Where to Begin with mental health services and programs in Grey Bruce – they also helped to “de-expert” our roles.

A rapid fire sharing sessions highlighted the work of several community food centres – Bruce Botanical Gardens in Ripley,  The Salvation’s Army’s Community Hub in Wiarton and the Walkerton & District Food Bank.  Creative and practical ideas were shared on second harvesting, engagement with super markets, fresh food purchase and distribution; food/plant education, local stewardship of plants and community engagement.

The afternoon session was a hands-on visit to the CMHA-GB Community Food Forest and Gardens in Owen Sound. The Food Forest has been a community hub for 4 years. It includes a fruit orchard, some 130 raised garden beds for vegetables, herbs and other edible plants and a new edible labyrinth. CMHA Grey Bruce employs 12 clients as gardeners and they help plant, tend and harvest the crops. The fruit and vegetables are sold at local markets and used in a community brunch program that provides nutritional meals to about 60 people daily, Monday to Friday.  A special thank you to Teresa Pearson and Thomas Dean for the educational tour and our lunch which was provided by their Fresh Roots Cafe and Catering with produce from the gardens.

The Poverty Task Force’s 2018 Election Education campaign was shared and members were encouraged to ensure food security-related data captured in From Bandaids-to-Bridges: moving forward with Community Food Centres is raised with municipal candidates. The creation of a new Agri-Asset Map for Grey County now includes the the Grey Bruce Food Security Assets data and people are encouraged to ensure they are on the map!

A long list of collaborative ideas were generated. The final commentary for the day centered on the need and support for these kinds of gatherings even more often than once-a-year. It was noted that the Food Security Action Group of the Poverty Task Force meets monthly and would be a good place for anyone interested in these issues to attend.

 

 

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!

 

Food Charter Promoted To Municipal Leaders


Grey Bruce Public Health and Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force are working together to encourage munipalities across Grey and Bruce to endorse and take action on the Bruce Grey Food Charter. 

Public Health Dietician Laura Needham has been on a roadtrip across Grey and Bruce Counties to speak about a just and sustainable local food system.  This is the collective vision of many members in the food security community and those who sit around the table of the Food Security Action Group of the Poverty Task Force (PTF).

Laura Needham, who is also the co-chair of the Food Security Action Group of the PTF says the Food Charter is a guiding document to assist in the development of policies and programs to promote a healthy and just food system in Grey and Bruce Counties.

In a recent article by Robyn Garvey of Bayshore Broadcasting News Centre Laura gives examples of how to use the Food Charter by municipalities:

“For municipalities this could be a simple as creating a community garden and planting fruit bearing trees in parks to promoting the region as a food, agricultural and culinary destination. ” She says “this also includes promoting sustainable development of agriculture, water, land use policies and practices that support the production of healthy food.”

Needham says “this includes protecting and enhancing watersheds, wildlife, soil and bio-diversity. She adds the Food Charter is also about promoting a healthy lifestyle, saying municipalities can do this by creating walk-able and bike-able access to healthy food. Other ways municipalities can help is by promoting food literacy and encouraging skills building initiatives among youth.”

In 2017 and 2018 we have seen an increase in the number of municipalities in Grey and Bruce Counties endorsing the Food Charter.  Check out to see if your municipality or organization has endorsed the Food Charter!

Click on this link or go to: https://povertytaskforce.com/food-security/bruce-grey-food-charter to read the Food Charter and download the endorsement form.