Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 40

Dear Colleagues, 

Well, we knew it was bound to happen but we were not sure that it would impact us here in Grey County and Bruce County.  But the Ontario government has announced a lockdown from December 26th, 2020 to January 21st, 2021 for all of Ontario.

While we have shared out with everyone some emergency housing and Christmas assistance (community meals, food bank and toys) programs in last week’s update, we are now including lockdown updates for social programs starting December 26th, 2020.  

Please call 211 or search http://informationbrucegrey.ca/ for the latest updates. We shall also endeavour to update our Poverty Task Force COVID19 Resource Page. 

Thank you to everyone who has spread so much Christmas cheer at this time of the year!  And who have been working for so many months. Deep breaths. We can keep going and serving our community!  #togetherwearestrong #greybrucestrong  


  • Bruce County Human Services: Bruce County offices are closed from 12noon on Dec 24th – Jan 4th.  Staff are available for emergencies from Dec 29th – 31st (1-800-265-3002). As per the Provincial Shutdown their offices will be open by essential appointment only until Jan 24th.
  • Grey County Social Services: Grey County offices are closed from  12noon on Dec 24th through to Jan 4th. Ontario Works and Children’s Services will take emergency calls from Dec 29th – 31st (519-376-7112, press 2). And Housing Services at: 
  • Grey Bruce Schools: are closed for holidays and returning to online schooling on January 4th, 2021. Elementary school students are planned to be able to return to in-person learning on January 11, 2021. Secondary school students will continue learning remotely until January 25, 2021, at which point they may resume in-person learning.  
  • In January 2021, students aged 13 through Grade 12 will be eligible for funding under an expanded Support for Learners program. Parents or guardians will receive a one-time payment of $200 per eligible student to help offset education expenses. Support will be available for those who attend a public or private school or who are homeschooled.  
  • Application instructions will be available on the Support for Learners web page starting in January 2021.  Secondary school student applications will be open from January 11, 2021 to February 8, 2021. 
  • Support for Learners for children/youth aged 0 to 12 and for children/youth aged 0 to 21 with special needs is currently open and the application deadline has been extended to February 8, 2021.
  • Childcare programs will remain open. Before and after school programs are not allowed to operate from January 4-8, and may not charge fees or penalize families during this time. Emergency childcare will be provided for some essential workers.
  • COVID 19 Energy Assistance: The government announced it will hold electricity prices to the off-peak rate of 8.5 cents per kilowatt-hour for all time-of-use and tiered customers on a temporary basis starting January 1, 2021. 
  • This low rate will be available 24 hours per day, seven days a week for a 28-day period. The off-peak price will automatically be applied to bills of all residential, small business, and farm customers who pay regulated rates.  
  • COVID 19 Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) Any residential, small business, or registered charity customer with an overdue electricity or natural gas bill will now be eligible to apply to CEAP. 
  • A residential customer can receive up to $750 to help cover their electricity bill and an additional $750 for their natural gas bill. 
  • Small businesses can receive up to $1500 for each. Newly eligible customers can apply for these enhanced benefits through their local utility, starting in January 2021.  
  • Mobility for Good For Seniors: TELUS has launched a new program for seniors who receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and can provide an Old Age Security Statement. 
  • They are eligible for: A free smartphone and a $25/month plan that includes unlimited nationwide talk/text and 3GB of data. This offer is contract-free. Seniors who take advantage of the offer can cancel at any time without incurring additional fees. 


  • 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
  • The Salvation Army food truck will be providing Christmas meals from the OSHaRE parking lot in Owen Sound from 11:30-1pm on Dec 25th. 
  • OSHaRE was preparing 100-120 meals a day. Recent grants have allowed them to purchase new equipment and enough pots, pans and supplies to cook 300-350 meals a day.  This has made things easier on their staff and volunteers; as well as expanding their ability to support programs outside of Owen Sound.   
  • Curbside services: under lockdown, many food services will be moving back to curbside services.  We are in the midst of updating our lists but the following contact information will remain the same:  
  • Grocery Stores in Grey Bruce (April 2020)
  • Pet Resources Grey Bruce (April 2020)
  • Tamarack Institute blogged about the work of Grey Bruce community meals and food banks collective work and the data collected.  


  • Safe N Sound will remain open as a drop-in centre during the lockdown.  They will be open from 9am-3pm and 5pm-9pm, M-F. 
  • CMHA Community Connections and H.O.W. GB are both open in Owen Sound and across Bruce and Grey.  Outreach, Residential and Group services will continue to operate status quo. The hours at both sites are 8:30am-4:30pm.
  • YMCA Community Initiatives – Emergency Shelter remains open. Please contact 211 (24 hrs/7 days/week) and/or 519-371-9230 x 5 to reach a YMCA Housing Stability Worker, M-F, 8:3am-4:30pm.
  • Grey Bruce Public Health: harm reduction services are running except for Dec 25th, Jan 1st. 
  • CMHA Mental Health & Addictions Outreach Supports: services can be accessed through CMHA Grey Bruce at 519-371-2390, M-F, 8:30am-4:30pm.  Please call the emergency mental health crisis line at: 1-877-470-5200. 
  • Hope for Wellness Indigenous Hotline: for traditional health during crisis contact: 1-855-242-3310. 
  • Housing Support List (August 2020)


  • The Community Foundation Grey Bruce and the United Way Bruce Grey awarded their second round of Emergency Community Support Fund to local programs.   
  • The Ontario government announced today it is providing nearly $41 million to help 486 non-profit organizations across the province to rebuild and recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. These grants are part of the first round of funding through the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s Resilient Communities Fundwhich closed for applications on December 9th, 2020. 

Stay well, Jill

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 19

Dear Colleagues, 

We have passed day 100 and we continue to provide emergency services to our community.  Partners have been gathering statistics and stories and we are beginning to put these into reports. 

Canadian-wide data reports have been compiled on the COVID19 impact: 

  • The Mental Health Commission of Canada and the Conference Board of Canada released the survey results on how COVID-19 has impacted Canadians’ mental health. 84% of people surveyed reported that since the onset of COVID19, their mental health concerns had worsened. The biggest mental health concerns were: family well-being, one’s future, isolation/loneliness and anxiousness/fear. 
  • Stats Can just released Food insecurity before and during the COVID-19 pandemic , 2017/2018 and May 2020 and “Food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic, May 2020,” published as part of the series StatCan COVID-19: Data to Insights for a Better Canada 
  • As the pandemic continues to affect employment and the economy, it raises questions about the state of housing markets and the design of our communities, along with calls for action to increase affordability and access. A Globe & Mail/CMHC webcast will bring together experts to outline the impacts of the pandemic on housing, along with potential paths forward. Register today to join the webcast on Tuesday June 30th, 2020 from 1:30pm to 2:30pm EDT.


  • In the wake of Covid-19, our homeless community has struggled with practicing social isolation practices for their own well being while having to travel to food services in order to eat to sustain their health. 
  • Our housing and food security partners continue to support people housed in motels. The United Way Grey Bruce, OSHaRE, St. Aiden’s Church, Habitat for Humanity, YMCA Housing, Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre, M’Wikwedong Native Friendship Centre, Canadian Mental Health Association, Safe ‘n’ Sound, The Women’s Centre, Traveller’s Motel, Travelodge and Key Motel. 
  • As of June 23, YMCA Housing ensured 78 meals in April, 834 meals in May and 814 meals in June were delivered to people. Contact Rachel Paterson, rachel.paterson@osgb.ymca.ca.
  • For women fleeing violence please contact The Women’s Centre Grey Bruce. 
  • For Indigenous community members experiencing homelessness please contact housing workers at M’Wikwedong Indigenous Friendship Centre, Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre, YMCA Housing, or Safe ‘N Sound.   
  • Since April 1st, YMCA Housing has provided 1,346 nights of shelter, 142 households (208 individual placements), In June, 46 households were sheltered todate with 25 households currently being sheltered. 
  • In partnership, the YMCA Housing, Owen Sound Police, Bylaw and CMHA have visited new tent encampments in Owen Sound for wellness checks.   
  • Bruce County Housing is taking applications for a new 35 unit build in Kincardine with a planned occupancy in January 2021. 
  • Grey Bruce Health Unit has updated the Guidelines for Community Food Programs and Guidance for Food Delivery (June 16th). 
  • The Grey Bruce Good Food Box  has 19 locations. Most will be closed over the summer but several will be running – Teeswater, Lucknow and Chatsworth.  Lucknow distributed 250 in June and Owen Sound 111. 
  • The Grey Bruce Good Food Box received a grant from Bruce County and they will be purchasing supplies (new bins, baskets, cleaning supplies, etc), upgrading management systems and providing trainingning to all sites on operating under COVID19 with the aim of have more sites open in the September. 




  • The Community Drug and Alcohol Strategy members have been focused on COVID19 medical response but anticipate returning to increasing the time devoted to harm reduction programming soon.   Naloxone kits are available from Grey Bruce Public Health. And Public Health has joined the police to do wellness checks on residences where there have been overdoses. 
  • Safe ‘N Sound and the United Way have partnered to collect Sharp containers – 955 needles were collected in the first 4 days of starting up this initiative.  
  • M’Wikwedong IFC housing staff are working with complex cases of people being evicted from motels (temporary housing) due to addictions. This remains a problem in communities. 

The United Way office will be closed next Wednesday to Friday and many staff, including myself, shall be on holiday.  So there will be no Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update next week. 

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 17

Dear Colleagues, 

Around various tables we have been having open conversations about how communities are beginning to plan for recovery. 

Discussing that the “old normal” was not meeting the basic needs of so many individuals and families we work with, therefore the ‘new normal’ needs to not only function under ongoing pandemic conditions but it needs to address pre-COVID19 issues.   

On a recent Mid-Ontario Rural Convenor Call for Poverty Roundtables (hosted by Tamarack), we had an open conversation about how rural Ontario communities are beginning to plan for recovery and seek to build a “new normal”. 5 highlights from our discussion were:

  • Everyone is doing things a bit differently, but we are all partnering in community recovery. Examples include: researching gaps and exploring our strengths for long-term planning; and supporting food security, housing, and social service operations in recovery. 
  • The collaborative nature of rural communities has been a real strength in the COVID-19 response, as people have been working in this way for longer. 
  • Some food banks are adapting and expanding to larger community spaces and emergency services. How do we sustain these operations once COVID19 government funding to individuals and organizations runs out and volunteer drivers go back to work? 
  • How do we reallocate new pop-up efforts in the food system so they strengthen the current supports, without discouraging them from what they had wanted to do? 
  • The major issues we will need to tackle are likely still the same things – they pre-dated and will continue to exist beyond COVID-19 (ex. transportation, housing and technology access).

There are many resources to assist us in re-opening and information on the recovery phase from a health and economic perspective. 

  • Reopening Grey Bruce and Ontario: effective Friday, June 12, the province will increase the limit on social gatherings from five to 10 people across the province.
  • Grey Bruce has moved to Re-opening Stage 2 
    • This allows the reopening of places of worship and a list of businesses, including restaurants (outdoor patios), hair salons and malls. 
    • It also allows child care centres and day camps to open. Both play an integral role in parents’ ability to return to the workforce. Strict public health regulations are being put in place for each service provider to meet the standards of care required. It will take time to ramp up logistics and safety protocols. In addition, we know that many daycare centres and day camps run out of public schools. And schools are currently closed. 
  • The COVID-19 section of the Grey Bruce Public Health website has recently beenupdated. It includes general COVID-19 information, inquiries, and resourcesinformation for health care providers and information on the recovery phase. 
  • Greater community engagement still requires us to maintain physical distancing during day-to-day activities, including with those in group gatherings. The Grey Bruce Health Unit reminds everyone that wearing a face covering is critical to decreasing the risk of COVID-19 spread when personal distancing is not possible.   
  • Dr. Ian Arra, strongly recommends: 
    • Retail employees wear cloth masks or other non-medical face coverings. 
    • Patrons at retail settings wear cloth masks or other non-medical face coverings  
  • The Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee wants to hear directly from people and organizations from all regions and sectors to help inform the next steps in Ontario’s Action Plan in response to COVID-19. You can provide your input here.     


  • Food Bank Usage in Grey Bruce increased in March/April and has been steady or slight decline in May/June. A recent Food Banks Canada Survey of 30-40 Food Bankswith lower numbers attributed this to: 1) people didn’t realize the local food bank was open, 2) anxiety about coming out and felt unsafe to visit, and 3) income supplements from the government has reduced the need. 
  • Community meal programs are on the increase. OSHaRE saw roughly 1,000 additional meals distributed in May. 
  • Some 600+ meals from OSHaRE were delivered to motels with people housed by YMCA housing. 
  • Bulk purchases: 12,000 rolls of toilet paper were distributed to food banks/community food meal programs by the United Way as well as gloves, sanitizer, plastic bags and containers. Remaining stock will be distributed, as needed. The United Way will no longer do bulk purchases and distribution but instead will connect smaller organizations with wholesale distributors since the chain of procurement has been established. 
  • More Good Food Boxes opened in May/June i.e. Dundalk and Kincardine. Port Elgin is expected to re-open in September. We continue to see an increase in the number of boxes ordered. Owen Sound increased from 90 to 130 boxes in May. However, most programs don’t operate in July/August. 


  • #heretohelpGB:  211 data analyst conducted a call comparison between May 2019 and May 2020, for caller needs related to the topic areas of this campaign. Of the 374 calls to 211 from Bruce Grey residents in May 2020, 18% were related to needs identified in the campaign – this was a 4% increase from May 2019.
  • WES for Youth online: during the month of May, 111 new Ontario youth (ages 13-24) were registered; average age of 17, offered support regarding isolation, anxiousness and post secondary unknowns. Scheduled over 147 hours of counseling serving The Shoreline, Trenton and Ingersol. 


  • Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF): accepting funding applications every Thursday by 4pm. The fund provides financial support to non-profits/charities adapting their frontline services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Grants can be used for a variety of purposes, including to cover staffing or resource needs, purchase assistance and more. Funding will be for programming starting in July 2020 to March 2021. Funding will be issued on an ongoing basis through July 2020, as funds permit. First Nation and Indigenous communities are eligible to apply. Visit Community Foundation Grey Bruce and United Way of Bruce Grey or contact Stuart Reid, Executive Director CFGB, 519-371-7203 and Francesca Dobbyn, Executive Director UWBG, 519-376-1560
  • Grey County and Bruce County Housing Emergency Fund
  • Applications for Stage 2 of the Local Food Infrastructure Fund (LFIF) – a five-year, $50 million initiative ending March 31, 2024. The program is part of the Government of Canada’s Food Policy which is Canada’s roadmap for a healthier and more sustainable food system in Canada. The LFIF objective is to strengthen food systems and to facilitate access to safe and nutritious food for at-risk populations.  


  • YMCA Emergency Housing: As we move into warmer temperatures we are seeing more movement of people into the area and new tent encampments. YMCA Housing is mapping encampments and working in partnership with Safe ‘N Sound and the police to support outreach activities.  
  • With some transportation services not operating i.e. Greyhound, housing partners are challenged with finding affordable transportation for people where housing is available or when people choose to return to a different community.  
  • While the YMCA Housing reports numbers are lower. April 634 nights compared to 343 nights in May. However, people remaining in shelter are staying longer and have much higher, complex needs. Both M’Wikwedong IFC and YMCA Housing continue to see a significant number of Indigenous people. 
  • Safe ‘N Sound and other housing partners continue to see an increase in drug use with a reported 250% increase in the use of needles in March/April compared to last year. Safe ‘N Sound distributed 49 naloxone kits, 37 crack kits, 106 meth kits and 900 needles in May. 
  • Safe ‘N Sound is providing space for COVID19 testing by Public Health amongst its homeless/drop-in population as well as anyone who wants to access the service this week.   
  • The Women’s Centre is working with strict quarantine protocols and newcomers must be quarantined upon entry. Some women and families are staying in hotels before entering the quarantine unit in the shelter before moving into another room. The shelter is looking at temporary alternative cooking arrangements so that more women/families can access cooking facilities.   


  • CERB Payments: Over 8 million Canadians claimed the benefit, according to Statistics Canada, despite data showing that only 5.5 million were jobless or had their hours slashed in the workplace. 
  • The Act Respecting Additional COVID-19 Measures would end payments to those who “fail to return to work when it is reasonable to do so and the employer makes a request for their return; fail to resume self-employment when it is reasonable to do so; or decline a reasonable job offer when they are able to work.”
  • Penalties could range from six months jail time, to fines of $5,000 and additional charges of “up to three times the amount claimed by fraud,” for a potential maximum of $24,000.
  • Concerns have been raised about ODSP clients who have received CERB and might have to make repayments. ODSP has received instructions that clients must pay back the full amount to CRA despite the fact that a portion has been clawbacked by ODSP at the time of payment. This leaves people on ODSP with a large debt to repay. Questions are being raised on a better way of repayments that don’t negatively impact ODSP clients. 
  • South Ontario Experience of Basic Income: McMaster University and the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction released a new report in March 2020 and today participants of the Ontario Basic Income Pilot were speaking to the members of the Senate.  
  • Basic Income & Gender Equity webinar: Gender equality is still far from being realized. In terms of economic parity, the World Economic Forum ranked women and girls in Canada 30 out of 153 countries this year. Now, COVID-19 is amplifying the fact that women are over-represented in precarious and low-wage work, are still the family’s unpaid primary caregivers, and are susceptible to domestic violence. Tamarack Institute and Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction are presenting Learn more and register here  onJune 18, 12-1pm. 
  • Tamarack Institute has also a Basic Income Resource Library.  


  • The Rural Pathways project (United Way of Bruce Grey and Welcoming Communities Grey Bruce) is currently looking for visible minority newcomer and immigrant women to test some online skill-building workshops that address employment barriers. 
  • An online survey / pre-registration is being conducted in June to find out the best days and times for the women to participate. Please share this link with the women who you think may be interested in testing the workshops:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/skill-building-workshops-survey.
  • The online skill-building workshops be testing are:
  1. Zoom Skills: How to use Zoom for learning, working and connecting with friends and families (one 75-minute session)
  2. Overcoming Social Barriers to Employment:  Learn how to identify and address cultural barriers and discrimination, and your rights in Canadian workplaces (one 75-minute session)
  3. Overcoming Language Barriers:  Learn how to overcome language barriers and access English learning resources (one 75-minute session)
  4. Get Your Qualifications and Experience Recognized: Learn how to have your overseas education, skills and work experiences recognized in Canada (one 75-minute session)
  5. in-depth skill-building workshop on Language Barriers (four 75-minute sessions over four consecutive weeks)
  • If any women have language barriers, Rural Pathways may be able to connect them with volunteer translators to assist them in completing the survey. Our volunteer translators are also available to assist newcomers and immigrants in working with service providers.   

Stay well, Jill