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 SUPPORTS 

  • 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. 

OUTREACH CAMPAIGNS

  • #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. 

FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES

  • 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.  

HOUSING SUPPORTS

  • 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.   

INCOME SUPPORTS 

  • 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.  

NEWCOMER SUPPORTS

  • 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 

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

“Everyone at the Table” – Why a National Food Policy in Canada matters to us

Canada has a new road map for a more sustainable food system with the passing of A Food Policy for Canada  on June 17th. The national policy’s broad vision sets out to ensure all Canadians have access to enough safe, nutritious and culturally diverse food, and that our food system is resilient and innovative to sustain the environment and support the economy.

The Government received feedback from 45,000 Canadians during its pulic consultations and summarized its recommendations for further comments.   The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force submitted our comments on the policy – Canadian Food Policy PTF Response_30 Aug 2017.

The Budget 2019 included a funding line for food policy that allocated $134 million dollars for specific initiatives, as well as announcing federal leadership towards a National Healthy School Food Programme.

The policy builds and is inter-related with other Federal initiatives like the Heathy Eating StrategyCanada’s Food Guide, and the Poverty Reduction Strategy, as well as work on food fraudfood labelling, and food loss and waste, among others.

Our Bruce Grey Food Charter reflects many of the same principles that are endorsed in the policy.

What is the policy?

The Food Policy for Canada will allow for improvements within our community. This policy will ensure that all people in Canada are able to access a sufficient amount of safe, nutritious and culturally diverse food. Canada’s food system will be resilient and innovative, sustain our environment, and support our economy. In Canada, our food is held to a high standard, and we know that these improvements will help in many ways.

The Food Policy for Canada will establish 4 areas for near-term action, including: 1) Help Canadian Communities Access Healthy Food; 2) Make Canadian Food the Top Choice at Home and Abroad; 3) Support Food Security in Northern and Indigenous Communities; and 4) Reduce Food Waste.

  • Investments – 134 Million under Federal Budget 2019:
    • Local Food Infrastructure Fund, $50 million – To support a wide range of community-led projects (eg., greenhouses, community freezers) that aim to improve access to safe, healthy, and culturally diverse food.
    • Northern Isolated Community Initiatives Fund, $15 million.
    • Buy Canadian Promotion Campaign, $25 million – To promote Canadian agricultural products thanks to a new Canada Brand, and through online and in-store Buy Canadian marketing campaigns.
    • Reducing Food Waste, $26.3 million – Working with experts to develop a challenge to fund the most innovative food waste reduction proposals in food processing, grocery retail, and food service.
    • Tackling Food Fraud, $24.4 million – To aid CFIA in cracking down on mislabeling and misrepresentation of food products.
    • Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council – An advisory council to the government will be formed with diverse expertise and perspectives to address the complex issues of the food system through collaborative action.
    • National School Food Program – Join with the provinces and not-for-profit organizations to address the issue of child hunger at school.

How will the policy impact us as a rural community?

With 1 in 5 children in Grey and Bruce Counties in poverty, it is clear that we need to find affordable and healthy food to fuel our children. It is hard for children to be successful if they are focusing on how hungry they are. The National Food School Program is a key part of this new policy, and kids in this area could greatly benefit from this. Food bank usage is increasing across the 22 Food Banks that serve our communities in Grey County and Bruce County.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture advocates for an economically sound and sustainable agri-food industry as a pre-requisite for delivering on food security.  Their analysis  provides more details on implications for sustainable practices for our local Grey Bruce agriculture production.  The policy will help our smaller, agriculture-based communities thrive.