Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 75

Dear Colleagues, 

On Monday, October 18, Grey County and Bruce County are working with community partners to conduct a one-day survey for individuals experiencing homelessness. Everyone counts. They want to hear from those who are sleeping on the street, couch surfing, or temporarily housed.

This review will be a point-in-time count that provides a snapshot of the number of people experiencing homelessness in both Counties. The information provided will help both Counties better understand the current scope of homelessness in the area and data will be used to inform future decisions around needed supports and services.

  • Organizations/agencies/community members are asked for their help in directing people to various hub sites where staff and volunteers will be able to meet with individuals experiencing homelessness. 
  • Anyone experiencing homelessness is asked to complete the survey. 
  • Information collected will remain anonymous. 
  • The enumeration will collect demographic information using a set of standard questions.The same survey is being used by both Counties. 
  • All participants will receive a gift card as thanks for supporting the survey. 
  • Volunteers will be available to answer questions and help connect people with available supports.   
  • The survey can also be completed by phone by calling 516-376-5744.
  • For more information about the housing and homelessness survey, please contact josh.gibson@grey.ca or tdickson@brucecounty.on.ca 


Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 71

Dear Colleagues

The province has announced it will require people to be fully vaccinated and provide proof of vaccination status to access certain businesses and settings starting September 22, 2021. The province has published a Frequently Asked Questions page.

All Ontarians who registered their vaccines are encouraged to download their vaccine receipt or print their vaccine receipt from the provincial booking portal, or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Booking Line at 1-833-943-3900 as proof of their vaccine status until an enhanced vaccine certificate with a QR code is available.

  • Ontarians will be required to show their vaccine receipt when entering designated settings along with another piece of photo identification, such as a driver’s licence or health card. 
  • These mandatory requirements will not apply to settings where people receive medical care, food from grocery stores, medical supplies, etc.  
  • The province is working to establish a process to prove vaccination status for people with no email, health card or ID, as well as support the implementation of vaccine certificates for Indigenous communities.
  • Ontario will support the implementation of vaccine certificates for Indigenous communities whether or not they have opted to enter their data into COVax, while maintaining Indigenous data governance, control, access and possession principles.

Many concerns have been raised around ways to ensure people who are transient or homeless will not be discriminated against. 

  • In Quebec, the province says homeless people will be exempt from the requirement to present a vaccination passport to access restaurant dining rooms and patios, as well as food courts in shopping malls, for example. However, it’s not clear how people will prove they are homeless. 
  • Several articles have been written on respecting the rights of people experiencing homelessness and challenges with living on the streets. In BC, they are also raising the issue of access to vaccine passports for people who are homeless and how this will make life more difficult. 

In Grey and Bruce County, agencies have supported people to get vaccinated and are supporting the printing out vaccine receipts. As we move forward with an Ontario Vaccine Passport, please consider how this affects the most vulnerable people that we support in our communities. 

WORKPLACE VACCINATION POLICY

  • The Grey Bruce Medical Officer of Health is recommending that local employers develop a workplace vaccination policy to protect their workers and the public from COVID-19. A workplace vaccination policy will identify the organizational expectations with regards to COVID-19 immunization of employees. The Health Unit has posted some recommendations and policy templates: http://ow.ly/bGs350G3anC 
  • The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has shared the Vax Pass Tenets to assist businesses to develop an employee vaccination policy. https://occ.ca/wp-content/uploads/OCC-Vax-Pass-Tenets.pdf 
  • The Region of Peel has announced a new employee vaccination policy.  All Regional employees are to disclose and provide documentation of their COVID-19 vaccination status. Employees who are not fully vaccinated will be required to complete educational programming about the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccination. They will also need to provide regular negative COVID tests.

HEALTH EQUITY 

  • Poverty Task Force meeting: on Friday, September 17th we shall be taking a health equity lens to the work we do. The meeting is entitled “Talking health equity: moving from response to recovery: Dr. Rim Zayed, Grey Bruce Health Unit will start off our conversation. We have also invited Federal Candidates to join us. 
  • Temporary Sick Leave: Ontario has announced it will extend a temporary sick leave program for workers at the end of December 2021.Since April 2021, the province provides 3 paid days of sick leave to accommodate self-isolation requirements during the pandemic, reimbursing employers up to $200 per day for what they pay out.
  • Virtual urgent care services: under the pandemic the development of virtual hospital Emergency Rooms is something that might become a permanent tool for our local hospitals. While not in place now, discussions are underway on how to use them effectively at Grey Bruce Health Services. 
  • Virtual UrgentCareOntario.ca: several regional hospitals announced they are partnering in a joint pilot initiative to offer virtual urgent care services to residents of southwestern Ontario. This service offers patients located outside these hospital communities the opportunity to access urgent care without leaving home.

IMPACT OF PANDEMIC ON YOUTH 

  • YWCA Canada and YMCA Canada have embarked on a new project focused on responding to the impact of the pandemic on youth. Preventing a lockdown generation Report, 2021 outlines challenges faced by youth, ages 18 to 30 years old, in light of the pandemic, and proposes policy responses to ensure youth recover and are resilient in the face of future crises. 

HOUSING SUPPORTS

  • YMCA Grey Bruce Emergency shelter: From April 1, 2020 – March 31, 2021, the program has assisted more than 800 instances of emergency shelter for a total of 8,029 nights of emergency shelter. (Compared to 2019-2020 fiscal year with 2,731 nights of shelter). 
  • Grey Bruce By Names List has a total of 119 people who are experiencing homelessness. Of those, 56 are chronically homeless. 
  • The Social Services Relief Fund, Phase 3 still has remaining funds until December 2021. Organizations should contact Josh Gibson, Josh.Gibson@grey.ca or Tania Dickson, tdickson@brucecounty.on.ca

FOOD SECURITY SUPPORTS

  • Feeding Families – Restaurant Relief initiative has now wrapped up. 75 donors gave a total of $52,000 to more than 40 local restaurants who made close to 3,500 meals that were delivered to OSHaRE. OSHaRE shared these out through their own community meal program as well as to other meal programs across Grey Bruce. 
  • Dozens of the meals were also a vital component in assisting with Covid outbreaks at a Hanover rooming house and on Saugeen First Nation when large groups of people were asked to quarantine for at least 2 weeks.  
  • Meals2Motels: 11,366 meals from April 2020 to July 2021 were delivered to people sheltering in motels. 
  • Future of Food: local growers, agri-food processors and food businesses are invited to join area partners on September 22nd, 10am-12noon for a collaborative presentation on the Future of Food.  The presentation is followed by an interactive networking session for participants. This event is designed to provide our local agriculture and food sector with the high-level information they need to plan post-COVID. This is a FREE event, but registration is required. Space is limited. To register, visit www.eventbrite.ca/e/the-future-of-food-registration-164022936017

NEWCOMERS SUPPORTS

  • Grey Bruce Newcomers Welcoming Week are hosting a week of celebrations to showcase diverse communities across Grey-Bruce, to foster an inclusive community and welcome newcomers. The first annual “Welcoming Week” will be from September 10 to 19, 2021.  Learn more at: News & Events | Grey Bruce Local Immigration Partnership .

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 68

Dear Colleagues, 

Although the pandemic continues, the coordinated response has stabilized.  Therefore we are moving to bi-weekly Community Updates.  We shall continue to update our partners on available supports and highlight gaps in services and resources. 

We are seeing an increase in cases of low income working seniors with their GIS cut off or reduced in 2021. 

  • For single low income seniors, Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) benefits kick in if they make less than $18,984 annually, with a monthly maximum of $936. 
  • It appears that a senior receiving GIS, who would have had up to a $10,000 exemption in 2020 for employment and self-employment earnings, but who instead received only CERB, CRB, CRCB, CRSB or CESB, will lose their exemption, because these earnings are not classified as employment or self-employment earnings.
  • Most low income seniors who are also CERB recipients will lose at least 1/2 of their CERB payment because GIS is reduced by the CERB.
  • For many seniors, they used their pandemic benefits to catch up on bill payments, car repairs, etc. but they did not consider the impact of being CERB recipients to their GIS. 
  • COVID19 Related Rent Arrears Assistance: funding exists to support any low income tenants who are struggling to pay their rent due to COVID19 related issues.  Agencies can contact 2-1-1 to complete a referral form or go to: https://brucegrey.cioc.ca/record/GRE0080?Number=8

Policy discussions continue for reforms to EI and other supplement programs for a better system to respond to a national emergency. Open Policy Ontario – what happens nextBasic Income Canada

INCOME AND EMPLOYMENT SUPPORTS

  • Seniors One Time Payment: Starting the week of Aug. 16, the government will provide a one-time payment of $500 to every senior who will be 75 and over by the summer of 2022.
  • The She-Recovery Project report has sparked many organizations to increase support to women returning to the workforce.  
  • COVID-19-related job losses have been highest among racialized women, particularly Asian and Black women, as well as younger and lower-income women. 
  • Single mothers, Indigenous women, immigrant women, women with disabilities, rural women, transgender-identifying women, and other intersectional groups tend to also be experiencing greater financial consequences than most Ontarians
  • Women in Biz Network are offering FREE strategic support through a ‘She-covery’ Campaign to bring women back to the workforce.  
  • The Four County Labour Market Planning Board COVID19 impact survey on the workforce, particularly women, is still open. 
  • Getting Ahead: the virtual program completed its Refresh group with 9 participants from Bruce County and Grey County.  Contact the Adult Learning Centre, Bruce County or Grey County OW for registration for 2 Fall sessions. 
  • Canada Disability Benefit: 22% of all Canadians have disabilities. Of the 6.2 million Canadians who live with a disability, almost 30% live in poverty. Disability Without Poverty, a newly formed disability-led movement is advocating to make the federal government’s promise of a Canada Disability Benefit into a reality. 

HOUSING SUPPORTS

  • Canadian Mortgage and Housing Association (CMHA): has created a new Indigenous Advisory Council. The Council will co-create a reconciliation action plan to guide the review of their programs, policies and business processes. This will ensure that CMHC considers the unique needs of Indigenous peoples and addresses barriers to accessing our programs and services. If you have questions about the Indigenous Advisory Council or their work, please contact: reconciliation@cmhc.ca.
  • Golden Dawn received a grant for a feasibility study and is conducting a survey with North Bruce Peninsula residents, to better understand their senior care and housing needs. Go to: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/goldendawnsurvey
  • Sex for Rent: we are seeing more cases recently of tenants offering favours for discount rent or to maintain tenancy. A recent study in the US has sen an increase in sex for rent with “coronovirus poverty’.  Like human trafficking, this is a human rights issue but one that some tenants may need support to find alternative tenancy. Please connect with emergency housing supports and/or housing/shelter programs in Grey Bruce. 

FOOD SECURITY SUPPORTS

  • Food Grey Bruce: The 10 operating community meal programs saw their busiest month in June with more than 16,700 meals provided to food insecure and vulnerable people throughout Grey/Bruce. OSHaRE distributed just under 10,000 of those meals. OSHaRE has distributed 118,000 meals since the start of the pandemic.
  • 6,418.14 kilograms of food was diverted to meal programs and 13.61 kilograms was diverted to food banks from corporate sources via foodrescue in June 2021.
  • A total of 53,895.69 kilograms of food was diverted from Sept 2020 to June 2021.
  • 10,666 kilograms of food was distributed to 765 HHs by 17 food banks in June 2021.
  • A total of 138,166 kilograms of food was distributed to 9,442 HHS by 17 food banks from Sept 2020 to June 2021.
  • Meals2Motels: 535 meals were distributed to people sheltering in motels. A total of 10,793 meals have been distributed since April 2020. 

HARM REDUCTION 

  • Overdose Awareness Month: in August many actions are taking place to create more awareness.  More than 30 people in Grey Bruce have died from drug overdoses in Grey Bruce since just the start of the covid pandemic. Some communities are holding vigils and others are creating visible reminders. 
  • Community Drug and Alcohol Strategy (CDAS): After a presentation by the CDAS team on the nature of substance addiction and how more needs to be done to support sufferers, Grey County council agreed on July 23rd to look at what more the county could do. 
  • The presentation included 
    • statistics showing an escalating problem prior to COVID although the challenges have been compounded due to the pandemic. 
    • the response to date by partners 
    • overall costs attributable to substance-related harms including healthcare, lost productivity, criminal justice, and other direct costs.
    • The value of sharing lived experience about living with a substance use disorder was discussed as was the value of providing anti-stigma training, identifying and responding to an overdose, identifying when someone might be in withdrawal, and understanding that the need is individual. 
    • Treatment, safe drug supply and safe injection all need to be on the top of our public health and safe community discussions.
  • The Council commended the work done by the various organizations with limited funding, capacity and wait times, and improving the way services are provided. 
  • Safe N Sound Needle Syringe Program: since June of 2020 more than 37,000 “sharps” have been safely collected through a program created by Safe N Sound, the United Way, and Grey County. 
  • Community food programs have been encouraged to reach out to the Harm Reduction Team and to educate their staff/volunteers on how to deal with sharps. 

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 65

Dear Colleagues, 

Even before the pandemic hit, homelessness was known to take up to 25 years off a person’s life. Now, life has become even more precarious for those experiencing homelessness and a lack of housing options.  

Considered among the most vulnerable to the virus, people who are experiencing homelessness are 20 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19, 10 times more likely to receive intensive care, and more than 5 times more likely to die within 21 days of a positive test. (ICES & Lawson Health Research Institute, 2021)

A housing crisis, opioid crisis and the new Delta virus variant means people are living in very dangerous conditions. Thank you to all partners that are working to improve isolation conditions for people and to save lives.  

HOUSING SUPPORTS 

More than ever, please ensure that your teams are following all of the public health COVID 19 protection procedures.   

  • Safe N Sound: will be limiting service due to recent covid exposures. Their hours will remain in effect from 9:00am to 3:30pm, but will be curbside to hand out needed supplies, food or basic necessities. 
  • By-name List (as of 17 June 2021)
    • 84 homeless/49 chronically homeless 
    • 11 housed by agencies
    • 2 left the area (no contact in 90 days)
  • Indigneous Housing Support Program (as of 17 June 2021) 
    • 100 households, 144 individuals
    • 80 homeless/51 chronically homeless
    • 35 precariously housed
    • 11 elders/51 youth
    • 16 leaving institutions
  • Tiny Homes South Bruce PeninsulaCouncil has approved a town-initiated zoning bylaw amendment that includes eliminating minimum gross floor area requirements for homes beyond what’s set out in Ontario’s Building Code.
  • The City of Owen Sound has released an Housing Affordability Discussion Paper as part of its Official Plan. 
  • Recovery for All has launched its VOTE HOUSING campaign which advocates at the national level to increase investments in affordable housing and initiatives to address homelessness. 
  • Low Income Energy Network (LIEN) Annual Conference 2021 will be held on June 29, 2021, 3-5pm (via Zoom). This year’s conference will explore themes of energy equity, affordability and access. Registration is free, here
  • The Homeless Hub’s State of Systems Approaches Report explores how to prevent and end homelessness through an equitable, just and accountable framework of systems transformation.

RECONCILIATION

We are deeply saddened to hear of another horrific discovery of 751 unmarked graves of children. Our thoughts are with the Cowessess First Nation and all First Nation peoples of Saskatchewan and across Canada. #everychildmatters

  • A Day to Listen the Downie Wenjack Fund is hosting a series of stories, music and events to amplify Indigenous voices on June 30th. #dosomething 
  • M’Wikwedong IFC is offering a series of Youth Housing Workshops. Contact Rachel Paterson to register or for more info. ishp@mwikwedong.com

STRATEGIC PLANNING 

  • The Food Security Action Group will be meeting the Plan the Bruce team to give input into this Bruce County Strategic Plan.  Participate in an online survey at planthebruce.ca/communities to share your input.    
  • The Community Safety and Well Being Plan has been fully endorsed and released. Work begins now on assessment of Action Tables and the creation of county level and municipal action plans. 

INCOME SUPPORTS

  • National Guaranteed Basic Income Bill C-273 entered Second Reading on June 14th.  This is the first of 2 rounds of debate before the bill goes to a vote.  MPs from multiple parties debated the bill, most showing support and some raising questions about how to do it. 
  • The National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association, the National Indigenous Economic Development Board, and the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business released a study this week which shows Indigenous companies needed more financial help during the pandemic, but many struggled to find relief.
    • The survey of 825 Indigenous businesses found 72% wanted more financial support and 44% didn’t think they could operate until July without aid. 
    • More than half, who were surveyed between Dec. 18, 2020 and Fed. 1, 2021, and who needed assistance, applied for at least one government relief program.
    • 52% qualified, but 1/4 of those had difficulty meeting application criteria and almost half said financial requirements were a barrier to accessing aid.
    • NACCA’s Indigenous Business Stabilization Program has been extended to June 30th, 2021.
  • 2021 Financial Planner Canada Financial Stress Index was released. 
    • Amid the pandemic, nearly 2-in-5 of Canadians (38%) say money is their #1 source of stress, more so than personal health (26%), work (20%), or relationships (15%).
    • More than half (51%) of Canadians have lost sleep over money concerns
    • 1/3 (31%) say financial stress has caused health issues – an increase from 18% last year.
    • Nearly 1/2 (45%) say the COVID-19 pandemic has directly impacted their financial stress level. 

FOOD SUPPORTS 

  • Feeding Families – Restaurant Relief more than 70 donors (businesses, groups and individuals) gave $45,000 to 40 local restaurants who’ve made more than 3,000 meals for OSHaRE. This was the total as of June 17th but we expect it to be higher with the final totals. The relief effort has come to an end as restaurants focus on re-opening their businesses. However, OSHaRE continues to provide meals daily and you can make direct donations.

TRANSPORTATION SUPPORTS

  • City of Owen Sound Public Transit:  is completing a Transit Study and would like your participation in the survey.   Complete the survey and also forward to clients and families who may have an interest in having their voice heard. There are virtual stakeholder and public engagement meetings planned in June and August. Please go to the site to register. 

Stay well, Jill