Rural Homeless Enumeration 2018

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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.

 

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Poverty reduction key to fairer, more prosperous Ontario

By: Sarah Blackstock Greg deGroot-Maggetti, Published on Wed Dec 04 20

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Five years ago this week, the Ontario government embarked on a bold and historic challenge to reduce child and family poverty across our province by 25 per cent by 2013. While it appears Ontario will fall short of its “25 in 5” target, the province has made some progress and laid three critical building blocks that should provide the foundation for its next five-year strategy, expected in early 2014.

The first building block was forged in understanding the connection between fairness and economic prosperity. Ontario should take a page from the response to the most recent economic downturn, where a rising consensus emerged – including World Bank economists and finance ministers of all political stripes – that fighting poverty is required to grow our economy.

Ontario’s 2008 maxim that “we need all hands on deck” to drive our province’s recovery rings as true today as it did then. In an increasingly competitive global economy, it is crucial that we maximize the potential of every Ontarian to both participate in and benefit from economic activity. In a time of fiscal challenges, governments must invest in pathways to opportunity or be saddled with rising costs in health care and social services borne of persistent poverty.

Ontario’s second building block against poverty comes from knowing that good intentions alone cannot sustain a long-term commitment to poverty. Clear goals backed up with a comprehensive strategy must be part of the roadmap to progress.

The government’s willingness to set a clear “25 in 5” target in 2008 came with political risk and took courage. While Ontario’s performance was far from perfect, it has led to tangible gains. Ontario’s child poverty rate of 13.8 per cent in 2011, the latest year for which Statistics Canada figures are available, was down from 15.2 per cent in 2008. This means 41,000 fewer children were living in poverty, a reduction of just over 9 per cent in three, economically challenging years.

Different choices would have undoubtedly led to better outcomes, especially for households without children. But substantial early investments in policies like the new Ontario Child Benefit, refundable tax credits for low income people, and minimum wage hikes show that smart social policy works. Or at least as much as you are willing to invest in it.

The next plan must raise the bar. It should seek to cut poverty among all Ontarians in half by 2018, achieving a reduction in the overall poverty rate in Ontario to below 6 per cent and the child poverty rate to below 7.5 per cent.

The third building block for Ontario’s next poverty reduction strategy is building momentum by starting strong.

Five years ago, Ontario did not flinch in the face of a recession. The government immediately accelerated investments in the Ontario Child Benefit. It increased minimum wages when workers needed them most. It moved quickly to entrench poverty reduction into legislation. It invested in community services in priority neighbourhoods. And it revised legislation on worker protections and predatory lending practices within the first year of the plan.

These down payments were critical in achieving initial gains against poverty. They also put real money in the hands of real people to spend in their communities, providing stimulus to a battered economy.

But Ontario has not always carried through with as much vigour as the challenge of poverty requires. Case in point was the 2012 decision to eliminate the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB), a modest fund intended to provide a life-line to Ontarians at risk of homelessness.

As the next five-year blueprint is set to be unveiled early in 2014, it is time for Ontario to raise the bar on poverty reduction, starting with a substantial down payment as a building block for success.

Such a down payment should increase social assistance, the Ontario Child Benefit and the minimum wage, to build on gains from the initial strategy.

Addressing the need for affordable housing is key. As municipalities struggle with the repercussions of the CSUMB cut, Ontario should shore up its commitment to the most vulnerable by making transitional housing and homelessness funding permanent. And the government should also match federal housing funding commitments.

Action to resolve the growing precariousness of jobs is another urgent step to take to achieve fairness while helping to drive the economy.

But so much more needs to be done. The 2008 Poverty Reduction Strategy opened the door for substantive action. It’s now time to act boldly toward eradicating poverty in our province by investing in a prosperity agenda that benefits us all.

Sarah Blackstock of YWCA-Toronto and Greg deGroot-Maggetti of Mennonite Central Committee Ontario represent the 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction.

Housing First, Women Second? Gendering Housing First

Homes for Women, a campaign to prevent, reduce, and ultimately end the homelessness of women and girls in Canada is concerned that the existing gender gap in research examining Housing First models will influence the allocation of almost $600 million – $119 million over 5 years – committed by the federal government in Budget 2013 to programs on the Housing First model. Homes for Women recommends adoption of the following measures to help ensure implementation of Housing First funding reduces the homelessness of women and girls.

Gender Considerations In Housing First Models for Those Experiencing Chronic Homelessness

Violence plays a central role in shaping the pathways into homelessness for women and girls and once homeless, it is an ever-present reality of life on the street.2 Attempting to avoid the violence of the male-dominated streets, many women and girls cycle in and out of abusive relationships, trade sex for temporary accommodation, and stay in unsafe and overcrowded housing. Their homelessness is less visible than that of men. To ensure their success for women, the ubiquity of violence in the lives of homeless women and girls and the reduced visibility of their homelessness must inform all of our strategies and models for ending homelessness. This holds particular implications for Housing First models.

For the full Brief from the Homes for Women Campaign see: Housing First, Women Second FINAL

Rain won’t stop homeless campout

OWEN SOUND – As preparations were made Friday for Safe ‘n Sound’s second annual overnight campout to raise awareness and some money to combat homelessness, the rain started.

Organizers want to remind people that some around us do camp in all kinds of weather because they have to. Richard Suchow, the manager at the downtown drop-in and homeless referral agency, plans to pitch tarps, a tent and camp behind the centre at 310 8th St. E.

“We’ll brave the elements as long as we’re able to do that without being ridiculous and freezing to death,” Suchow said as the rain already started to fall over the lunch hour. “Where unlike true homelessness, we can go in and get warm and come back out.”

The centre will be open all night to support campers, who may simply wrap themselves in blankets and sleeping bags and sit on chairs through the night, Suchow said.

He and three other volunteers, Bill Baker, Shawn McMann and Lynn Dilworth, sat on a bench behind the centre with sleeping bags in hand and talked about homelessness and what they’re trying to do about it.

The citizen-led agency opened in spring, 2009. It offers a place to meet, lockers to store belongings and get help accessing resources. Arrangements for after-hours emergency shelter are made here too.

Safe ‘n Sound receives $2,000 per month from Grey County to help cover expenses but the operation runs mostly on volunteers.

Baker is responsible for the storeroom where donated clothing and toiletries are given to people in need. He said local people are very generous. He planned to hand out available sleeping bags Friday night.

McMann is currently couch surfing and declined to discuss his personal circumstances. But he volunteers at the centre and does Dilworth, who was homeless 2 1/2 years ago after a marital breakup left her with little more than a backpack of belongings. Now she accommodates homeless people on her couch and even in a tent and in her backyard.

Suchow said the agency always needs money and volunteers in a variety of capacities, including web design and even someone with a truck to pick up donations. But the educational part of Friday night’s event is just as important, he said.

“Unfortunately, when you’re in poverty and homelessness the people feel less of themselves.

And they really feel like they’re under the microscope,” Suchow said. And so, he said, homeless people are often apologetic when caught sleeping in stairways and bank machine enclosures.

“I think it’s because people don’t understand homelessness. And so they don’t realize this isn’t a bad person because they are homeless. That we see middle-class families in some cases have lost everything. It just happens.”

Saturday morning at the Queen’s Park bandstand along 1st Ave. W., speakers will talk about homelessness, Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MP Larry Miller will make an appearance and Owen Sound Mayor Deb Haswell is scheduled to make remarks about 10 a.m.

To donate money online, go to Canadahelps.org and search Safe ‘n Sound Residence. To learn about volunteer opportunities or to arrange to donate materials, call 519-470-7233.

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