Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 86

Dear Colleagues, 

When the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March 2020, the Tamarack Institute and its members – including the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force – had been celebrating Canada achieving the lowest level of poverty in the country’s history.  However, in 2020 and 2021 many of the successes around poverty and inequality reflected in Canada’s Official Poverty Dashboard have been reversed. 

  • Tamarack Institute’s Communities Ending Poverty Impact Report reports from community stories that income, housing and food insecurity have risen; there is a decrease in physical, mental and emotional well-being; and developmental losses for toddlers 6 years and under are being experienced. With the end of the CERB, emergency savings are depleted and the number of low income individuals and households are increasing. 
  • Children’s Mental Health Ontario reports a disturbing increase in mental health disorders of children and youth through the pandemic. Many are dealing with complex mental health issues beyond anxiety and depression. 
  • Enhanced access to customary care arrangements: the provincial Government is taking action to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous children and youth in the care of children’s aid societies through amendments to Ontario’s Child, Youth and Family Services Act so children and youth can remain closer to home, helping ensure they remain connected to their culture and traditions.

HOUSING SUPPORT

  • Housing Outcome for Rural and Urban (Off Reserve) Indigenous Peoples: has released a new Research Insight report. The project revealed 4 outcomes, which are described in detail in the Research Insight:
    • Among Indigenous peoples, perceived general and mental health is better for homeowners. The same holds true for those with affordable and adequate housing.
    • Indigenous youth living in multigenerational households are less likely to attend school. This is mitigated by homeownership and housing suitability and increased household income.
    • Homeownership is associated with a greater likelihood of participating in the labour force and having full-time employment.
    • Indigenous children living in subsidized rentals are most likely to speak an Indigenous language regularly at home. This is followed by children living in market rentals and then by those in owned dwellings.
  • M’Wikwedong Indigenous Housing Support Program: are seeing on average 95 clients/month. 
  • YMCA Housing: provided 1,048 nights for 141 households housed in February 2022. 
  • Safe N Sound: in 2021, SNS gave out 200+ tents and over 1,000 sleep bags.  A reminder that there are laundry facilities at SNS and laundry soap available. Over the next 6 weeks, South East Grey CHC will be carrying out drop-off income tax clinics with guests.  
  • Homelessness Prevention Program: the provincial government is investing an additional $25 million annually to help more people experiencing or at risk of homelessness find the right housing services and other supports. As of April 1, 2022,  three existing programs will be combined: Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative, Home for Good, and the Strong Communities Rent Supplement Program. The new investments can be used to fund the operation of supportive housing units created through the province’s $1 billion Social Services Relief Fund (SSRF).
  • Grey County Housing Task Force: received a report today on progress of new supported housing build and exploring the use of public land for housing. 

ADDICTION SUPPORT

  • Naloxone Kits in the workplace:  the provincial government has introduced legislation that will require workplaces that are at risk of a worker opioid overdose to have naloxone kits.
  • Needle Syringe Program site at Grey Bruce Health Unit (101 17th St E Owen Sound) has reopened. Open 8:30am-4:00pm, Monday to Friday.

FOOD SECURITY SUPPORT

  • Love You No Matter What tailgate soup kitchen; are now providing meals for up to 80 people each Sunday both downtown Owen Sound as well as at area motels. Since November 2021, they have served about 750 meals. 
  • Eat Local Grey Bruce: has found a new home in Meaford. 
  • School food literacy: the provincial government announced food literacy will be mandatory for all Ontario students in grades 1-12 to ensure that students are given opportunities to grow food, prepare food and learn about local foods. 

DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION SUPPORT 

SENIORS SUPPORT 

  • Seniors Community Grant Program the provincial government announced funding of $6 million in 2022-23 for seniors-based projects that help Ontario’s seniors stay safe, healthy, active and connected to families and friends in their communities. Applications are open until April 28, 2022, at Ontario.ca/getfunding for community organizations, municipalities and Indigenous organizations. 

TRANSPORTATION SUPPORT

  • Ontario Good Roads ConferenceBruce and Grey counties will be requesting delegations with the Minister of Infrastructure at the 2022 Ontario Good Roads Conference to talk about the challenges of providing public transportation in rural communities. 
  • The delegation and request to the minister would ask the Ontario Government to investigate and report back on the potential to extend the Community Transportation Program, with the aim of developing a comprehensive Provincial Rural Transit program.
  • Ad Hoc Transportation Action Group: The Poverty Task Force will be calling an Ad Hoc Transportation Action Group meeting to discuss ongoing issues ranging from challenges with transit routes & accessibility, volunteer drive programs, etc. under COVID19. Contact Jill Umbach if this impacts your work and are interested to join the discussion.

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 81

Dear Colleagues, 

International Human Rights Day was on Friday, December 10th last week. The Day is a reminder that overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. (Nelson Mandela)

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that each person is entitled to certain fundamental rights: the right to life; liberty; equality; and security. In Canada, we have also legislated the right to housing, food, income security and equity.

Taking a human rights approach to our work on poverty changes the way we work. It directs us to share a vision of what human dignity looks like for ourselves and our neighbours. This was a large part of a recent Vital Signs Conversation on Housing hosted by the Community Foundation of Grey Bruce on Thursday, Dec 9th. We do require a mind shift. Not, some people are lucky or deserving of a home, but all people “have a right to a home”. 

HOUSING SUPPORTS

  • Emergency Housing over the holidays: Emergency phone line is open but Safe N Sound will be closed on Dec 25th, 27th and 28th. Contact 211 to verify the hours for housing service providers and other support organization.
  • Homelessness Coordinated Access System: has updated referral documents for the By Names List. Simcoe County has prepared 2 videos on What is a Coordinated Access System? and What is a By Names List? Contact Caitlin Currie, Homelessness Response Coordinator, Caitlin.Currie@grey.ca for what we are doing in Grey and Bruce Counties. 
  • Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario: tenants who have a Notice of Hearing from the Landlord and Tenant Board, can sign up to receive a call back from aTenant Duty Counsel in your area before your hearing.
  • The City of Owen Sound undertook a Citizen Satisfaction Survey in the summer of 2021  These findings form the starting point in the development of the advocacy priorities for 2022 and 2023. The top 5 advocacy priorities are: Affordable housing, cost of living, homelessness; COVID-19, Health including public health and mental health, Employment and workforce development and Climate Action. They also prioritized the development of a Regional Comprehensive Transportation Plan for Georgian Bay and the Bruce Peninsula. For more information, please contact Tim Simmonds, City Manager at 519-376-4440 ext. 1210 or email to tsimmonds@owensound.ca

PANDEMIC RELATED SUPPORTS

  • Sanitation Supplies: The United Way has a selection of 50ml tubes of hand sanitizer, 100 tubes per box and boxes of Lysol wipes (6 packages per box) available for pick up in Owen Sound. If you are interested, email Misty@unitedwaybg.com
  • Enhanced Vaccine Certificate: as of Jan 4, 2022, the enhanced vaccine certificate with QR code will be needed in certain settings. 
  • Download it at covid19.ontariohealth.ca 
  • Get it printed at a library or Service Ontario Centre. 
  • Call the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900 to get it mailed. 

ADDICTIONS SUPPORTS

  • Saugeen First Nation: has a Photovoice Series as part of a First Nation Wellness Initiative. Several videos promote mental wellness under the pandemic. Video 3Video 4  and Video 5.
  • CDAS Opioid Working Group: Preliminary data shows that there have been 31 deaths between June 2020 to June 2021. This is a significant increase over the 12 deaths from June 2019 to June 2020.
  • With the ongoing opioid crisis being worsened by the Pandemic, we need to be aware of benzodiazepines and nitazene opioids in the unregulated drug supply in Ontario. Naloxone kits are very effective with overdoses but will not reverse the effects of these drugs. However, it can assist in keeping people breathing until they can get to hospital.
  • Naloxone Kits: please understand that they can not be used if they have been frozen. So if you are seeing them where people camp outside or if they are left in a car in the winter, please get them replaced or give out new ones. Contact: Bailey Ressler, B.Ressler@publichealthgreybruce.on.ca.
  • Sharps Pilot Report: 56,706 sharps (needles) were returned to Safe N Sound under a 18th month Sharps pilot program with the United Way of BG. People obtained a $5-10 gift card in exchange based on the size of their container.

INCOME SUPPORTS

  • Safe N Sound ID Clinic/Income Tax Clinic: in partnership with CMHA-GB, the United Way and South East Grey CHC to offer a free Income Tax Clinic. It is estimated 1 in 10 people coming into Safe N Sound don’t have their taxes done or ID.  Clinics will be held on January 11th and 25th, 2022.  
  • Federal Budget: the government announced one-time payments to alleviate financial hardship of Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and Allowance recipients who received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) or the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) in 2020. 
  • However, in the technical briefing, it states it will calculate this payment on an individual basis and reimburse them starting in May 2022.   We will need to continue to support seniors through the winter and all the issues the pandemic raises.
  • Students who received the CERB but were found ineligible, will receive debt cancellation pending eligibility for the Canadian Emergency Student Benefit. FYI. This Benefit is closed to new applications. 
  • Campaign 2000 continues to advocate that compensation must now be expanded to include anyone living on low incomes who had other income benefits reduced, including people on social and disability assistance, and those who saw their workers benefit, child benefits and housing supplements reduced. 
  • Campaign 2000 also recommends the reinstatement of the Canada Recovery Benefit for individuals whose working hours are still impacted by the pandemic into Bill C-2.
  • Campaign 2000 encourages the federal government to make their decisions align with their commitments to reducing poverty. This includes dealing with the technical and design elements of benefits, which resulted in these kinds of negative benefit interactions. This would mean that the promised repayment to seniors should be made as a refundable credit so that it does not interfere with payments, in addition to making pandemic benefits deductible on the GIS income form.

FOOD SECURITY SUPPORTS

  • Holiday Meals: 211 has a list of all Holiday community meal programs, hampers and food programs.
  • WRAP Mental Health: has developed a Loneliness Workbook. The content comes from a study of nearly 100 people and their strategies for relieving their own loneliness. 
  • PROOF has released its A Look Back at 10 Years of PROOF   Reframing discussions to recognize food insecurity as an indicator of pervasive material hardship, and therefore a way for measuring success in poverty reduction  shifts the policy focus to underlying problems of income inadequacy.
  • FoodBruceGrey.com: collects Grey Bruce food insecurity data which reflects the level of hardships people are experiencing locally. 
    • 15,559 meals were distributed in November 2021. 166,763 meals have been distributed since January 2021. (11 out of 16 programs reporting)
    • 14,015 households (18,169 people) were supported at 19 out of 20 Food Banks. 

 Stay well, Jill 

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