Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 18

Dear Colleagues, 

Basic Income Canada writes that we are at a critical juncture in Canada where emergency COVID-19 benefits can be wound down or reshaped into an ongoing basic income that enables everyone to be part of a better, new normal.

There are panels, briefs and community voices being presented to the government – most recently to the Senate.  

  • We know that we live in a rich country and we can fund programs that are good for the economy and the community.   
  • We know that Basic Income is not a pancrea for people living in poverty.  Lives are too complex for a single solution. 
  • We know that it does not solve the problem of affordable housing, quality accessible childcare or gender inequality in the workplace. 
  • We know that a Basic Income+ would be a supplement to other programs that serve to meet basic needs. 
  • We know that it will not address sexism, racism etc. across our society but that it will move us toward more equity and equality.
    • We know that 56% of women in Canada work in 5Cs jobs: caring, clerical, catering, cashiering and cleaning. 
    • We know that women are 2 times more likely to lose their job or have their hours reduced under COVID19. 
    • We know that many women are now working triple shifts – homeschooling children, unpaid house work and paid at home work.
  • We know that Basic Income+ needs to be a liveable income and be tied with the cost of living.
  • We know that Basic Income+ could enable women’s economic independence, offer greater choices, more flexibility, childcare affordability, more bargaining power in employment and access to better housing & neighbourhoods, improved health and wellbeing.   (Evelyn Forget, 18 June 2020 – Tamarack webinar: Basic Income & Gender Inequality)

The CERB has given some people a taste of what they could gain if a universal basic income program were implemented. CERB was designed to keep people at home. As we reopen our community and country, we need to design a system that will increase people’s ability to fully participate in our society. 

INCOME SUPPORTS 

  • CERB Extension:   The Federal government announced that it would be extending the CERB by 8 weeks, making the benefit available to eligible applicants for up to 24 weeks.  But it will begin asking applicants to sign an attestation acknowledging the government wants them to work and directing them to the government’s job bank.     
  • CERB Overpayments: People may have applied for and received CERB when they were not eligible or became ineligible after applying. It is important for people to know that the government is asking those who received CERB in error to repay.  
  • The safest ways to repay CERB overpayments are through CRA My Account or by phoning CRA at 1-800-959-8281.  
  • If someone is unsure about whether they were eligible or not, they can visit the following link for clarification and information on repayment. 
  • Scams using CERB overpayments as their hook have become common. If someone thinks they have received a call, mail, or e-mail from a scammer, they should report it to the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre
  • United Way Financial Literacy Program: can assist families with budgeting, accessing additional income sources if they are not already utilizing them, system navigation along with a sensible and realistic approach to household finances. Will be focused on providing advice for households that have OW, ODSP and CERB interactions as we understand them. Contact Caroline Araujo Abbotts – Financial Literacy Program Coordinator, via advice@unitedwaybg.com or call 519-376-1560, 519-378-4773 (cell).  
  • A COVID-19 aid bill proposed to offer a one-time, tax-free payment of up to $600 for Canadians who have disabilities was defeated. Opposition parties raised concerns about a number of aspects of the bill, including proposed penalties for fraudulently claiming the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.  
  • Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) the government will start accepting new applications for the starting Friday. The government has expanded program eligibility to include farmers.

HOUSING SUPPORTS 

  • CEAP (Covid-19 Energy Assistance Program)Available to consumers who have fallen behind by at least two billing cycles, but whose accounts were in good standing when the provincial emergency was declared. 
    • Available for those unemployed on the date they apply for funding, and have received Employment Insurance or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit since March 17, 2020; 
    • Provide electricity customers with up to $230 in support if they primarily use electricity for heating, or if they use energy-intensive medical devices, and up to $115 otherwise; 
    • Provide natural gas customers with up to $160 if they reside in Northern Ontario, and up to $80 if they reside elsewhere;
  • Wood, Furnace Oil and Propane Support: the United Way isstill processing applications for these sources of heat.  Sewer and Water Arrears: the United Way is working with only households with a disconnection order and in the communities of Owen Sound, Meaford and Saugeen Shores.  The intakes are done by 211 and then processed by Karen Baxter, assist@unitedwaybg.com or 519-376-1560.  Karen can also provide support and knowledge on the rules and regulations. 
  • Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP): all intakes and processing of applications have been halted under the direction of the Ontario Energy Board (OEB).  Those in arrears can apply as soon as the disconnection ban is lifted. 
    • The grant is still $500 and they need to pay what is owing on top of that. People are encouraged to contact the utilities they have outstanding balances with and try to negotiate payment arrangements at this time. 
  • AffordAbility Fund Trust:  assists people who do not qualify for other low-income energy programs. Applicants may be eligible for free energy upgrades that can lower overall home energy use and electricity bills.  Applicants can call 855-494-3863 or email Kim Williams (aft@unitedwaybg.com), Community Activator. 
  • The Housing Action Group: meets weekly to respond to homelessness and COVID19 housing challenges. The group is concerned about recent overdoses and analyzing unsafe conditions or situations exacerbated under COVID19. While Housing workers are seeing more complex cases involving addictions with some deaths there remains a low number of calls to 911/EMS. Trust factors and structural stigma remain factors. Potential solutions are to increase peer-support workers and increase outreach services.   
  • The Community Drug and Alcohol Strategy joined this week’s call. The Opioid Working Group has reconvened and action is being taken to address issues with a harm reduction approach. Dr. Ara has released a statement on recent concerns. 
    • People who use drugs and their friends and family are also encouraged to access naloxone and opioid overdose training. Naloxone works to temporarily reverse an opioid overdose caused by drugs such as fentanyl, heroin, oxycodone or morphine. 
    • A free Naloxone kit is available at the Grey Bruce Health Unit, no appointment necessary, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. It is also available from some local pharmacies. Find out more at www.ontario.ca/Overdose 
  • Ontario Student Nutrition Program (OSNP): The Province announced that it would be investing $1 million in funding to support families experiencing food insecurity by adapting the Student Nutrition Program to continue to provide school-age children with access to healthy meals and snacks during the COVID-19 outbreak. 
  • The OSNP program in Grey Bruce has distributed grocery gift cards and food boxes to families with Federal funding in partnership with the United Way, Bruce Grey Child & Family Services and so many other community partners. 
  • The Salvation Army Chesley Food Bank: starting on July 8th they will be serving the community in a new location at the Chesley Community Church (307 1st Avenue), Wednesday mornings from 9 am to noon.  Appointments can be made by calling 519-364-3450.  Jennifer Sachs is available as the Family Services Worker at 519-364-3450 or jennifer_sachs@can.salvationarmy.org.   
  • The Food Security Action Group meets bi-weekly to discuss logistics, gaps and barriers in emergency food response. Recent challenges identified include the transportation of meals by  frozen meal programs. These programs were operating pre-COVID19 and have significantly scaled up during the pandemic.  But many health staff in South Bruce and South East Grey who have been delivering meals to homes now have caseloads that are too high and the service is evolving, so they cannot continue to make deliveries in July.  Solutions may include establishing Regional Distribution Hubs, staff hiring and new volunteer recruitment. 
  • De-stigmatizing food insecurity: COVID19 has highlighted the need to reach out to isolated seniors. Organizations are seeing that seniors are hesitant to receive charity food. The Tara & Area Food Bank has been working with Bruce County Housing to get the message out that the food banks are community resources that everyone in the community has contributed to ensure their neighbours are taken care of. 
  • Community Meal Programs: continue to see increasing numbers. 
    • OSHaRE: 14,474 meals (JanApril 2020) plus 7,029 meals in May were served for a total of 21,503 meals. Continuing to share extras out with other community meal programs. 
    • YUM Program: South East Grey CHC distributes 100 meals/week supplied by St. Aidan’s Community Meal Program. 
    • St. Aidan’s Community Meal Program: provided 700 meals in May and from June 1-12th has provided 275 meals. 
    • Chesley Baptist Church: provides 90 hot meals/week. 

EMPLOYMENT SUPPORTS

  • connect2JOBS.ca has been launched by Four County Labour Market Planning Board. 
  • WSIB has extended First Aid Training Certification to Sept 30th, 2020.  WSIB will continue to monitor and adjust this date, if necessary. 
  • To help keep knowledge of First Aid in the workplace at a critical time, the WSIB is endorsing certification and recertification for the knowledge component of the training through a Blended Learning First Aid course.  Individuals would complete the online portion and then have up to 120 days to complete the one day in class portion.  
  • Contact Kathy Murphy Ermel, St. John Ambulance, Grey Bruce Huron Branch by email (kathy.ermel@sja.ca) or leave a message at 519-364-7004 ext. 2 if you wish to arrange training and verify costs. 
  • Enabling Accessibility Fund: for projects that improve the accessibility of persons with disabilities in facilities where they work are a priority with a grant of up to $100,000. To receive funding, your organization must be a: not-for-profit organization; business; small municipality; Indigenous organization (including band councils, tribal councils and self-government entities); territorial government. Applications accepted until July 13, 2020.   

CHILDREN YOUTH SUPPORTS 

  • The Province announced up to $46 million in new funding over 5 years to increase community-based and Indigenous-specific supports for child and youth victims of sex trafficking. The deadline for applications to the Community Supports Fund and the Indigenous-led Initiatives Fund is July 30, 2020 at 5 p.m.     
  • The Province has announced an additional $10 million for school boards to boost mental health services for students to help them cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.   The additional $10 million is on top of a previously announced $25 million used to hire about 180 mental health workers for Ontario high schools.
  • The Province also announced $15 million for boards to buy about 35,000 computers in total across all school boards.  And $7.6 million for a Summer 2020 Transition Programs for Students with Special Education Needs and Mental Health Concerns.
  • Camp in a Box or Camp Kits: virtual summer camps are being designed by various organizations across Grey Bruce. One such example is a partnership with  The Municipality of Meaford has partnered with The Imagination Studio to bring two Camp in a Box activities: Magic and Science Kit & Camp, and POM POM Sculpture Kit & Camp.      

GOVERNANCE SUPPORTS

  • The Province is providing employers with a new general workplace guide to help them develop a safety plan to protect workers, customers and clients through reopening. The guide explains what employers should think about, and provides examples of controls as well as a template for creating a plan. 
  • Volunteer Canada Resources on COVID-19 and Volunteering: Board Governance– Information and resources for boards of non-profit organizations to help navigate governance issues during COVID-19, including virtual annual general meetings and legislative considerations. 

Stay well, Jill 

Giiwe: Reducing Indigenous Homelessness

Members of the Poverty Task Force’s Community Voices and Housing Action Group partners participated in a Giiwe Circle with author Jesse Thistle.  Jesse presented his work on the development of a Indigenous Definition of Homelessness with The Homeless Hub. Jesse also shared his personal story, his new book From the Ashes: My Story of Being Métis, Homeless, and Finding My Way. and joined us in our Giiwe Circle.  Jesse Thistle – who has traveled all across Canada – commented that Giiwe was a unique project and its Circles a unique experience that he had not seen in any other communities across Canada.

Giiwe is an exciting Indigenous led, inter-agency collaboration brought to us by the staff at M’Wikwedong Indigenous Friendship Centre. The project aims at reducing off-reserve Indigenous homelessness. Giiwe is centred on fostering a coordinated housing-related response to Indigenous specific housing needs and preferences in Grey Bruce.

Giiwe has successfully established and sustained an Indigenous led, inter-agency collaboration with 11 organizations while strengthening relationships and promoting trust between Indigenous and non-Indigenous partners. It has also facilitated a referral process and established inter-agency agreements to better serve Indigenous peoples living off-reserve. A recent Evaluation Report highlights the work being done.

Giiwe Circles incorporate cultural safety training, collaborative case management and relationship building to increase Indigenous leadership with improved collaboration and understanding of Indigenous practices, which ultimately lead to the prevention of Indigenous homelessness.

 

Rural Homeless Enumeration 2018

full length of man sitting outdoors

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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.

 

Defining Adequate Housing

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Housing is a basic need and is internationally recognized as a human right. Housing forms the foundation for our homes, neighbourhoods and communities.

Housing provides shelter, security, a space in which family life can happen and where children grow up and thrive. Yet, for many people, their housing jeopardizes their health and well-being.

The unfit conditions in housing, disproportionately experienced by people living in low income or other marginalizing circumstances negatively affect people’s physical and mental health. Multiple chronic diseases and acute effects, including asthma, respiratory conditions, allergies, chemical sensitivities, as well as cardiovascular disease and its numerous risk factors can be exacerbated or, in some cases caused, by poverty, stress, and living in unhealthy conditions.

Our Community Voices  are featured in a recent series of Rentsafe videos:

Defining Adequate 

My Voice is Power

Stigma in the System

Towards Healthy Homes for All: RentSafe Summary and Recommendations April 2018, summarizes the research over the past 3 years and offers recommendations for action to improve intersectoral action and capacity to ensure healthy housing conditions