Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update #88

Dear Colleagues, 

The federal government has released its 2022 budget. There was continued and new funding for affordable housing; and advancements in dental care, pharmacare,  National School Food Policy, National Childcare Program and a new national pilot to address period poverty. Here are a few highlights: 

Housing and Homelessness

  • $475 million in 2022-23 to provide a one-time $500 payment to those facing housing affordability challenges through the Canada Housing Benefit.
  • $562.2 million to enhance the Reaching Home program that prevents and reduces homelessness. 
  • $62.2 million to launch a new Veteran Homelessness Program that will provide services and rent supplements to veterans experiencing homelessness.
  • $1.5 billion over 2 years, starting in 2022-23, to extend the Rapid Housing Initiative. This new funding is expected to create at least 6,000 new affordable housing units, with at least 25% of funding going towards women-focused housing projects.
  • Introduces a Multigenerational Home Renovation Tax Credit, which would provide up to $7,500 in support for constructing a secondary suite for a senior or an adult with a disability, starting in 2023.

Dental Care

  • $5.3 billion set aside for dental care over the next 5 years  and $1.7 billion ongoing, to provide dental care for low-income Canadians. This would double public dental spending.  
  • Canadians can access a new dental care coverage plan before the end of the year – if their income is less than $70,000 annually. The program will provide care to those under 12 years of age and expand to under 18-year-olds, seniors, and persons living with a disability in 2023, with full implementation by 2025
  • Families with incomes less than $90,000 would be eligible for a portion of their dental costs being covered 
  • Families earning less than $70,000 would be fully covered

Pharmacare and Addressing Period Poverty

  • The government committed to establishing a National Pharmacare Program with a clear timeline of tabling legislation by the end of 2023. 
  • $25 million to Women and Gender Equality to start a 2 year national pilot project aimed at making menstrual products available to Canadians in need. 

National Child Care Program and National School Food Policy

  • $30 billion over five years to implement the National Childcare Program, and as of now, all provinces have signed on
  • The government commits to working with provinces, territories, municipalities, Indigenous partners, and stakeholders to develop a National School Food Policy and to explore how more Canadian children can access nutritious food at school.

What more needs to be done? 

  • There is still more work to be done to guarantee income for people living below the poverty line. This includes single working-age adults and people with disabilities. 
  • While the Canada Housing Benefit helps those at immediate risk of homelessness or to exit homelessness, with no increase in income and rising housing costs, people who are renting are still struggling. 
  • The Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (WOWC) has recently identified the following key priorities for the coming year:
    • Affordable and Attainable Housing in Rural Areas
    • Workforce Development through the Implementation of the Western Ontario Workforce Strategy
    • Continued Broadband Infrastructure Investment and Advocacy
    • Mental Health and Addictions

INCOME SECURITY SUPPORT

  • The Ontario government has announced it is making the Birth Certificate Fee Waiver Program permanent, eliminating the $35 fee for birth certificates. Access to government identification is important for people to access vital supports such as housing and social assistance. 
  • Ontario’s general minimum wage is set to increase to $15.50/hr, as of Oct 1, 2022.
  • The federal government is announcing a new phase of the Connecting Families initiative program that provides high-speed internet at $20 per month to low-income families and seniors across Canada. This will improve the internet speed for seniors who currently are paying $10/month. Further subsidies will exist for families receiving the full Child Tax Benefit and Seniors Guaranteed Income Supplement.
  • South East Grey Community Health Centre: 2 Income Tax clinics remain –  April 21st in Dundalk and April 26th in Markdale.

HOUSING SUPPORT

  • M’Wikwedong Indigenous Housing Support Program: currently serving 78 households, 100 people (56% chronically homeless, 35% youth led families and 25% discharged from institutions), 18 people were sex trafficked. 
  • Habitat for Humanity Grey Bruce has created a Truth and Reconciliation in Action video. In 2022, they will be building 7 new homes will be built in Saugeen First Nation #29. 
  • The YMCA Emergency Housing program is reporting the numbers of people being sheltered are high!  It is increasingly difficult to find affordable rental housing and this is only going to get more difficult as we move into the summer tourism season when we see motels booked up.

FOOD SECURITY SUPPORT

  • United Way of Bruce Grey supported the donation of over 700 lbs of beef from Courtney Miller, local farmer to 5 local community meal programs. 
  • FoodBruceGrey.com: Since January 2020, over 350,000 community meals have been prepared. 
  • No Matter What Tailgate Soup Kitchen: have served 1,060 meals this winter season. 
  • Tobermory Food Bank spoke to the impact of rising costs, inflation and challenges for families in their area. 

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 

Vital Conversation on Housing – Dec 9th 4pm online

Dear Colleagues, 

Do you want to gain a deeper understanding of the housing crisis in Grey Bruce? Do you want to share your perspective on affordable and attainable housing in our area?

Your organization and the public are invited to join us for a Vital Conversation on Housing in Grey Bruce.  This free, online forum is on Thursday, Dec 9th, 2021 from 4-6pm.

The goal of this Vital Conversation is to give participants a deeper understanding of the housing crisis through learning and sharing new perspectives on the issue.

At the Vital Conversation, participants will hear “lightning talks” from four inspiring local guest speakers and will have the chance to participate in smaller group discussions on relevant topics. The guest presenters will be:

  • Diane Giroux: Project Manager for Giiwe at M’Wikwedong Indigenous Friendship Centre
  • Kee May Ip: Project Coordinator for the Four County Labour Market Planning Board
  • Christine MacDonald: Director of Bruce County Human Services
  • Erica Phipps: Participatory Researcher for RentSafe Owen Sound/EquIP (Equity-focused Intersectoral Practice)

Biographies for each speaker and more information about the online event is available at https://community foundation grey bruce.com/post/?ID=245

Register at the Eventbrite link: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/vital-conversation-on-housing-tickets-203909848847 

If interested, register soon as there is limited space for the event.