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 # 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 # 60

Dear Colleagues, 

As anticipated, the government has announced another 2 weeks of lockdown until June 2nd. 

As the pandemic continues, we are seeing rising housing costs as a gap in our social safety net. A strong argument is being made that increasing support directed at housing costs would go a long way to close a critical gap.

When it comes to jobs, debt and housing, Canada’s economic trajectory has split into two, data shows. It’s what economists refer to as a “K-shaped” recovery. The rich are getting richer, the poor getting poorer. There is a risk that the longer the economic recovery takes more people will fall off the upper arm of the “K”.  

And the majority of those would probably be women, who are both more likely to work in pandemic-sensitive jobs and more likely to have to stop or scale back working if schools remain closed. 

HOUSING SUPPORTS  

  • The Ontario government is supporting the creation of a First Nations Economic Growth and Prosperity Table (Prosperity Table) to help support economic advancement and well-being of Indigenous communities.
  • Giiwe Circles:  the video of the Rural Communities Ending Poverty workshop at the End of Poverty Summit (Tamarack) at 19:23 mins features Diane Giroux and Carlos Sanchez-Pimienta.  
  • Emergency Shelter: since Jan 2021, YMCA housing has provided 3,279 nights of shelter for 474 people. The program is funded by Grey County and Bruce County. Grey County has seen a 500% cost increase for emergency housing under the pandemic. 
  • Bruce County Home Repair Program is taking applications now. If you have a home valued at $340,000.00 or less and your income is $75,000.00 per year or less, you can apply for a forgivable loan up to $15,000.00.
  • Grey County Ontario Renovates: house limits at $250,000 (they use MPAC for house values which tend to be lower) and income of $60,000 (slightly flexible). 
  • Saugeen Shores Attainable Housing: a new townhouse development in Port Elgin will include 22 secondary units. The Council bylaw has approved the project to encourage more affordable housing. 
  • Reaching Home Funding contribution-type funding is available under the Community Capacity and Innovation (CCI) component. This is a funding component of Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy .Organizations can request a contribution of $ 100,000 to $ 600,000 over 3 years. The deadline is June 11, 2021. 
  • Grey County  Housing and Homelessness Plan Update 2021: was presented to Grey County Council today.  
    • Rising market rents and a low vacancy rate have made finding affordable housing difficult for those in low income brackets. 
    • According to Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the average market rent in Grey County for a one bedroom is $817 a month. Across Grey County a one-bedroom ranges from $800-$1250 a month, often without the inclusion of utilities. 
    • There are 620 Grey County residents on the Grey County Housing Waitlist, 74 with no current address, 27 Bruce County residents and 192 residents from outside Grey County for a total of 913 applicants.
    • In 2020, the Affordable Housing Task Force was created and an Action Plan for creating affordable housing units was developed. 

FOOD SUPPORTS

  • Grey Bruce Community Food Program list has been updated for May 2021. 
  • Food Safety webinar: Second Harvest is offering a free webinar on food safety in the non-profit sector on June 2, 2021 at 1:30 pm.  Register here
  • Foodthoughts.ca continues to profile community food programs, provide best practices and tools for community food programs. 
  • Keeping Not-For-Profits Connected During COVID19: Salvation Army Owen Sound and OSHaRE continue to offer surplus food to Grey Bruce food banks and community meal programs. This is food obtained through FeedOntario, Canada Food Banks, Foodrescue or other bulk donations. 
  • Feeding Families, Restaurant Relief continues to expand. This is a win/win for restaurants and our community! Please spread the word. Businesses and restaurants can find more info and forms here to sign up for the program.

TRANSPORTATION SUPPORTS

  • Bruce County Master Transportation Plan Study:  Bruce County is undertaking a Master Transportation Plan (MTP) Study to create a safe and reliable transportation system. The 2nd online presentation and survey can be found at www.brucecounty.on.ca/mtp until May 21, 2021.
  • Greyhound Buses: it was announced today that the bus line will stop operating in Canada.  

HEALTH EQUITY 

  • Ontario Seniors Dental Care Programthe government announced new eligibility thresholds for the Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program and the Seniors Co-Payment Program to allow more seniors to have access to dental care and affordable prescription medications. 
  • Starting August 1st, 2021, eligibility thresholds for both programs will be updated to reflect cost of living increases in Ontario and align with income support programs for seniors. 
  • Income thresholds will be updated for single Ontarians aged 65 and over, from $19,300 to $22,200, and for couples with a combined annual income, from $32,300 to $37,100. 
  • National Dental Program: doctors are calling for a national program that would meet the gaps in existing services. 
    • 1 in 5 Canadians don’t go to the dentist because of the cost. 
    • 1/3 of Canadians do not have dental insurance to cover part of the cost.  (Statistics Canada)  
  • Last week, during a federal debate over an NDP motion for a national dental-care program, there was support to carry out a parliamentary study to fully understand the data on unmet dental care needs at a national level.

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update #28

Dear Colleagues, 

So how are we doing in rural communities to stay digitally connected? How fast is your internet is a common question amongst partners who are joining zoom meetings? Are you living in a dead zone or are the gremlins aka your children in the house, slowing you down? Are the gremlins going back to school or staying home? 

Sounds like a horror film? But people continue to work from home, approximately 10% of Grey Bruce students from the two largest school boards remain home and will be online for schooling.  And people need to access more government and medical services online.   

A recent Tamarack Institute Community of Practice group of rural communities in Ontario discussed the “digital divide” in each of our counties. 

1. Examples of how communities have been addressing digital access issues since COVID started:

  • Collecting and redistributing tablets, smartphones and other devices
  • Offering training on how to use tablets and other devices being distributed
  • Looking at shared data plan models
  • Creating lists and maps of free WIFI hot spots in the community
  • Paying for new WIFI hot spots to be established in areas where there were none
  • Keeping WIFI hot spots open at libraries and other community facilities
  • Creating downloadable forms that people can fill out instead of completing forms online
  • Including access to Internet and technology in new community safety and well-being plans

2. Challenges that were highlighted:

  • There is a cap on the number of low-cost internet packages available and there are restrictions regarding eligibility (i.e. only limited to families with school-aged children)
  • Some hot spots were deactivated when community facilities closed down
  • Devices that are being donated are sometimes too old to be compatible with new software
  • It is not clear what data has been collected or what mapping has been done at a local level to identify specific populations that have digital access challenges.
  • Connectivity remains the most significant challenge in rural areas, rather than limited access to devices or technological literacy issues.

3. Opportunities that were highlighted:

  • Some are calling for a new digital philanthropy that could address issues of digital equity and access
  • There is an opportunity for local governments to issue a call to action to expand high-speed Internet access to underserved rural areas.

4. Resources:

  • Grey County issued a Call to Action in June 2020 to expand broadband to underserved areas
  • Future of Good hosted a digital conversation on Bridging the Digital Divide
  • ACORN Canada members are demanding $10/month high speed internet for low income families as part of their Internet for All campaign. Take action on closing the digital divide – sign the petition!

HOUSING SUPPORTS
Addressing issues surrounding people who are without shelter requires uncomfortable conversations about systemic change, system failures and relationships. 

  • YMCA Housing reported since April 1st they have supported approximately: 307 adults;  of those 135 adults were without shelter; 53 youth; of those 28 youth provided shelter in Bruce County. An average of 7.5 nights/month/person is up from 2-3 nights stays. 
  • And in Grey County approximately 1502 adults were supported; of those 438 adults were provided shelter; 370 youth; of those 63 sheltered. An average stay of 8 nights/month/person. 
  • The Women’s Centre GB has increased the number of quarantine rooms to 4 to increase the number of women they can accept. 

There are complex issues at play when a house with many tenants and one neighbourhood are considered a “hot spot” by the police and city officials.   

  • Citing a 2010 Wellesley Institute Study on Shared Accomodation Safe ‘N Sound staff recommend three factors to consider to ‘turn around’ a house deemed a “hot spot”: 1) Support from local agencies. 2) A landlord who works cooperatively with local agencies and sees him/herself as a provider of affordable housing embedded within the social service milieu in a given neighbourhood and 3) An engaged tenant. 
  • The City of Owen Sound has released its Staff Report to Council on responding to a ‘hot spot’ in its city after consultation with social support service providers, bylaw and police. 
  • The Canadian Urban Institute has 5 Key Takeaways from recent conversations on housing people who are homeless under the pandemic.   

There is a lot of work happening to address the housing crisis we are experiencing in Grey County and Bruce County. 

  • Grey County Housing and Bruce County Housing have submitted their Social Emergency Relief Fund business plans for the disbursement of remaining funds to the Province for approval. 
  • The next Giiwe Circle meeting will take place on Sept 25th (10am-11:30am) for Indigenous and Non-Indigenous housing partners. 
  • M’Wikwedong Indigenous Friendship Centre has been working on a Homeward Bound Feasibility Study.  
  • Saugeen Shores Council recently endorsed the formation of an Attainable Housing Task Force. This formation has led to a group of well-informed individuals being appointed and assigned the responsibility to report back to Council later this year with recommendations pertaining to how our housing stock can be increased with the emphasis on affordability and attainability. They have invited stakeholders to speak before the Task Force and the public is invited to a public consultation on September 17th.  
  • Families searching for affordable housing has been on the rise. The Bruce County Housing & Homelessness Plan Update reported wait-list applications have increased from 306 in 2015 to 639 families (2019) in search of affordable housing; 303 of the 639 housing waitlist applicants relate to Saugeen Shores. 

  TRANSPORTATION SUPPORTS

  • Bruce County Transportation and Environmental Services is conducting a Master Transportation Study. As part of the study a series of Public Information Centers (PICs) are being held online.  The first is available for viewing on the County website at: https://brucecounty.on.ca/transportation-master-plan 
  • At the County website you can also access a comment card to submit questions, comments or feedback and be asked to be added to a listing to receive further information updates via email.

INCOME SUPPORTS 

EDUCATION AND FOOD SECURITY SUPPORTS 

  • School Nutrition Program: breakfast club programs have been converted into “grab-and-go” packaged meals by the Bluewater Board and most likely the Catholic School Board but different policies exist on volunteers in the school. The program is funding some 15,700 students/day for Grey Bruce based on 2019 school year estimates and anticipating 80-90% attendance. 
  • The ‘grab-and-go” program is funded for the next 2 months. Hot meal programs at schools are on hold. This will be assessed in 2 months and determine the impact of a predicted second wave. It is recognized that food programs at school are a source of nutrition for many children in our communities. 
  • Food Banks and meal programs are assisting families with “lunchable” food to ensure families have sufficient food for school lunches. Donations to the School Nutrition Program can be made based on a list of packaged items such as granola bars, yogurt, cheese strings, etc. 

EDUCATION AND CHILDCARE SUPPORTS

  • The Ontario government is launching a webpage to report COVID-19 cases in schools and child care centres. This page will be updated every weekday with the most up-to-date COVID-19 information available, including a summary of cases in schools and licensed child care centres and agencies, if a COVID-19 case is confirmed at your school and where the numbers come from.  
  • The United Way of Bruce Grey still has backpacks available for students. Contact the United Way directly. Non-student backpacks have been donated by the United Way to Safe ‘N Sound.  

Stay well, Jill