Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 11

Dear Colleagues, 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, coordinating quick access to housing is more important than ever. Housing cures homelessness and is the best protection against COVID-19. The ability to protect and serve people experiencing homelessness is dependent on securing permanent, long-term housing. While the COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder of how vulnerable homeless people are in our community, it is also an opportunity to change, transform, and prioritize efforts to house people experiencing homelessness. 

As with all our emergency responses to meet basic needs, we are grateful for additional funds to solve short-term crisis issues but we know that investing in the economy, jobs and social assistance infrastructure needs to be at the forefront of all our COVID19 responses.  

  • We need to consider changes to precarious work practices i.e. PSW workers working several part-time jobs at low wage, grocery store clerks earning low wages, etc. We need to consider how today’s “heroes” are treated during the pandemic recovery period. 

We also know that abuse doesn’t stop during a pandemic. Unfortunately, it is likely that abuse worsens in isolation.  #HeretoHelpGB was launched and will continue to work with all partners to support vulnerable women and families. 

WOMEN’S SUPPORTS

  • In the past year, women’s shelters in the Grey Bruce Region (The Women’s Centre Grey Bruce Inc. and Women’s House Serving Bruce & Grey) served 1,549 women and managed 11,679 crisis, support, and advocacy calls. 
  • #HeretoHelpGB is a community collaboration of local social services working together to provide as much support as possible to women and children experiencing abuse and violence in Grey and Bruce counties during this difficult time.

HOUSING SUPPORTS 

  • The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH) has developed a new COVID-19 resource, “Getting Back to Housing: How Canadian communities are adapting Coordinated Access to accelerate connections to permanent housing and build momentum to end homelessness once and for all.”  
  • This guide outlines realistic and practical approaches to help local communities adapt their homelessness response system to coordinate, activate, and accelerate housing opportunities during the pandemic. It digs into the key components of a housing-focused response including access, triage and assessment, prioritization, matching and referral, and other helpful tips—all with a COVID-19 lens. 
  • The Housing Action Group meets weekly to discuss homelessness outreach and response to housing challenges across Grey Bruce. Partners are dealing with a lot of eviction prevention and lack of vacancies in the area.  Noting that some motels have increased rents. 
  • Food delivery has been set up by partners (YMCA, OSHaRE, UW, Habitat for Humanity and Grey County) to reach people housed in motels.
  • The YMCA Housing has housed 74 people (382 nights of shelter) from 1 April to 30 April 2020. 
  • Federal and Provincial Housing Benefits have been topped up as of April 1st and Grey County and Bruce County Housing is working through their wait lists. 

INCOME SUPPORTS

  • Canada Child Benefit: families will receive a one-time additional payment of $300 per child. 
  • Social Services Emergency Benefit: effective Friday, May 1, the government will be extending the Emergency Benefit as a monthly benefit for three months (i.e. May, June and July 2020).  
  • The extended Emergency Benefit is intended to provide emergency financial support for special services, items or payments to address health and safety issues related to COVID-19 to social assistance benefit units not in receipt of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). 
  • Recipients who have received the March/April Emergency Benefit and who qualify for the extended benefit will automatically receive the extended benefit in May, June, and July.
  • Exception: Consistent with the treatment of earned income for youth under 18, adults in full-time secondary school, and full-time post-secondary students, the CERB will be treated as fully exempt for these benefit unit members. These CERB payments will not impact eligibility for the Emergency Benefit. 
  • New Emergency Benefit applicants will need to request the benefit and outline their COVID-19 related needs. It will not be issued proactively.  
  • While verification of costs is not required, caseworkers should use their discretion to confirm that clients are facing extraordinary expenses before issuing the benefit.  The type of expense will need to be recorded. Examples of these expenses include: PPE, cleaning supplies for those who have a household member who is COVID19+ , delivery costs of food, medical supplies, etc. while self-isolated or quarantined, travel costs to pick up essentials.
  • Clients will be asked to provide information on their need for the benefit. A flat monthly rate of $100 for singles and $200 for families may be issued to all eligible benefit units. 

MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORTS

Roadmap to Wellness: A Plan to Build Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions System, was launched which offers access to standardized, high-quality care and supports in communities across Ontario.

Child and Youth Mental Health Day (May 7th): the government has given additional funding to programs such BounceBack and Kids Help Phone.  

SUPPORTS FOR PEOPLE WHO USE DRUGS

Alison Govier has compiled many resourceson the Community Drug & Alcohol Strategy website.  

Wellness Together Canada, is a new online portal that provides Canadians with free resources, tools, and professional support services to help with wellness and resilience, as well as mental health and substance use.  

Addiction Services at CMHA Grey Bruce remains open, providing services online, over the phone and in some cases face-to-face. Group programming is canceled until further notice. 

The Rapid Assessment & Addiction Medicine (RAAM) Clinic & the Withdrawal Management Program at Grey Bruce Health Services remain open to clients at this time. Call (519) 376-3999.

The Methadone Clinic (Ontario Addiction Treatment Centre) in Owen Sound remains open, with social distancing measures in place. Call 1-877-937-2282 or 519-371-0007.

The Needle Exchange and Naloxone Distribution at Grey Bruce Public Health remain open. Harm Reduction supplies can also be obtained at GB Works Needle Syringe Program locations across the counties. 

Some Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings have moved to online platform. AA – http://aa-intergroup.org/directory.php NA – https://georgianheartlandna.org/

For professional cessation support for smoking or vaping, call the Smoker’s Help line at 1-877-513-5333 or visit Smoker’s Help line website.

Talk Tobacco is an Indigenous Program to Quit smoking and Vaping through Smoker’s Helpline:  For help and information on quitting smoking, and vaping and commercial tobacco use call 1 833 998-8255 (TALK).

FOOD SUPPORTS

Food Security Action Group: 15 members of the group met on Friday, May 1st to discuss distribution logistics, challenges and management of food banks, community meal programs and community gardens. The group shall meet biweekly via zoom. The next meeting is Friday, May 15th, 10am-11:30am. 

Community Meal Program: while we have seen a steady flow of people visiting food banks, a significant demand for community meal programs has seen 12,053 meals served from March 15th to May 1st, 2020 – a 297% increase compared to pre-pandemic meals. The United Way BG has compiled a snapshot from just 5 programs but we know that there are other meal programs that have contributed hundreds more. 

Digital Community Plant Sale: under COVID19, we are seeing garden centres open up and people are being encouraged to grow food at home. The Meaford Community Gardens grows organic food for the local food bank – Golden Town Outreach. They have gone online with a Seedling Plant Sale with delivery service. 

The Federal government announced today they will be bulk purchasing food to distribute to food banks to support the food and agriculture industry. 

Stay well,  Jill

Putting a spotlight on poverty

United Way of Bruce Grey and the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force wants to put a spotlight on poverty in our community.

Basic needs are increasingly out of reach for people living on low-income, and people with insufficient income face impossible choices every single day. For people living with disabilities, further barriers related to employment, social exclusion, and higher cost of living make it even more difficult to thrive without comprehensive supports.

After the 1.5% rate increase in October 2018, a single person receiving Ontario Works will still be 65% below the poverty line receiving only: $ 732/month.

On average,1 949 households per month access Ontario Works in Grey County and Bruce County in 2018.

July 2018 profiles:

Of the July case load:

  • 1148 clients, or 62% were single,
  • 595 clients, or 31%, were sole supporting parents
  • Balance were dual parent families or couples with no children.

ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) has a caseload of 6855 households in Grey Bruce. A single person on ODSP is 55% below the poverty line receiving $1 151.

Ontario’s low income cut-off puts the poverty line at $2 080 for a single person.

The lonely girl cries in the street

Any increases to Ontario Works caseloads are attributed to positive changes in regulations around income supports such as child support no longer being considered income, increase asset limits which allow people to keep more of their earned income and savings as well as the eligibility requirements for youth 16 and 17 living on their own.

Transitioning people out of poverty and to a life of sustainability requires many supports. Access to transportation, childcare that is affordable and fits the schedule of the jobs available.

We also need to ensure that the right supports are there for the right demographic of people needing supports. With 62% of recipients being singles, we need to ensure there are supports beyond those just focused on children and families.

The United Way of Bruce Grey and the Poverty Task Force look forward to working with the new Provincial government on addressing rural poverty needs.

Microsoft PowerPoint - PTF Election Graphics_4August2018

 

For more information:

Common threads in stories about being poor

By Scott Dunn, Sun Times, Owen Sound

Darryle Latendresse

Darryle Latendress

Diners at the Owen Sound Hunger and Relief Effort soup kitchen one night recently discussed what life is like being poor.

Ivan Farrow moved back to Owen Sound a few years ago from Orillia after 19 years. He lives with his parents, which he said he finds is safer than living on his own. He said he’s 27 and has attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“I can sum it up just to say it sucks. It literally sucks. It could be worse. Each person thinks of different scenarios about poverty. Some like it. Some just want to crawl into a cave and die there.”

* * *

Cindy Sumpton, Owen Sound.

Hydro bills are her biggest concern now.

“Disability doesn’t provide as much money as the rent and the hydro and all your bills come to, and then have money for food after. They don’t give you enough. Like just the basics is what they give you, like rent, food, for your dentist or health care, you know to get your medication. They don’t give you a whole lot.

“They should give people more money on their income to help out with other things instead of leaving them broke from month to month to month, and having to come to a place like this or the food bank or Safe ‘n Sound, you know to get help for food.”

* * *

Darryl Latendresse, 21, Owen Sound.

He figures he makes $1,100 or $1,200 per month. He would like to make $1,600. Paying hydro bills and eating three square meals a day is tough for him, he said. He comes to the soup kitchen about three times a week.

“People on welfare, they’re able to work and they want to get on Ontario Disability Support Program because basically they’re lazy, right? I myself could easily get on ODSP . . . I actually work . . .

“In Toronto, some people will just go and they’re not even poor, they’ll sleep on the streets and people will give them so much money. Like there’ll be a homeless guy and he’s actually rich. I’ve heard about stuff like that in Toronto.”

* * *

Neil Towers, 63, Owen Sound.

He said he was a real estate appraiser but health problems led to job loss, then Ontario Works, then ODSP. He’s also a guitar player and says there are a lot of fellow impoverished musicians.

“I was used to a reasonable income. I drove a decent car and all that, and then I had some health problems which led to this. Just not enough money going around. I lived for a year on welfare and I was living out at Stonetree. The rent was my entire cheque . . . .”

“That’s how it affected me and I’m sure a lot of other people. They develop health problems, some mental health problems perhaps. Mine was a heart attack and diabetes and a whole combination of things . . . I’d been gainfully employed all my life since I was 14 and all of a sudden I couldn’t get a job. I couldn’t buy a job.”

“The hardest part is the stigma I think — that people and as a result you — (think you) have it yourself. You know, that oh, I’m a loser because I can’t earn a living anymore. And I think a lot of people must go through that when old age starts getting up on them. Their limited income. Their income goes way down if they haven’t planned for their retirement, which I’ve never done. I lived a day at a time, a week at a time. Never thinking I’d get old and need a retirement fund . . .”

“The only reason I can have a car, drive a car is because I don’t smoke, I don’t drink beer and I don’t do drugs. Sorry, but a lot of people that are in this situation do all those things . . . And this place (soup kitchen) helps out because then you don’t have to buy as many groceries.

“The best part of it is all the musicians I’ve met. There’s a lot of good players . . . Sometimes we just get together on the street and a bunch of us will play and it’s magic.”

* * *

Anthony Miller, Owen Sound.

His ODSP benefits are being clawed back by $98 per month because he inherited $30,000 from his father’s estate. He went off benefits, took 30 months to spend the windfall, returned to ODSP but said he can’t show receipts for where the money went. ODSP generally allows $6,000 inheritance before recalculating benefits based on the extra income.

“That’s $98 in groceries I could buy. When I had that inheritance there, I had a lot of money, $30,000 right? And I thought oh a lot of money, you know, oh my God. And I found out one thing, that money talks. Right? That if you have money, you can pretty much get anything. People will help you, people will do anything for you. Why aren’t people acting the same way when you’re poor?

“Why aren’t people that are well off saying, OK, here’s a guy that’s trying, that doesn’t have much, nice guy, you know? Why aren’t the rich helping the poor out? They don’t know what it’s like to live day-to-day and month-to-month and live in poverty, you know? With their very rich cars and their big houses.

“I’ve met a lot of friends that are in poverty. And I find that people in poverty, most of them, they’re the ones that help each other. Like if somebody poor had a $10 bill and you hadn’t eaten in a week . . . I find that the poor people will give you $8 of that $10, well here, go get a sandwich or go get something to eat. Whereas rich people frown on you and think, oh what a bum. Why doesn’t he get a job? Some people can’t work.

“If they even had some sort of jobs for people that are on ODSP, like to make an extra $300, $400 . . . I’m sure there’s offices, buildings all over Owen Sound here that I’m sure would just love to hire somebody on ODSP that is able to do the work. To cut their lawn or clip their flowers. You know what I mean? Make a few extra dollars. But every time you try to work, ODSP takes 50% of your wages (above $200 earned income), so you’re not getting any farther ahead anyway.”

* * *

Beatrice Mann, Owen Sound.

She’s been on ODSP for about seven years. She said she didn’t eat anything over the prior weekend because there was no place to go for a free meal. She next ate the following Monday night at the soup kitchen.

“You plan when you’re going to eat and when you’re not going to eat . . . . (I) pay way to much rent, $750 plus hydro. Went without heat two days in this place that I’m in now but I went a week in my previous apartment . . . .

“I think about it (financial situation) way too much. But what keeps me going is my daughters and my granddaughter. Right? I know I have to get up every morning and brush the dust off and get myself dressed and look happy and whatever, for my granddaughter, ’cause I don’t want her to seeing her nania looking sad or upset all the time, right? Yeah, she’s my world.”