Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 80

Dear Colleagues, 

Can you handle one or two more reports that say you’re tired? That you are COVID19 fatigued? That people are hungry? That people are challenged to keep their jobs? 

  • 13% of people over age 15 and older reported being always or often lonely in Statistic Canada‘s latest report – Loneliness in Canada.
  • Feed Ontario released its Hunger Report 2021.  An overall 10% increase has been seen in the use of the food banks in Ontario. However, less than 1% of clients who accessed food banks were receiving CERB
  • Poverty in the Midst of Plenty A report card on child and family poverty in Ontario, Campaign 2000.   At a basic level, everyone living in poverty has one thing in common: they don’t have enough money. Higher income is the main ingredient in any recipe for ending poverty in Ontario
  • FoodBruceGrey.com shows a 300% increase in the use of community meal programs. Numbers served are not decreasing this winter but we are hitting the maximum capacity of organizations to meet the demand. 
  • Auditor’s General Report 2021:: According to yesterday’s Auditor General report, about 9,600 Ontarians experience ‘visible’ homelessness each night. Throughout the year, that number jumps to 90,000. In reality the number of Ontarians experiencing homelessness is much higher, as 80% experience ‘hidden’ homelessness, sleeping in abandoned buildings or camping under bridges and in remote locations.
  • Service Canada says employees are not eligible for regular benefits, including Employment Insurance, if you are fired because you didn’t follow your employer’s mandatory vaccine policy. This could be a policy your employer chose to make, or one the government said your employer must have.
  • $10/day Child Care: Still no deal between provincial and federal government  on $10/day child care. P2P Huron-Perth shared this article on why it is needed: COVID-19 is Not “Women’s Work”: The Case for Universal Childcare

While the CERB was seen as “doing its job” for a short period of time we know that going into 2022, it is essential that strong income security and affordability solutions need to be implemented. 

Addressing housing affordability is critical to an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. As well, we need an increase to social assistance rates, amendments to the Employment Standards Act to ensure that employment conditions are safe and secure and that jobs pay a living wage, and ensure that people with lived experience are centered and involved in policy design that directly impacts their lives. 

So what is some good news! 

  • M’Wikwedong IFC Youth Council: are seeking Indigenous Youth in Grey and Bruce Counties to get involved and support Indigenous Youth Voices. Email youthcouncil@mwikwedong.com 
  • Maam Wiim Win Native Homes: Indigenous Housing Support Program renovated a new supportive housing location and housed people in 2 units. M’Wikwedong IFC court worker, addiction support worker and housing support worker will provide support.  
  • Child Activity Assistance Program (CAAP): Bruce County and Grey County support families with an income under $30,000 for cultural, school or sports activities that can’t access Jump Start
  • YMCA Employment has an online booking option for meeting with an Employment Advisor, Job Developer, Adult Learning Centre staff and to book computer time. Available for the Owen Sound office as it is a new system, then it will move to other locations. 
  • Employment Services: clients who lose their jobs because they are unvaccinated, may not be eligible for Employment Insurance. Steps to Justice has some information on what to do to determine if this is the case.
  • Ontario Works: If people are not eligible for EI, they can apply for Ontario Works. Ontario Works caseworker can also connect people with additional resources to help at Grey County and Bruce County. The fastest way to apply is online.
  • United Way Financial Literacy Support:can be provided to analyze a person’s financial situation and access income supports.Contact Caroline Araujo-Abbots at advice@unitedwaybg.com or 519-376-1560. 
  • Worker Income Protection Benefit Program: the Ontario government is extending the program which provides paid sick days until July 31, 2022.  
  • Bruce Power: $81,000 worth of grocery gift cards is being distributed to more than 38  community food banks/meals/cupboards and children’s services.  1,500 toboggans went out to the Toy Drive this week. 
  • CFOS Christmas broadcast: 23 local charities will receive funds for Christmas support. 
  • United Way “Thank an Educator” Campaign:  people can sponsor a fully stocked backpack in honour of a special educator. For more information visit www.ThankAnEducator.ca or call 519-376-1560. To learn more about the Backpack Program, please visit www.Backpacks4Kids.ca.
  • Backpack Program: To access the Backpack Program during the school year, please contact the United Way office at 519-376-1560.
  • Bruce County Dorrell Young Fund: provides a gift for children and teenagers whose families are struggling and are served by Bruce County Human Services. To register contact  1-800-265-3005 or 519-881-0431 orHumanServicesAdministrativeSupport@brucecounty.on.ca
  • Food Bruce Grey.com was recognized as one of 3 finalists for their Community Innovation Award of the Pillar Foundation. See the video for the award prepared by Gotham Studios. 
  • Aha Process has released its 5th Edition of Bridges Out of Poverty. There is a new section on Policy Lens. This chapter features new scenarios from Getting Ahead graduates and more in the institutional and community section. 

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:

Getting Ahead program is more social than financial success

By Rob Gowan, Sun Times, Owen Sound

Facilitator Mary Jane Murray

Facilitator Mary Jane Murray

And according to Getting Ahead facilitator Mary Jane Murray, the change people experience over the course of the program is amazing, benefitting not only the individual, but their families, friends and the entire community.

“So many people now have the confidence to finish their Grade 12, to go to college, to talk in the terms of careers, not jobs,” said Murray. “We see people who take courageous steps such as public speaking, where folks actually stand up and speak about their lives.”

The Getting Ahead workshops have been held in communities across Grey County since 2010. To date a total of 114 people in 15 groups have graduated from the workshop, which helps individuals living on no income or low income to build their resources to make their lives more prosperous. It is made possible locally through a partnership between the local Adult Learning Centres and Grey County. The local participants are referred to the program by Grey County social services’ Ontario Works caseworkers.

“Many folks, once they get things stable, they start to thrive and give back to the community,” said Murray. “They start to see how they play a role in developing our community and that is essential.

Personal benefits include families coming closer together and better relationships between parents who are separated, giving their children a more positive outlook on life.

“There are a lot of benefits,” said Murray.

The Getting Ahead program comes from the Bridges Out of Poverty anti-poverty strategy that was developed in the U.S. and first made inroads into Canada in Lambton County. Grey County was the second county in Canada to start implementing the programs.

“Grey County wanted to find a way to work with folks living on Ontario Works dollars and social assistance dollars,” said Murray, who is also a Bridges Out of Poverty certified trainer. “How can they find more pathways, more resources into building a more stable life. Grey County is the driving force, very forward thinking.”

Barb Fedy, Grey County’s director of social services said the county is extremely proud of the work done by participants in the program.

“We have seen tremendous growth in progressing through the Getting Ahead program, determining where they want to go with their future, making plans and working through issues they might currently been struggling with,” said Fedy. “It is a wonderful program to engage with.”

Fedy said social services is committed to supporting the program.

“We hope to see a lot more of our graduates in the future,” said Fedy.

The Getting Ahead program was started locally in 2010 as a pilot project. The first course of eight participants was so well received that Grey County initiated a second group. Each year Grey County has put funding toward the local Getting Ahead program, with grant money sometimes being used to help cover the costs.

“We praise Grey County social services because this program would not be able to continue without their investing dollars right into their budget,” said Murray.

Grey County social services was training its caseworkers in Bridges out of Poverty workshops as were adult learning centre staff members. Then in February 2010, there was a week-long training and certification program done in Owen Sound where dozens of agencies and organizations sent representatives to receive Bridges out of Poverty training.

Murray said she had to go to Minnesota to become a certified trainer in Bridges Out of Poverty and it was her special training that led to the collaboration between Grey County and the adult learning centres.

Murray said the adult learning centres work with folks from all income levels and all walks of life, but have a component of students who live on very low incomes and were “couch-surfing” but trying to finish their Grade 12 education.

“We were seeing people who weren’t getting enough to eat, who had medical problems that weren’t being attended to, dental issues, folks suffering terribly with abscessed teeth,” said Murray. “(Adult Learning Centres manager Tim Nicholls Harrison) learned about this program and felt that it resonated and sort of connected the dots for us.”

The local retention rate — where people who have started the program graduate — is in the 90% range. A rate of 76% is considered a success.

“I think we are doing quite well,” said Murray.

Courses have been completed in Owen Sound, Dundalk, Durham, Meaford, Markdale and Hanover. Murray said adults of all ages have participated in the program, with one course of six people covering six different decades.

“It was really interesting,” said Murray. “It was quite an amazing group.”

The Getting Ahead program includes 15-16 sessions with participants — called investigators because they are investigating their lives — meeting twice a week for about eight weeks.

“We investigate our lives and how do people end up in this spot. What brought us here,” said Murray. “We dig pretty deeply into that.”

They are sent out in the community to investigate their lives, such as how to invest money, the cost of sending a child to school or how to start their own business.

“People are deployed out into the community to find out where that information is,” said Murray. “When they go out in the community they bring back and share with each other the information they have so that all of them are growing together.”

Participants delve into their finances and look at their debt and the expenses they have to deal with.

“What this program does is it shows people that they are simply worthy of having a stable life,” said Murray. “What we are trying to do is build stability.”

They look into the causes of poverty, which are broken into four sectors in the program — The behaviours of the individual, barriers in the community such as lack of good-paying jobs, the risks of using services in the community such as pay-day loan lenders and rent-to-own, and how the political structures are set up and the impact they have on the individuals.

“When you look at the four causes of poverty there is only one where we have any control over it,” said Murray. “This is a huge ‘ah ha’ moment for so many people because they said, ‘oh my God, I thought it was just me, that it was all my fault,’ and it is not.”

To close out the program, participants do an analysis of their personal set of resources and develop a plan for the future.

Murray said the framework used in the program is to build relationships based on mutual respect. It takes out the stigma of class based on income level and puts everyone on an equal playing field.

“In our lives sometimes we have less and sometimes we have more,” said Murray. “When you build relationships built on mutual respect . . . you start to view yourself differently and you start to view other people differently.”

Murray said the Getting Ahead program doesn’t just teach participants about finance, it also helps them grow socially.

“So often when you are living on low income you feel very isolated and very alone,” said Murray. “When people are sharing information with each other they start to bond and they start to see the Getting Ahead program as another way of expanding their social capital, expanding their circle, expanding their life.”

Murray said the program also includes the participation of past graduates in the role of co-facilitator.

“We don’t do it alone and the co-facilitators have been really amazing,” said Murray.