Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 21

Dear Colleagues, 

Be kind!” is the message coming from the Grey Bruce Health Unit this week as we move to Stage 3 of reopening and the mandatory use of masks.  I have attached a few new posters created by the Grey Bruce Health Unit Communications Team regarding masks. #strongertogetherGB

  • Concerned about what ‘reopening’ means for area charities and non-profits? Have questions? Want answers?  There will be a moderated Q & A call with Dr. Arra for Not-for-Profits and Charity organizations on July 28th, 1:30-3:00pm in which Dr. Arra.    
  • Please register here and ask your burning questions in advance!  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CWWGW3R

A morning smile is the announcement by the Ontario government of proposed  changes that would provide additional protection for payday loan borrowers by capping interest rates and fees on defaulted loans, ensuring that workers and families who use payday loan services can keep more of their hard-earned money. The changes were included in the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020 and will be amendments to the Payday Loans Act, 2008. 

  • Lenders would not be permitted to charge interest in excess of 2.5 per cent per month (non-compounded), providing rate relief to borrowers unable to repay their loans on time.  
  • A maximum fee of $25 that may be charged by lenders for dishonoured or bounced cheques or pre-authorized debits.  

INCOME SUPPORTS

  • ODSP will send information about CERB reporting and how it will impact ODSP monthly payments to all ODSP recipients who reported CERB. Income from CERB is treated similarly to how earnings are treated under ODSP. The amount of the CERB that is deducted from ODSP depends on the situation of the person receiving it. For individuals under 18 or in full-time secondary or postsecondary school, CERB is fully exempt, meaning that it does not get deducted from ODSP payments. For everyone else, the CERB is partially exempt: The first $200 received in a month is fully exempt and a 50 per cent exemption will apply for each additional dollar, no matter the total amount of CERB payments collected.
  • ODSP Grey Bruce’s hours are changing: effective August 4, 2020, service delivery hours will return to regular hours of 8:30am-5:00pm, from the current hours of 10:00 am– 2:00pm. 
  • This is not a return to regular client services.  Existing health and safety measures related to COVID-19 continue to be followed. Clients will continue to be served via secure methods such as over the phone, via intercom and in secure rooms. They will limit the number of face to face interactions with clients to where it is necessary to ensure client service.
  • new report by Statistics Canada outlines how the pandemic has disproportionately impacted Indigenous respondents. 36% of Indigenous respondents reported that the pandemic had a “strong or moderate” impact on their ability to pay for essentials while 25% of non-indigenous respondents reported the same. Despite experiencing higher levels of hardship, fewer indigenous respondents reported applying for government support. 
  • Recent polling by the Native Women’s Association of Canada found that Indigenous women are experiencing greater financial difficulties (46%) than other Canadians (34%) and the financial impact of COVID-19 closely correlated to rates of domestic violence against Indigenous women.
  • The Senate Finance Committee urged the Federal Government to work with Provincial, Territorial, and Indigenous Governments to “give full, fair and priority consideration” to a Basic Income in their COVID-19 Relief in times of Crisis report.

HOUSING SUPPORTS

  • A recent article from the Canadian Medical Association Journal takes an equity-informed perspective on emerging trends and interventions to reduce the impact of COVID on those experiencing homelessness. 

Recently, Tamarack hosted a cross-country rural communities and housing discussion and some of the highlights of the discussion were:

  • Funding – Emergency funding for sheltering people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic has demonstrated how quickly things can change when there is political will. Once funding for COVID-19 is gone, the solutions that were developed will likely not be sustainable. 
  • Short-term solutions – Many who were homeless prior to the pandemic are now being temporarily housed in hotels and motels. While there have been some benefits to this intervention, there is widespread recognition that this is a short-term solution and not permanent housing. There are concerns about long-term availability at motels/hotels as communities open up for tourism and concerns around how long government funding will last. 
  • Wrap around services – Food delivery programs, transportation assistance, internet and cell phone distribution, wellness checks, and mental health and addictions support have been an important element that has been coupled with housing responses during the pandemic. 
  • Housing supply – Lack of affordable housing stock in rural communities continues to be a major barrier in providing long-term solutions, even when funding is available for wrap around services such as mental health supports. 
  • Collaboration – Partnerships around housing and homelessness have improved since the onset of the pandemic. There is hope these new collaborations will be sustained into the future. 
  • Data – There is a need for more data to get an accurate picture of housing and homelessness in rural communities. Point-in-time counts prior to the pandemic may no longer be accurate. 
  • Recovery planning – Housing is not seen as a key focus of most COVID-19 recovery plans. Members are seeing plans being developed at provincial and federal levels rather than local or regional levels.

In Grey County and Bruce County, housing and homelessness remain important priorities.  A July 9th, 2020 report to Council reported on the County’s work, partnerships and next steps. The full report is attached. 


Stay well, Jill 

Rural Homeless Enumeration 2018

full length of man sitting outdoors

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.