Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 65

Dear Colleagues, 

Even before the pandemic hit, homelessness was known to take up to 25 years off a person’s life. Now, life has become even more precarious for those experiencing homelessness and a lack of housing options.  

Considered among the most vulnerable to the virus, people who are experiencing homelessness are 20 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19, 10 times more likely to receive intensive care, and more than 5 times more likely to die within 21 days of a positive test. (ICES & Lawson Health Research Institute, 2021)

A housing crisis, opioid crisis and the new Delta virus variant means people are living in very dangerous conditions. Thank you to all partners that are working to improve isolation conditions for people and to save lives.  


More than ever, please ensure that your teams are following all of the public health COVID 19 protection procedures.   

  • Safe N Sound: will be limiting service due to recent covid exposures. Their hours will remain in effect from 9:00am to 3:30pm, but will be curbside to hand out needed supplies, food or basic necessities. 
  • By-name List (as of 17 June 2021)
    • 84 homeless/49 chronically homeless 
    • 11 housed by agencies
    • 2 left the area (no contact in 90 days)
  • Indigneous Housing Support Program (as of 17 June 2021) 
    • 100 households, 144 individuals
    • 80 homeless/51 chronically homeless
    • 35 precariously housed
    • 11 elders/51 youth
    • 16 leaving institutions
  • Tiny Homes South Bruce PeninsulaCouncil has approved a town-initiated zoning bylaw amendment that includes eliminating minimum gross floor area requirements for homes beyond what’s set out in Ontario’s Building Code.
  • The City of Owen Sound has released an Housing Affordability Discussion Paper as part of its Official Plan. 
  • Recovery for All has launched its VOTE HOUSING campaign which advocates at the national level to increase investments in affordable housing and initiatives to address homelessness. 
  • Low Income Energy Network (LIEN) Annual Conference 2021 will be held on June 29, 2021, 3-5pm (via Zoom). This year’s conference will explore themes of energy equity, affordability and access. Registration is free, here
  • The Homeless Hub’s State of Systems Approaches Report explores how to prevent and end homelessness through an equitable, just and accountable framework of systems transformation.


We are deeply saddened to hear of another horrific discovery of 751 unmarked graves of children. Our thoughts are with the Cowessess First Nation and all First Nation peoples of Saskatchewan and across Canada. #everychildmatters

  • A Day to Listen the Downie Wenjack Fund is hosting a series of stories, music and events to amplify Indigenous voices on June 30th. #dosomething 
  • M’Wikwedong IFC is offering a series of Youth Housing Workshops. Contact Rachel Paterson to register or for more info. ishp@mwikwedong.com


  • The Food Security Action Group will be meeting the Plan the Bruce team to give input into this Bruce County Strategic Plan.  Participate in an online survey at planthebruce.ca/communities to share your input.    
  • The Community Safety and Well Being Plan has been fully endorsed and released. Work begins now on assessment of Action Tables and the creation of county level and municipal action plans. 


  • National Guaranteed Basic Income Bill C-273 entered Second Reading on June 14th.  This is the first of 2 rounds of debate before the bill goes to a vote.  MPs from multiple parties debated the bill, most showing support and some raising questions about how to do it. 
  • The National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association, the National Indigenous Economic Development Board, and the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business released a study this week which shows Indigenous companies needed more financial help during the pandemic, but many struggled to find relief.
    • The survey of 825 Indigenous businesses found 72% wanted more financial support and 44% didn’t think they could operate until July without aid. 
    • More than half, who were surveyed between Dec. 18, 2020 and Fed. 1, 2021, and who needed assistance, applied for at least one government relief program.
    • 52% qualified, but 1/4 of those had difficulty meeting application criteria and almost half said financial requirements were a barrier to accessing aid.
    • NACCA’s Indigenous Business Stabilization Program has been extended to June 30th, 2021.
  • 2021 Financial Planner Canada Financial Stress Index was released. 
    • Amid the pandemic, nearly 2-in-5 of Canadians (38%) say money is their #1 source of stress, more so than personal health (26%), work (20%), or relationships (15%).
    • More than half (51%) of Canadians have lost sleep over money concerns
    • 1/3 (31%) say financial stress has caused health issues – an increase from 18% last year.
    • Nearly 1/2 (45%) say the COVID-19 pandemic has directly impacted their financial stress level. 


  • Feeding Families – Restaurant Relief more than 70 donors (businesses, groups and individuals) gave $45,000 to 40 local restaurants who’ve made more than 3,000 meals for OSHaRE. This was the total as of June 17th but we expect it to be higher with the final totals. The relief effort has come to an end as restaurants focus on re-opening their businesses. However, OSHaRE continues to provide meals daily and you can make direct donations.


  • City of Owen Sound Public Transit:  is completing a Transit Study and would like your participation in the survey.   Complete the survey and also forward to clients and families who may have an interest in having their voice heard. There are virtual stakeholder and public engagement meetings planned in June and August. Please go to the site to register. 

Stay well, Jill  

Rain won’t stop homeless campout

OWEN SOUND – As preparations were made Friday for Safe ‘n Sound’s second annual overnight campout to raise awareness and some money to combat homelessness, the rain started.

Organizers want to remind people that some around us do camp in all kinds of weather because they have to. Richard Suchow, the manager at the downtown drop-in and homeless referral agency, plans to pitch tarps, a tent and camp behind the centre at 310 8th St. E.

“We’ll brave the elements as long as we’re able to do that without being ridiculous and freezing to death,” Suchow said as the rain already started to fall over the lunch hour. “Where unlike true homelessness, we can go in and get warm and come back out.”

The centre will be open all night to support campers, who may simply wrap themselves in blankets and sleeping bags and sit on chairs through the night, Suchow said.

He and three other volunteers, Bill Baker, Shawn McMann and Lynn Dilworth, sat on a bench behind the centre with sleeping bags in hand and talked about homelessness and what they’re trying to do about it.

The citizen-led agency opened in spring, 2009. It offers a place to meet, lockers to store belongings and get help accessing resources. Arrangements for after-hours emergency shelter are made here too.

Safe ‘n Sound receives $2,000 per month from Grey County to help cover expenses but the operation runs mostly on volunteers.

Baker is responsible for the storeroom where donated clothing and toiletries are given to people in need. He said local people are very generous. He planned to hand out available sleeping bags Friday night.

McMann is currently couch surfing and declined to discuss his personal circumstances. But he volunteers at the centre and does Dilworth, who was homeless 2 1/2 years ago after a marital breakup left her with little more than a backpack of belongings. Now she accommodates homeless people on her couch and even in a tent and in her backyard.

Suchow said the agency always needs money and volunteers in a variety of capacities, including web design and even someone with a truck to pick up donations. But the educational part of Friday night’s event is just as important, he said.

“Unfortunately, when you’re in poverty and homelessness the people feel less of themselves.

And they really feel like they’re under the microscope,” Suchow said. And so, he said, homeless people are often apologetic when caught sleeping in stairways and bank machine enclosures.

“I think it’s because people don’t understand homelessness. And so they don’t realize this isn’t a bad person because they are homeless. That we see middle-class families in some cases have lost everything. It just happens.”

Saturday morning at the Queen’s Park bandstand along 1st Ave. W., speakers will talk about homelessness, Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MP Larry Miller will make an appearance and Owen Sound Mayor Deb Haswell is scheduled to make remarks about 10 a.m.

To donate money online, go to Canadahelps.org and search Safe ‘n Sound Residence. To learn about volunteer opportunities or to arrange to donate materials, call 519-470-7233.