Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 19

Dear Colleagues, 

We have passed day 100 and we continue to provide emergency services to our community.  Partners have been gathering statistics and stories and we are beginning to put these into reports. 

Canadian-wide data reports have been compiled on the COVID19 impact: 

  • The Mental Health Commission of Canada and the Conference Board of Canada released the survey results on how COVID-19 has impacted Canadians’ mental health. 84% of people surveyed reported that since the onset of COVID19, their mental health concerns had worsened. The biggest mental health concerns were: family well-being, one’s future, isolation/loneliness and anxiousness/fear. 
  • Stats Can just released Food insecurity before and during the COVID-19 pandemic , 2017/2018 and May 2020 and “Food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic, May 2020,” published as part of the series StatCan COVID-19: Data to Insights for a Better Canada 
  • As the pandemic continues to affect employment and the economy, it raises questions about the state of housing markets and the design of our communities, along with calls for action to increase affordability and access. A Globe & Mail/CMHC webcast will bring together experts to outline the impacts of the pandemic on housing, along with potential paths forward. Register today to join the webcast on Tuesday June 30th, 2020 from 1:30pm to 2:30pm EDT.


  • In the wake of Covid-19, our homeless community has struggled with practicing social isolation practices for their own well being while having to travel to food services in order to eat to sustain their health. 
  • Our housing and food security partners continue to support people housed in motels. The United Way Grey Bruce, OSHaRE, St. Aiden’s Church, Habitat for Humanity, YMCA Housing, Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre, M’Wikwedong Native Friendship Centre, Canadian Mental Health Association, Safe ‘n’ Sound, The Women’s Centre, Traveller’s Motel, Travelodge and Key Motel. 
  • As of June 23, YMCA Housing ensured 78 meals in April, 834 meals in May and 814 meals in June were delivered to people. Contact Rachel Paterson, rachel.paterson@osgb.ymca.ca.
  • For women fleeing violence please contact The Women’s Centre Grey Bruce. 
  • For Indigenous community members experiencing homelessness please contact housing workers at M’Wikwedong Indigenous Friendship Centre, Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre, YMCA Housing, or Safe ‘N Sound.   
  • Since April 1st, YMCA Housing has provided 1,346 nights of shelter, 142 households (208 individual placements), In June, 46 households were sheltered todate with 25 households currently being sheltered. 
  • In partnership, the YMCA Housing, Owen Sound Police, Bylaw and CMHA have visited new tent encampments in Owen Sound for wellness checks.   
  • Bruce County Housing is taking applications for a new 35 unit build in Kincardine with a planned occupancy in January 2021. 
  • Grey Bruce Health Unit has updated the Guidelines for Community Food Programs and Guidance for Food Delivery (June 16th). 
  • The Grey Bruce Good Food Box  has 19 locations. Most will be closed over the summer but several will be running – Teeswater, Lucknow and Chatsworth.  Lucknow distributed 250 in June and Owen Sound 111. 
  • The Grey Bruce Good Food Box received a grant from Bruce County and they will be purchasing supplies (new bins, baskets, cleaning supplies, etc), upgrading management systems and providing trainingning to all sites on operating under COVID19 with the aim of have more sites open in the September. 




  • The Community Drug and Alcohol Strategy members have been focused on COVID19 medical response but anticipate returning to increasing the time devoted to harm reduction programming soon.   Naloxone kits are available from Grey Bruce Public Health. And Public Health has joined the police to do wellness checks on residences where there have been overdoses. 
  • Safe ‘N Sound and the United Way have partnered to collect Sharp containers – 955 needles were collected in the first 4 days of starting up this initiative.  
  • M’Wikwedong IFC housing staff are working with complex cases of people being evicted from motels (temporary housing) due to addictions. This remains a problem in communities. 

The United Way office will be closed next Wednesday to Friday and many staff, including myself, shall be on holiday.  So there will be no Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update next week. 

Stay well, Jill 

10 Things You Might Not Know About Poverty In Canada

17 October 2013

In 1993, the UN designated October 17 the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, and later adopted the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger as the core of its Millennium Development Goals. The theme for this year is “Working together towards a world without discrimination: Building on the experience and knowledge of people in extreme poverty.”

To mark the day, here are some things about poverty in Canada that you might not know:

10. It’s hard to measure

There is no official measure of poverty in Canada. Statistics Canada reports that 14.9 per cent of Canadians have “low income” (i.e. make less than half the median income) but declines to label that group “poor.” Low income is only one way of measuring poverty, though; another is the “basic needs poverty measure,” which looks at the absolute minimum resources needed to fulfill physical well-being. The “market basket measure,” created by the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, takes a similar approach with a broader range of goods and services, estimating the disposable income needed to meet basic needs. In 2008, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) noted that poverty had been steadily rising in Canada since the mid-1990s.

9. It varies widely between different groups

Regardless of how you try to measure poverty, certain groups are worse off than others. A study by the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that Aboriginal Canadians make about 30 per cent less than the rest of Canadians. Other groups more likely to be affected by poverty include lone parents, recent immigrants, people with disabilites and seniors, according to Statistics Canada.

8. Child poverty is high in Canada

Canada ranks behind the average in a recent UNICEF survey of child poverty in rich nations. According to the report, 13.3 per cent of Canadian children live in poverty, compared to 11 per cent across the 35 “economically advanced countries” studied. According to one studyhalf of First Nations children in Canada live in poverty.

7. It’s a significant burden on the economy

Poverty can exert extra health care, crime and social assistance costs. According to an estimate from the Ontario Association of Food Banks, poverty costs that province betwen 5.5 and 6.6 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product. That same report pegs the national health care costs attributable to poverty at $7.6 billion.

6. Many Canadians spend too much on shelter

In 1986, the federal and provincial governments established a threshold of housing affordability set at 30 per cent of a resident’s monthly income. By that standard, a full quarter — or 3.3 million households — in Canada are paying more than they should on housing, according to data from the National Household Survey released this year.

5. Poverty can shorten your life

An analysis by The Hamilton Spectator showed that there was a 21-year gap in life expectancy between that city’s richest and poorest neighbourhoods.

4. Many don’t have enough to eat

According to Food Banks Canada, nearly 900,000 Canadians are assisted by food banks each month. Thirty-eight per cent of those helped by food banks are children and youth and 11 per cent are Aboriginal (compared to 4.3 per cent of the total population).

3. Homelessness is widespread

As many as 200,000 Canadians will experience homelessness each year, according to a recent report from the Canadian Homelessness Research Network. On any given night, about 30,000 Canadians are homeless.

2. Debt levels are on the rise

Last month, Statistics Canada reported that the Canadian household debt-to-income ratio had climbed to a new high of 163.4 per cent — in other words, the average Canadian owes $1.63 for every dollar they earn.

1. Early investment can yield big dividends

2008 report from the Public Health Agency of Canada argues that reducing child poverty can have huge spillover effects on society. “It is estimated that $1 invested in the early years saves between $3 and $9 in future spending on the health and criminal justice systems, as well as on social assistance,” the report says.

Updated Poverty Numbers released


Statistics Canada released annual numbers on low-income last week illustrating that poverty remains a persistent problem across the country.  The 2011 numbers are the most recent data available as there is a two-year gap between the release of these figures.   The Low-Income Cut-off After-Tax which looks at a family who spends more than 60% of their income on basic needs after taxes and transfers are considered (based on 1992 figures, which are outdated), puts the overall poverty rate in Canada in 2011 at 8.8% – a 0.2% improvement from 2010.  What this means is 3 million people in Canada are still living in poverty.

Meanwhile, child poverty across the country has increased, moving from 8.2% in 2010 to 8.5% in 2011.  With numbers like this, it would be prudent to suggest it is time to re-evaluate federal programs and policies related to poverty. This includes child care,  income supports and housing. Assistance in these areas would reduce poverty numbers and save the government money.

Those in the middle are not faring that well either. Incomes remain stagnant for families with at least two-people – there has been no change in the median income between 2010 and 2011 for this income groups, and since 2011 there has only been a modest increase from $66,700 to $68,000.

The Stats Can report uses words like “stable” to describe this, when the truth is that incomes are not rising and yet costs of living are.  Food and shelter costs were two main factors behind a 0.7% increase in the Consumer Price Index between May 2012 – 2013.  Fresh vegetables saw an increase of 5.8% while bakery products rose 3.9%.  Would this, compared to stagnant incomes, be ‘stable’? Would a family who has to pay rent, feed the kids, pay for transport, etc, feel stable?  It is ironic that a term denoting unwavering income levels describes the opposite reality felt by individuals and families experiencing this trend.

Alberta was the only province in which families with two-persons or more saw an increase in after-tax median income, moving from $80,400 in 2010 to $83,800 in 2011.  Sadly, on the other end of the spectrum is Ontario, the only province where a single person actually experienced a decrease in median income – dropping from $28,600 to $25,900.

Recently in May, the premier of Ontario chose not to raise the minimum wage, so it holds at $10.25/hr (since 2010).  Anti-poverty advocates in the province propose raising the minimum wage to $14/hr, which would ensure adequate income to meet basic needs.  The 2011 statistics offer fresh fodder for this debate.

Of course an increase in the minimum wage would only reach those who are employed.  In order to ensure individuals on social assistance rise above the poverty line the province of Ontario would  have to implement the recommendations made as a result of the 2012 Social Assistance Review, which included an immediate increase of $100 for single persons and the creation of an independent advisory group to establish adequate rates. (Read more)

Poverty in BC – Still the Highest in Canada

The overall poverty rate in BC remains the worst in Canada.  While the poverty rate dropped from 10.5% in 2010 to 11.3% in 2011, BC holds its place at the bottom and remains one of only two provinces without a provincial poverty plan.

BC child poverty rates rose in 2011 to 93,000 – an increase of 7,000 children – which makes BC now tied with Manitoba for the worst child poverty rate in the country.  BC held this shameful title for almost 8 consecutive years until last year, when it rose to 2nd last.

First Call BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition noted today in a press release that when you delve deeper into family types the numbers get worse.  For lone-parent mothers the poverty rate soared moving from 16.4% to 24.6%, representing 27,000 children.   For two-parent families with children the numbers experiencing poverty grew as well by 10,000 to a total of 61,000 children.  This is shocking for a one-year time period.

While the BC government is reticent to implement a provincial poverty plan, they did attempt to work with seven cities across BC to establish local poverty strategies.  No funding was given to the cities and regions were left to develop their own initiative based on local services.  Since this announcement in April 2012, there has been no update from the BC government on the status of these ‘plans’ or poverty in these communities.  Looking at the recent numbers, the patchwork anti-poverty programs and focus on jobs is not enough to address poverty.