Task Force Blog

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 37

Dear Colleagues, 

Lately there has been a lot of discussion about how we take care of people in the community and how we have mobilized to meet basic needs – food, shelter, clothing, access to healthcare, etc. 

  • A new food app from the United Way has gone live and tracks how we are feeding people across Grey Bruce.  The app allows food banks and meal programs to enter data, download reports and create dashboards that visualize their impact and food insecurity trends in their communities. This was created in partnership with NPX and Bruce Power.
  • It also has a public dashboard for the community to access the data at  www.foodbrucegrey.com 
  • 9 out of 15 community meal programs have distributed 113,090 meals. Food banks have assisted 9,189 people. Volunteers with 22 organizations have logged in 13,402 hours.  

We know that food and shelter are points of engagement with people to also assess other needs and make referrals to other services.  

Our next meeting of the Poverty Task Force is Friday, December 30th, 10am-11:30am.  All members are invited and it is open to the public as well. 

MENTAL HEALTH AND ADDICTIONS SUPPORTS 

  • The second wave of the pandemic has intensified feelings of stress and anxiety, and increased despair, suicidal thoughts and hopelessness in Canadians. 40% of Canadians say their mental health has deteriorated since the pandemic began.   Read recent CMHA report at https://cmha.ca/documents/summary-of-findings   
  • The ongoing pandemic affects front line workers and volunteers. Take a look at the “Are you thriving or surviving?” infographic with your team. (Attached) Where are individuals at? Check for burnout for essential workers. 
  • On December 3rd, Public Health sent out an OPIOID ALERT. 
  • There have been at least 5 overdoses this week in Grey Bruce, 2 of them fatal.  In one instance, the use of Naloxone was unable to reverse the overdose. 
  • A new RAAM Clinic (Rapid Access Addiction Medicine) opened up on Saugeen First Nation on Dec 3rd. 
  • Contact the Public Health Unit to pick up Naloxone kits and access training.   
  • Overdose is a medical emergency. Call 911 or go to the Emergency Department. 
  • The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act provides protection from simple possession charges when 911 is called for an overdose.
  • Public Health says the Overdose prevention line is a vital phone service for people that are using drugs alone. It is a service that allows users to call so that they can be safe while using alone.  Overdose Prevention Line: 1-888-853-8542 An operator will stay on the line with the user while the drug is used. In the event that the user becomes unresponsive, the Prevention Line operator will call 911 to make sure that help arrives 
  • For additional Addiction Services: 
    • ConnexOntario 1-866-531-2600 
    • Withdrawal Management/RAAM Clinic (Rapid Access Addiction Medicine = Clinic) 519-376-5666 
    • G&B House 519-376-9495 
    • Ontario Addiction Treatment Centre 519-371-0007 
    • CMHA Grey Bruce Mental Health and Addiction Services 519-371-3642 
    • Mental Health Crisis Line Grey Bruce 1-877-470-5200 
    • https://www.publichealthgreybruce.on.ca/Your-Health/Harm-Reduction

HOUSING SUPPORTS 

  • The Meals to Motel Program has delivered 5,185 meals at the end of November. In November alone, they served 911 meals. The shelter program is run by YMCA Housing, The Women’s Centre and M’Wikwedong Housing support. 
  • The Rental and Utility Relief Fund is being offered through the Social Services Relief Fund as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. If someone has suffered income reduction due to lost hours, or complete job loss as a result of the pandemic and are presently in rental or utility arrears please call Grey County office at 519-376-5744 or click on the link to review and complete an application.  Or Bruce County office at 519-396-3450 or click on this link. 
  • Grey County local non-profit housing is seeking Board members.  https://brucegrey.cioc.ca/volunteer/record/V-GRE0123
  • The Canadian Housing and Renewal Association’s Indigenous Caucus released the results of a nation-wide survey on perceptions of off-reserve Indigenous housing. The results reveal a majority of Canadians want the federal government to develop an urban, rural and northern Indigenous housing plan to address the significant housing disparities facing Indigenous peoples.  
  • 6 in 10 Canadians would support a national strategy to help improve housing for off-reserve Indigenous peoples. A key driver of support for the strategy is awareness that the housing situation for Indigenous peoples living off-reserve is worse than for non-Indigenous peoples. 
    • If the federal government were to introduce this kind of strategy, 70% of Canadians find it important that Indigenous peoples are involved in the implementation and oversight of the housing strategy. 

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 36

Dear Colleagues, 

Keeping our family and friends safe this Christmas is a priority for all of us in the community. As we move into the “season of giving” let’s also think about how we can support organizations on the frontlines by donating our time or financial support safely. Consider simple ways we can reach out to an isolated senior or take care of our own financial (and mental) health this season.  

While organizations providing Christmas support this year have had to change their ways of distributing support it is incredible how much the community is giving to ensure that people have enough.  

FOOD SUPPORTS

Right now community food programs are focused on registering families and individuals for Christmas hampers, meals and toy drives. 

  • We saw a sharp increase in demand for most community food organizations in October and an increase in numbers registering for hampers, meals and toys at Food Banks as well as an increase in numbers accessing the food bank for the first time in November. Over 100,000 meals have been served since March 2020 and November numbers have not been included.
  • People can call 2-1-1 or search on 2-1-1’s Information Grey Bruce to find out what is available in your local community and find out how to register for Christmas programs. Programs require registration for hampers and toys!  Please check for deadlines!! 
  • Bruce Power has released new funding for social programs under its Be the Light Campaign: Beating COVID19 Together.  Bruce Power is making a $350,000 contribution in grocery gift cards to schools, county housing services, long-term care homes and women’s shelters.  Of that $350,000 –  schools, county housing services, and women’s shelters will distribute 3,000 grocery store gift cards to help those in need; $100,00 to school breakfast club programs and $10,000 towards winter coats. 
  • Bruce Power has also launched an online fundraiser with the United Way of Bruce Grey to collect cash donations in place of Bruce Power’s annual on-site toy drive. They say it has raised $27,000 for nine local toy drives and hamper programs.

INCOME SUPPORTS 

  • Parents of children aged 12 or younger will again be able to receive a one-time payment of $200 per child, and $250 for children 21 years of age or younger with special education needs. Payment should be received before Christmas. 
  • The Grey Bruce Free Community Volunteer Income Tax Clinics are listed on 2-1-1.  Throughout the year some organizations are offering filing services. 
  • Prosper Canada is hosting a one-hour webinar on adapting to a virtual tax clinic model on 2 Dec 2020, 1-2pm. Register now to hear speakers from the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP/CRA) about key considerations for Canadian practitioners operating tax clinics in 2021, as well as how to access CVITP program training and support.  
  • This year, due to the implications of the extension of the CRA tax filing deadline, many seniors in receipt of the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), Allowance or Allowance for the Survivor benefit, have not yet submitted their 2019 income tax information. 
  • Since GIS and the Allowance are paid, in normal circumstances based on the previous year’s income, these clients would have had their benefits discontinued July 2020 if not for interim measures approved for July to December 2020. 
  • Clients are encouraged to submit their income information as soon as possible, so as to avoid any interruption in the payment of GIS, Allowance or the Allowance for the Survivor in January 2021. During the week of October 5, 2020, Service Canada sent reminder letters and Statement of Income forms to clients in receipt of these benefits whose income information for 2019 had not been received.
  • If community members or individuals do not have access to the internet or face other barriers, the Service Canada Outreach Support Centre will ensure they get access to the critical benefits they need. Client can call the toll-free number (1- 877-355-2657) TTY: 1-833-719-2657 from 8:30am to 4:00pm Monday to Friday.  If you have any questions, please email  ESDC.ON.CSE-ECC.ON.EDSC@servicecanada.gc.ca 
  • A recent Income & Employment Action Group discussion focused on protecting vulnerable people from the predatory nature of payday loans. Loans Canada recently posted an analysis on how vulnerable people are under COVID19. With growing financial distress due to COIVD-19, a report by a CCPA political economist and senior researcher says the Government of Canada needs to tighten the regulations around payday lenders including “[axing] interest rates at once and [requiring] banks to offer adequate and inexpensive services to low-income households”. This is a necessary step to protect the most vulnerable Canadians from falling victim to the predatory nature of payday loans. 
  • SWIFT Network: More than 3,900 households and businesses to see improvements in broadband internet services in the municipalities of Meaford and West Grey and throughout the Townships of Chatsworth, Georgian Bluffs and Southgate.
  • The newly announced projects will collectively service more than 230 kilometres of underserved roads to deliver high-speed connectivity to many more residents living in Grey County

HOUSING SUPPORTS

  • Safe N Sound is now open evenings from 5-9pm to provide staff and space around emergency shelter as of today.   About 35 to 45 people a day stop into The Space to seek help with things like emergency shelter and harm reduction. There are at least 25 people who are homeless and still living in tents in Owen Sound. The YMCA Housing works with Safe N Sound and Grey County to provide transitional and longer-term shelter.  
  • This month, the CMHA has expanded its Mobile Mental Health and Addiction Response Team (MMHART) and is operating it in partnership with the West Grey Police Service, Hanover Police Service, Saugeen Shores Police Service and the South Bruce Ontario Provincial Police Detachment. 
  • The Meeting Place is conducting informal, in-depth discussions with current long-term and short-term rental homeowners in Northern Bruce Peninsula, to gain perspective on barriers to long-term renting and what’s needed for support and resources for either landlords or tenants to make it work. 
  • Given the high expense of becoming a homeowner on the Northern Bruce, and the number of housing units available only as short-term rentals, it is becoming increasingly difficult for seasonal workers to find affordable housing. Currently, if there are long-term rentals available, they are extremely difficult to track down and often too expensive for the seasonal worker to obtain.
  • By having in-depth conversations with landlords of all types we’d like to see if there is scope for change and the possibility for even a modest transition to both types of rental inventory in the community. If you are willing to be part of the conversion please contact Hazel Smith, Sparks facilitator, to arrange a meeting. All options available: face to face at The Meeting Place or by phone or digitally.  Contact Hazel via email hazellyder@gmail.com or call The Meeting Place at 519 596 2313 and leave a message.  
  • Concerns raised by our Income & Employment Security Action Group about CERB repayments and clawbacks from people on social assistance are increasing. A recent article indicates tenants with low income are struggling to pay the rent.   

CHILDREN & YOUTH SUPPORTS 

  • CMHA is offering the ASK workshop – a training specifically created on how to talk to kids about death and suicide. This training is ideal for service providers, educators and other concerned community members and is being offered at a reduced rate of $100 to residents of Grey and Bruce through the generous funding of the Community Foundation Grey Bruce. For those interested in attending and the fee is a barrier to participating, there are 4 scholarship spaces available for each workshop. To register and inquire about the scholarship spaces, please e-mail Jackie Ralph at jralph@cmhagb.org.
  • The Federal Government announced over $542 million in funding to advance First Nations, Inuit, and Métis engagement to co-develop the implementation of theAct respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, and to assist Indigenous communities and groups in building the capacity to establish their own child and family services systems.  

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 35

Dear Colleagues, 

National Child Day is Friday November 20, 2020. 

National Child Day is celebrated in recognition of Canada’s commitment to upholding the rights of children and two historic events: the 1959 signing of the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child and the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989.  

It is appropriate that in 2020 the Grey Bruce We C.A.R.E Project launches their COVID19sucks.ca “Let’s Talk About It” series of virtual talks.   COVIDsucks has been designed to help process losses and challenges experienced by students under COVID19. The goal of this new initiative is to:  

  • Provide a safe space to reflect and express
  • Offer a variety of verbal and nonverbal ways to interact
  • Learn new strategies to develop personal resilience and self leadership
  • Increase personal wellness
  • Build stronger social connections.

This initiative is possible through funding by the United Way of Bruce Grey and is facilitated by Ledge Leadership. To learn more, please visit covid19sucks.ca, follow on Instagram or Facebook.  

  • The Grey Bruce ‘We C.A.R.E’ Project is an initiative of community agencies and school boards who recognize the importance of working together toward the common goal of increasing and enhancing community capacity and mobilization around the promotion of youth mental health and prevention of youth suicide.  A 2018 Report Mental Health Challenges Amongst Youth in Grey Bruce is even more relevant under the pandemic. 
  • The Saskatchewan Prevention Institute is hosting a free webinar, Child Anxiety During a Pandemic- Helping Them Cope on Friday, November 20th from 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Dr. Madhav Sarda is a Child Psychiatrist based in Saskatoon. Dr. Sarda speaks about child anxiety in a way that we all can relate to and understand. 
  • There is no fee for this webinar. Registration required. For more information and/or to register, please visit: https://skprevention.ca/event/child-anxiety-during-a-pandemic-helping-them-cope/ 
  • The Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health  hosted a webinar with Children’s Mental Health Ontario discussing the province-wide virtual care evaluation conducted to find out what’s working, what’s not and how agencies and service providers can improve virtual services. The recording is now available: https://bit.ly/3lagi7Q 
  • COVID 19 IMPACT Survey: The Four County Labour Market Planning Board serving Bruce, Grey, Huron and Perth survey is open until 30 November 2020. We are encouraging organizations to have their customers complete this online survey. surveymonkey.com/R/FCLMPBCOVIDIMPACT  

HOUSING SUPPORTS

  • The Winter Disconnection Ban started 15 Nov 2020.  
    • Electricity and gas distributors are banned from disconnecting residential customers for non-payment from November 15 to April 30. 
    • Electricity and gas distributors have until December 1st to reconnect residential customers who were disconnected for non-payment before November 15. 
    • Electricity distributors may not install load control devices (devices that limit how much electricity is supplied to a home) on homes from November 15 to April 30. 
    • Electricity and gas distributors can continue to charge late payment fees on past due amounts during the winter disconnection ban period. 
    • It’s your responsibility to pay your electricity or natural gas bill on time.  We recommend making regular payments throughout the ban.   If you can’t, the most important thing to do is to stay in contact with your electricity or gas distributor and make payment arrangements, or see if you qualify for financial assistance. 
    • For more information on assistance programs for low income families, please visit: https://www.oeb.ca/rates-and-your-bill/help-low-income-consumers  
    • For more information about the United Way of Bruce Grey Utility Assistance program, please visit: https://unitedwayofbrucegrey.com/services-offered/utility-assistance-program/ 
    • To learn more about energy savings and upgrades that may help reduce high energy bills, please visit: ttps://unitedwayofbrucegrey.com/services-offered/energy-assistance-pilot-project/ 
    • For all other utility related assistance programs, please call 211 to learn about programs that may be available in your area. 

INCOME SUPPORTS

FOOD SUPPORTS 

  • Community Food Programs experienced their highest numbers in October and numbers are increasing at food banks and meal programs as we move into winter.  Close to 100,000 meals have been distributed. 
  • Contact 211 for the latest plans for Christmas hampers, toy drives and Christmas meals. Most programs require advance registration. 
  • Keeping Not-For-Profits Connected During COVID19 have been actively distributing foodrescue.ca donated food via OSHaRE and emergency boxes from Feed Ontario via The Salvation Army Owen Sound. 
  • The Grey Bruce School Nutrition Program continues to seek funding and food donations for “Grab & Go” bags. Contact Bev Gateman, 519-364-5820 x 191.
  • The Food Policy Council of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington is seeking support to  endorse Bill 216 Amendment to Food Literacy for Students Act  Currently it is optional for schools to consider school gardens and food literacy programs. This bill would make it mandatory for schools to create garden programs and offer food literacy in Grades 1-12. Our Food Security Action Group reviewed this request and felt this was something we supported.  Individual organizations are asked to send letters of support to the Food Policy Council, Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force and your MPP. 

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 34

Dear Colleagues, 

Some weeks are just rough. 

At our Emergency Housing & Homelessness virtual meeting this week we acknowledged that some First Nation communities are in crisis.  And that racism and health equity issues are still presenting barriers. 

We know that so many of us have been working non-stop since the start of the pandemic and we are tired.  Dr. Donald Cole, Grey Bruce Public Health,  reminded us to “focus on resilience in the face of discouraging trends and hard realities.”  We were reminded that so much of the rapid emergency response we have sustained and will continue to provide is built upon the strength of our working relationships. These have been forged over many years and across both counties.  
We do find hope and inspiration with the collective actions of partners.  An open letter from Ian Reich, Public Health Manager, GBHU to the public also reminds us to be kinder to people who test positive for COVID 19. 

“We are in this together, and we must all lean on each other. Now is not the time to get angry and bully each other. Now is the time to carry each other through tough times, knowing that we may need assistance, encouragement and support at some point in the future. Let us collectively fight this pandemic as a united community. The only way to do this is by understanding, and being sympathetic to each other’s situation.”  

HOUSING SUPPORTS

  • Housing, Outreach & Wellness Grey-Bruce (HOW Grey Bruce): is open in the former Owen Sound Downtown Improvement Area location, 854 2ndAve. E.  Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The aim is to improve access to mental health and addiction services by being downtown, where many who need help are, with greater integration of agencies that can help and address the increasing number of homeless people in Owen Sound.  
  • YMCA Housing has provided 4,500 nights of shelter, sheltered 692 people and moved 172 people into more permanent housing.   
  • Habitat for Humanity Grey Bruce: is now accepting applications for home ownership in Hanover. Deadline for applications is Dec 7th, 2020. If anyone has questions, you can call Rachelle @ 519-371-6776 ext 101.
  • The 2020 Ontario Budget for 2020-2021 was released (up to March 2021) includes an investment of $510 million through the Social Services Relief Fund to help municipal service managers and Indigenous housing partners protect homeless shelter staff and residents, expand rent support programming and create longer-term housing solutions. 
  • The budget did not include any new specific measures for early years and child care, housing and homelessness, or social assistance, beyond what was announced prior to the budget.  

INCOME & EMPLOYMENT SUPPORTS

  • At-home schooling costs: The 2020 Ontario budget renews funding to help parents with the added costs of at-home education (workbooks, school supplies and technology). The program consists of $200 per child under 12 and $250 per child or youth with special needs.   
  • Backpacks and school supplies: the United Way of Bruce Grey still has backpacks available for any student in Grey Bruce. Contact the office directly. 
  • Janice Bye Memorial/Community Foundation GB have an award of $1,500 (or smaller amounts if more than one student chosen) for special needs students in Grey or Bruce.  Deadline is November 25th.  Click here for more information and application.  
  • Leads Employment Services Options Program:  for youth with disabilities and barriers facilities paid group training and supported placements. They are struggling to find placements and spaces in rural communities for clients. Therefore the program is being offered virtually. If aware of any available opportunities and spaces to meet clients, please reach out to Tracey Leroux.    
  • Seniors tax credit: The 2020 Ontario Budget includes a new tax credit to help seniors live in their homes longer. It will reimburse them for 25% on eligible renovations of up to $10,000, regardless of their income and whether they owe taxes for 2021. 
  • The government says the minimum credit will be set at $2,500. The temporary measure can be used for things like installing wheelchair ramps, non-slip flooring, and additional light fixtures. 
  • Old Age Security (OAS)/Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) Alert: More than 30% of Canadian seniors 65+ are eligible for GIS payments, on top of their OAS pensions. But as of last month thousands had not yet filed their 2019 tax returns, which puts them at risk of having their GIS payments interrupted in January. This reminds everyone of our Free Community Income Tax Services for Grey Bruce.
  • The Chartered Professional Accountants Canada commissioned a national survey ‘2020 Canadian Finance Study‘. According to the survey:
    • 1/3 of Canadians say the stress associated with money management has increased due to COVID-19
    • 31% of respondents say their income has decreased as a result of COVID-19
    • 30% report COVID-19 has reduced the amount they are saving
    • 55% say they are spending less, on average
    • 21% of pre-retired respondents say they now plan to retire later as a result of COVID-19

INDIGENOUS SUPPORTS AND RELATIONS

The Federal government announced over $200 million in new funding to provide support to Indigenous peoples and communities. The funding includes: 

  • $120.7 million to help Indigenous early learning and child care facilities safely operate during the pandemic. The investment is expected to support over 35,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation children. This funding will be co-managed through existing early learning and child care partnerships. 
  • $59 million for First Nations to adapt their on reserve community infrastructure. First Nations can use the funds to implement public health and safety measures. 
  • $25.9 million to provide immediate support to Indigenous post-secondary institutions in 2020-21. 

HEALTH EQUITY

  • A new report by Public Health Canada – From Risk to Resilience: An Equity Approach to COVID19 reveals that COVID-19 pandemic affects us all, the health impacts have been worse for seniors, essential workers, racialized populations, people living with disabilities and women.  
  • The Vibrant Communities – Cities Reducing Poverty 2020 Impact Report captures national trends in poverty reduction and the important ways in which member Cities Reducing Poverty collaboratives are contributing to those changes.

FOOD SECURITY 

  • Meals to Motels: 4,274 meals todate have been delivered from OSHaRE by Habitat for Humanity and through shelter referrals from the YMCA Housing. 
  • Close to 75,000 meals have gone out with 5 partners since March 2020. 
  • foodbrucegrey.com data entry is ongoing and providing a picture of how much food that community food banks, meal programs and gardens have distributed. 
  • The Keeping Not-for-Profits Connected under COVID 19 continues to distribute surplus food throughout Grey Bruce. Emergency boxes from Feed Ontario/Food Banks Canada and surplus food obtained through foodrescue are being distributed this week. 
  • Community food programs are preparing for winter with many adaptations to spaces and for Christmas with registration for hampers. 

LOCAL RESEARCH

Stay well, Jill