Task Force Blog

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 6

Dear Colleagues, 

I hope that this email finds you well! 

As we come to the end of week 3 of social isolation we want to thank all of you for the tremendous work that is going on with each of your respective organizations! 

Members continue to feed more people than normal and find permanent housing for more people during this COVID-19 Pandemic.  We thank all our members who have shifted their work from health equity, food security or income security advocacy to taking up roles as nurses and long-term care front line staff.  This is an amazing emergency response by all. 

We continue to update our lists of food, housing, income & employment supports at: https://povertytaskforce.com/covid-19-community-resources/

OMSSA Today Newsletter is out with news, policy updates and resources that matter to social services. 

COMMUNICATION SUPPORTS 

  • Many of us have switched to Zoom to carry out staff meetings and to stay in touch with friends/families. Zoom Healthcare is also available which has PIPEDA and PHIPA compliance for confidential meetings with clients. 
  • The YMCA Employment program is reaching out to clients via video live feeds on Facebook. It is great to see the faces of their staff reaching out to clients and being available for Facebook Live questions and answers
  • Rentsafe has released its video Housing Issues? We’re Here to Help on available Housing Supports in Grey Bruce. 
  • Rogers offers $9.99 internet to low income housing organization tenants. Are PTF members aware of any new deals? 

FOOD SUPPORTS 

  • Community Gardens have been a discussion amongst many Food Security Action Group partners.  The government has come out with a ban on the Gardens so some organizations are discussing household gardens and seed distribution. GB Public Health has released Guidelines on Gardeners. 
  • Sustain Ontario is facilitating an open letter—for any organization in the province to support—that identifies Community Gardens as essential community food services.
  • Community Meal programs continue to distribute food. Many have increased their numbers. Chesley Baptist Church opened up this week for a weekly lunch-to-go meal program (12noon-1pm). Numbers doubled in the number of people served. 
  • FoodRescue.ca has announced funding available for members and non-members who are not already accessing funding through Feed Ontario or The Salvation Army.  Food Banks who 1) are existing members can apply directly, 2) non-members can join FoodRescue.ca or 3) non-members can apply without becoming members. Any questions can be answered at: emergencyfund@secondharvest.ca 
  • United Way Pandemic Fund and Food Security Fund: Food banks and food programs were invited to highlight funding requests to address unmet program needs. 22% of the funds have been directed to food banks, 18% to community meal programs, 16% went to toilet paper for distribution through the food banks and 15% is being held for the community meal programs for April and May needs.
  • The United Way was able to source bulk purchases of items directly from suppliers. This is important to reduce volunteers/staff having to shop frequently at grocery stores.  Habitat for Humanity is providing delivery services. For more info contact Francesca Dobbyn execdir@unitedwaybg.com 

CHILDREN & YOUTH SUPPORTS

  • The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has launched BounceBack® . It is designed to help adults and youth 15+ manage low mood, mild to moderate depression and anxiety, stress or worry. Delivered free, over the phone with a coach and through online videos, you will get access to tools that will support you on your path to mental wellness. 
  • The Province has announced one time funding for families of children age 0-12 and children/youth with autism. 
  • There is a correction to the Bruce County Children’s Services’ number on the Bruce County Human Services COVID-19 Response poster. 
  • The United Way is already planning for children’s return to school and its 2020 Backpack Program. If your organization would like to submit requests for build backpacks please contact Sarah at: backpacks@unitedwaybg.com.  If you anticipate an increased need please let the United Way know so they can prepare for the Fall.   

HOUSING SUPPORTS 

  • Weekly Housing Action Group meetings are being held to coordinate emergency needs. The YMCA Housing reports that since mid-March they have sheltered 64 households. Of those, 23 households have found permanent housing and 2 in transitional housing.
  • Ontario Housing Benefit will be starting to roll out for affordable housing. 
  • Bruce County and Grey County Housing received notice last week from Municipal Affairs/Housing that they will be receiving funding
    from Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI) to flow funds for COVID -19 response. It will allow support for seniors, food, and other emergency needs. The Counties are currently undertaking a rapid needs analysis. 

Stay well,  Jill Umbach

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update #5

Dear Colleagues, 

The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force/United Way of Bruce Grey has been sending out updates over the last 2 weeks – sharing out Grey Bruce partner updates and resources. Our Community Updates #1-4 have focused on Food Supports, Housing Supports, Youth and Mental Health Supports, etc. Relevant resources and Public Health guidelines are shared as links or posted on our COVID19 Community Resources page. All information in our lists are shared with 211.  Please continue to share your updated COVID 19 services with 211.

There are daily new announcements of layoffs and for many people there is a lot of uncertainty around their jobs and paychecks.   So in this Community Update we have pulled together a list of income & employment supports offered by partners.   


INCOME & EMPLOYMENT SUPPORTS

FOOD SUPPORTS


Our incredible Community Food Banks and Meal Programs are continuing to provide incredible support to our communities! 

  • We continue to work with Community Food Banks and Meal Programs to support their operations.We update the Grey Bruce Community Food Program Listregularly. 
  • Many of the Good Food Boxes are closed due to their locations being closed.    
  • GB Public Health has developed Guidelines for Grocery Shopping.  And the Grey Bruce Grocery Store List is updated regularly.  Please note that Easter holidays are coming up and store hours will change. 
  • A Community Voices member is currently creating a Grey Bruce Pet Food List. 
  • Rapid Needs Survey was carried out by the United Way of Bruce Grey with Food Banks/Community Meal programs resulting in requests for a variety of food and non-food items.  
  • The United Way Food Bank fund has started to respond to requests. Initially, purchasing bulk items that can be distributed across multiple organizations.  For example, a bulk purchase of toilet paper was distributed by Habitat of Humanity trucks to Food Banks.  

HOUSING SUPPORTS 

Partners continue to provide homelessness and housing support in our communities.  

  • A recent Housing meeting hosted by GB Public Health identified challenges and concerns with COVID19 education for people. Identifying clients who are high risk or acute. Concerns were raised around mental health & addiction and women fleeing violence. Social distancing does not work with people who don’t have a place to stay home in. 
  • Bruce and Grey County housing have ramped up their cleaning services and increased social distancing education. 
  • The Housing sector is waiting to hear about Homelessness Prevention funding from the government. 
  • Seniors’ Dental Program is on hold except for emergency services. 
  • We continue to update the Grey Bruce Housing Support List

CRISIS SUPPORTS 

CHILDREN’S SUPPORTS

  • Partnership for Kids is about to be up-and-running. Paul Wiley of Martin’s School Transit has a GoFundMe page to purchase toys from The Rocking Horse and deliver to famlies through the The Scenic City of Good Cheer volunteers. Referrals will be accepted only through social agencies/food banks and sent to Keystone. Public Health has recommended that only new toys go to families and not used donations.

Stay well from the team at Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force/United Way of Bruce Grey

Free Tax Filing Services Can Help Grey Bruce residents with Low Income to Boost Their Income

The Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP) is a community-based volunteer program that offers tax preparation services to citizens of Bruce and Grey Counties that meet specific income guidelines. The program is free and is intended to provide service to those who would otherwise not be able to afford it.

The income guidelines for the program are as follows:

  • Individual: $35,000 or less
  • Married or Common law couple: $45,000 or less
  • Single Parent with 1 child: $40,000 or less — Add $2,500 per additional child
  • Interest income limited to under $1,000

Alex Ruff, MP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, is encouraging eligible residents of Grey and Bruce Counties to take advantage of the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program. Across both counties, there are some 24 listings in 19 cities/towns that offer free services.

“The Community Volunteer Income Tax Program provides families and individuals who may be struggling financially, with a service to file their income tax,” said Ruff. “I would like to thank all volunteers for their hard work on this program, and all of the organizations and businesses that have donated to make these clinics possible.”

Community partnerships are important. For over 25 years, volunteers at the Grey Bruce CVITP have been offering clinics in Owen Sound. These clinics are offered by appointment only. Interested individuals should contact Alex Ruff’s office at 519-371-1059, leave your name and phone number with the office staff and a volunteer will contact you after 5:00 p.m. to set up an appointment.

Other CVITP volunteers work in partnership with libraries, community health centres, employment services, etc. across Bruce County and Grey County. Some volunteers support people throughout the year to file their taxes in Grey Bruce.

The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force works with 211 to annually list all free clinics for eligible customers; to identify barriers experienced locally and to engage with Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), community partners and volunteers to overcome those barriers.

“With the trend of the government flowing more income to low income households through tax benefits and credits it is so important for people to file their taxes,” said Jill Umbach, Poverty Task Force Coordinator. “We want to see people increasing their income. The CRA uses the information from your income tax and benefit return to calculate your GST credit, Ontario Trillium Benefit and Canada Child Benefits.”

The Ontario Childcare Tax Credit and the Low-Income Individuals and Families Tax Credit assists with making life more affordable. Families can now receive up to 75% of their eligible child care expenses. And the Low-Income workers tax credit can get up to $850 in Ontario Personal Income Tax relief (or up to $1,700 for couples).

Other social agencies use an income tax return statement to support applications to other benefits such as the Ontario Seniors Dental Program or the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP).

How to access services:

Visit Ontario.ca/TaxReturn to learn how to get Ontario tax credits and benefits.

Call 2-1-1 for help finding a free tax clinic close to you.

Access the Free Community Income Tax Listing online at: https://brucegreycommunityinfo.cioc.ca/record/GRE0364

CC 211 Grey Bruce

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Giiwe: Reducing Indigenous Homelessness

Members of the Poverty Task Force’s Community Voices and Housing Action Group partners participated in a Giiwe Circle with author Jesse Thistle.  Jesse presented his work on the development of a Indigenous Definition of Homelessness with The Homeless Hub. Jesse also shared his personal story, his new book From the Ashes: My Story of Being Métis, Homeless, and Finding My Way. and joined us in our Giiwe Circle.  Jesse Thistle – who has traveled all across Canada – commented that Giiwe was a unique project and its Circles a unique experience that he had not seen in any other communities across Canada.

Giiwe is an exciting Indigenous led, inter-agency collaboration brought to us by the staff at M’Wikwedong Indigenous Friendship Centre. The project aims at reducing off-reserve Indigenous homelessness. Giiwe is centred on fostering a coordinated housing-related response to Indigenous specific housing needs and preferences in Grey Bruce.

Giiwe has successfully established and sustained an Indigenous led, inter-agency collaboration with 11 organizations while strengthening relationships and promoting trust between Indigenous and non-Indigenous partners. It has also facilitated a referral process and established inter-agency agreements to better serve Indigenous peoples living off-reserve. A recent Evaluation Report highlights the work being done.

Giiwe Circles incorporate cultural safety training, collaborative case management and relationship building to increase Indigenous leadership with improved collaboration and understanding of Indigenous practices, which ultimately lead to the prevention of Indigenous homelessness.