Task Force Blog

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 29

Dear Colleagues, 

Please SAVE THE DATE for a Poverty Task Force full-meeting on Friday, October 16th from 10am-12noon.  We shall be hosting a virtual meeting to commemorate the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on October 17th.  An Agenda will follow with an invitation to join us on zoom. 

COVID-19 gives us the opportunity to rethink how we organize our systems to address the inequities embedded within them. The long-term impacts of COVID-19 on women in the workforce remains unknown. However, with women’s labour force participation at a record low, decades of progress towards gender equality are at stake. 


The voices are getting louder and stronger in addressing the increased need for fast, reliable and affordable Internet service for rural residents.  

  • Free Public wifi in Grey County: can be found on the Community and Business Resilience Map 
  • Free Public wifi in Bruce County: can be found on the Open in Bruce Map  
  • Bruce Telecom has partnered with the Municipality of Kincardine, Town of Saugeen Shores, and the Township of Chesley to offer free WiFi at various Outdoor Learning Centres for the 2020/2021 school year.   This will enable people to take online courses, home school and working from home.   


  • Leads Employment Services is starting the Options program on October 5th.  This program is funded through Skills Link funding, part of the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy. The program focuses on youth with disabilities (ages 15-30) who are motivated to work.  Paid group based learning with an employment placement to follow.  See attached flyer. 
  • Leads Employment Services has been back up and running since August and are available to meet clients in person.  They are following all safety measures including extra cleaning of surfaces,  offices, pre-screen form, mask distribution to clients and use of boardroom to meet clients.  


  • We have been very fortunate that we have some key agencies – The Salvation Army Owen Sound, OSHaRE, Habitat for Humanity, United Way Bruce Grey and Grey Bruce Sustainability Network – that have agreed to take on more leadership in the access to and distribution of food to meet the emergency needs of communities across Grey Bruce. 
  • Partners of the Food Security Action Group are moving forward in formalizing Distribution Hubs in order to expand our reach further across Grey Bruce and support smaller community food programs and other non-profits who are offering food in their programs.  
  • Partners are in the process of setting up new communication, administration and distribution channels throughout Grey Bruce with several lead agencies:   
  • Distribution Hub foodrescue.ca fresh produce donations: OSHaREreceives fresh produce donations from grocery stores, restaurants and farmers. Extras are made available for redistribution to community meals programs and food banks. 
  • Distribution Hub for food banks donations:  The Salvation Army Owen Soundis a member of Food Banks Canada and Feed Ontario as well as receiving other food donations. They are able to receive large donations and/or purchase bulk food at significant discounts. 
  • Distribution of fresh produce from Community Gardens:  There are many local community gardens that provide food to food banks and community meal programs. Grey Bruce Sustainability Network/Meaford Community Gardens connects gardeners/farmers as donors directly to community food programs and will also transport fresh produce to OSHaRE for further distribution. 
  • Transportation and distribution support: The United Way Bruce Grey has contracted Habitat for Humanity to transport and distribute non-perishable items such as toilet paper and PPE to food banks. Habitat is also delivering fresh produce to community meal programs and delivering hot meals to people sheltered in motels by the Women’s Centre, M’Wikwedong IFC and YMCA Housing.  
  • Support to Community Food Programs: the United Way has hired a Food Security Coordinator to provide greater support to community food programs in the way of logistics, distribution and access to funding.
  • Ontario School Nutrition Program – Grey Bruce: linkages have been made for community meal programs to aslo share extras with the breakfast club programs. Items for the ‘grab-and-go” snacks are needed. At present, school kitchens are closed, some schools are closed to volunteers and hot meals are not being prepared. Cost saving solutions and partnerships are being built with the program.  


  • Launch Pad: now offer programs for 55+. Call to register or send an email. T: 519-506-6300 or email at: james@yatc.ca 


  • Saugeen Shores Attainable Housing Task Force: 200 people attended the public consultation and launch of the Task Force last night.  
  • They are requesting the public to complete an Attainable Housing Survey.  42% of people who work in Saugeen Shores don’t actually live in Saugeen Shores. So they are encouraging people who live outside to also complete the survey which runs until October 8th, 2020.
  • 24 organizations have agreed to participate in stakeholders’ meetings in October. There will also be community roundtable meetings in November.    
  • Housing challenges in Saugeen Shores include:
    • the short-term rental market (summer tourism) being more lucrative than year round rentals. This has driven the high rental rates and availability. 
    • The median income is over $105,000. 
    • There is not enough housing stock for people to move through all ages and stages of life. It is challenge to find housing for: seniors who wish to downsize, students to move home, young families to afford homes and low-wage workers to live and work in the same town. 
    • COVID19 has meant that many “snowbirds” won’t be leaving for warmer climates in the winter of 2020 and remain in their homes. Thus there will be less rental vacancies. And for some “snowbirds” they may be looking for winter accommodations. 
    • And the area is attractive to retirees and under COVID19 people are moving out of the city.  
  • The objective of the Task Force is to look at solutions for attainable and affordable housing for all ages and income levels.
  • The Ontario government has introduced the Helping Tenants and Small Businesses Act that would, if passed, freeze rent in 2021 for most rent-controlled and non-rent-controlled residential units. The bill would provide the vast majority of Ontario’s tenants with financial relief as the province continues down the path of renewal, growth and economic recovery.
  • Housing partners report that many sheriff eviction notices being served now were pre-COVID19 decisions.  
  • The Emergency Housing Action Group members are engaged with the City of Owen Sound to find effective solutions to “hotspots” around the city. While the Council has approved more policing dollars for one particular hotspot there is a need to come up with a more comprehensive plan. 
  • The Grey Bruce Health Unit and the Community Drug and Alcohol Strategy have been releasing stories of substance use to educate the public on the complex nature of addiction and put the faces to the statistics. 

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update #28

Dear Colleagues, 

So how are we doing in rural communities to stay digitally connected? How fast is your internet is a common question amongst partners who are joining zoom meetings? Are you living in a dead zone or are the gremlins aka your children in the house, slowing you down? Are the gremlins going back to school or staying home? 

Sounds like a horror film? But people continue to work from home, approximately 10% of Grey Bruce students from the two largest school boards remain home and will be online for schooling.  And people need to access more government and medical services online.   

A recent Tamarack Institute Community of Practice group of rural communities in Ontario discussed the “digital divide” in each of our counties. 

1. Examples of how communities have been addressing digital access issues since COVID started:

  • Collecting and redistributing tablets, smartphones and other devices
  • Offering training on how to use tablets and other devices being distributed
  • Looking at shared data plan models
  • Creating lists and maps of free WIFI hot spots in the community
  • Paying for new WIFI hot spots to be established in areas where there were none
  • Keeping WIFI hot spots open at libraries and other community facilities
  • Creating downloadable forms that people can fill out instead of completing forms online
  • Including access to Internet and technology in new community safety and well-being plans

2. Challenges that were highlighted:

  • There is a cap on the number of low-cost internet packages available and there are restrictions regarding eligibility (i.e. only limited to families with school-aged children)
  • Some hot spots were deactivated when community facilities closed down
  • Devices that are being donated are sometimes too old to be compatible with new software
  • It is not clear what data has been collected or what mapping has been done at a local level to identify specific populations that have digital access challenges.
  • Connectivity remains the most significant challenge in rural areas, rather than limited access to devices or technological literacy issues.

3. Opportunities that were highlighted:

  • Some are calling for a new digital philanthropy that could address issues of digital equity and access
  • There is an opportunity for local governments to issue a call to action to expand high-speed Internet access to underserved rural areas.

4. Resources:

  • Grey County issued a Call to Action in June 2020 to expand broadband to underserved areas
  • Future of Good hosted a digital conversation on Bridging the Digital Divide
  • ACORN Canada members are demanding $10/month high speed internet for low income families as part of their Internet for All campaign. Take action on closing the digital divide – sign the petition!

Addressing issues surrounding people who are without shelter requires uncomfortable conversations about systemic change, system failures and relationships. 

  • YMCA Housing reported since April 1st they have supported approximately: 307 adults;  of those 135 adults were without shelter; 53 youth; of those 28 youth provided shelter in Bruce County. An average of 7.5 nights/month/person is up from 2-3 nights stays. 
  • And in Grey County approximately 1502 adults were supported; of those 438 adults were provided shelter; 370 youth; of those 63 sheltered. An average stay of 8 nights/month/person. 
  • The Women’s Centre GB has increased the number of quarantine rooms to 4 to increase the number of women they can accept. 

There are complex issues at play when a house with many tenants and one neighbourhood are considered a “hot spot” by the police and city officials.   

  • Citing a 2010 Wellesley Institute Study on Shared Accomodation Safe ‘N Sound staff recommend three factors to consider to ‘turn around’ a house deemed a “hot spot”: 1) Support from local agencies. 2) A landlord who works cooperatively with local agencies and sees him/herself as a provider of affordable housing embedded within the social service milieu in a given neighbourhood and 3) An engaged tenant. 
  • The City of Owen Sound has released its Staff Report to Council on responding to a ‘hot spot’ in its city after consultation with social support service providers, bylaw and police. 
  • The Canadian Urban Institute has 5 Key Takeaways from recent conversations on housing people who are homeless under the pandemic.   

There is a lot of work happening to address the housing crisis we are experiencing in Grey County and Bruce County. 

  • Grey County Housing and Bruce County Housing have submitted their Social Emergency Relief Fund business plans for the disbursement of remaining funds to the Province for approval. 
  • The next Giiwe Circle meeting will take place on Sept 25th (10am-11:30am) for Indigenous and Non-Indigenous housing partners. 
  • M’Wikwedong Indigenous Friendship Centre has been working on a Homeward Bound Feasibility Study.  
  • Saugeen Shores Council recently endorsed the formation of an Attainable Housing Task Force. This formation has led to a group of well-informed individuals being appointed and assigned the responsibility to report back to Council later this year with recommendations pertaining to how our housing stock can be increased with the emphasis on affordability and attainability. They have invited stakeholders to speak before the Task Force and the public is invited to a public consultation on September 17th.  
  • Families searching for affordable housing has been on the rise. The Bruce County Housing & Homelessness Plan Update reported wait-list applications have increased from 306 in 2015 to 639 families (2019) in search of affordable housing; 303 of the 639 housing waitlist applicants relate to Saugeen Shores. 


  • Bruce County Transportation and Environmental Services is conducting a Master Transportation Study. As part of the study a series of Public Information Centers (PICs) are being held online.  The first is available for viewing on the County website at: https://brucecounty.on.ca/transportation-master-plan 
  • At the County website you can also access a comment card to submit questions, comments or feedback and be asked to be added to a listing to receive further information updates via email.



  • School Nutrition Program: breakfast club programs have been converted into “grab-and-go” packaged meals by the Bluewater Board and most likely the Catholic School Board but different policies exist on volunteers in the school. The program is funding some 15,700 students/day for Grey Bruce based on 2019 school year estimates and anticipating 80-90% attendance. 
  • The ‘grab-and-go” program is funded for the next 2 months. Hot meal programs at schools are on hold. This will be assessed in 2 months and determine the impact of a predicted second wave. It is recognized that food programs at school are a source of nutrition for many children in our communities. 
  • Food Banks and meal programs are assisting families with “lunchable” food to ensure families have sufficient food for school lunches. Donations to the School Nutrition Program can be made based on a list of packaged items such as granola bars, yogurt, cheese strings, etc. 


  • The Ontario government is launching a webpage to report COVID-19 cases in schools and child care centres. This page will be updated every weekday with the most up-to-date COVID-19 information available, including a summary of cases in schools and licensed child care centres and agencies, if a COVID-19 case is confirmed at your school and where the numbers come from.  
  • The United Way of Bruce Grey still has backpacks available for students. Contact the United Way directly. Non-student backpacks have been donated by the United Way to Safe ‘N Sound.  

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 27

Dear Colleagues, 

A recent Tamarack Institute Community Of Practice call asked members what were we planning for the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty – October 17th, 2020?  How were we participating in this global #EndPoverty campaign? 

International days are opportunities to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity.

This year marks the 28th anniversary of the declaration by the General Assembly, in its resolution 47/196 of 22 December 1992, of 17 October as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.   This year’s theme has not been announced by the UN yet. The 2019 Theme was “Acting Together to Empower Children, their Families and Communities to End Poverty” and I feel that we could add “under COVID19 conditions” and we would have our theme for 2020.  

Many rural poverty reduction tables were on the Tamarack call and the answer to the question for many was – “What? We are still busy responding to emergency shelter and food issues. We are too busy working on meeting peoples’ basic needs in the community while ensuring people stay safe, when do we have time to advocate for an end to poverty?” 

However, with every short-term “band-aid solution” partners deliver, the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force partners have given thought to long-term solutions.  Our new Impact Report 2020 lists our collective priorities and we know that income solutions are critical.  

  • Maytree policy team suggests Five Good Ideas for Income Supports in a post-CERB Canada:  If we are going to shape a future that recognizes the inherent dignity in everyone, and reduces inequities across race, gender, and income, we need to think beyond traditional economic and social policy thinking from decades past, and move into a post-CERB world. 
  • A Just Recovery For All event will be hosted by Tamarack on October 14th, 1-2pm  to examine the COVID-19 crisis and the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic to health, the economy, environment and society as a whole are being experienced by individuals, families and communities across the country and the globe. 
  • new website is being launched by Coalition Canada: basic income-revenu de base  The Coalition is made up of a cross-Canada group of experienced and knowledgeable activists associated with the Ontario Basic Income Network.  
  • A current major initiative involves developing relationships with Members of Parliament from local constituencies, building towards a (virtual) Lobby Day/Week on Parliament Hill, October 20-22. They invite agencies to visit their website to learn more. 


  • CERB payments: there is a delay in payments for September. Most people are accustomed to receiving the payment by direct deposit within 48 hours of reapplying for it.  Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has introduced new due diligence measures to ensure cheques are reaching the correct bank accounts. People are expected to receive cheques in their accounts by September 4th, 2020.  
  • CEWS Audit – The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is undertaking an audit pilot project to review the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and assess if fraud is a widespread issue. CRA says it has detected a few illegitimate claims but that the “vast majority” of first checks came back clean. 
  • 2020 T4 reporting requirements for Canadian employers – CRA is requiring that all Canadian employers report employment and retro-active payments on T4 Statement of Remuneration Paid slip for defined periods under new codes. The periods align with COVID-19 benefit periods. These reporting requirements are in addition to the existing requirement to report employment income in Box 14 using Code 71. 
  • Mortgage payment deferral programs are ending. 


Parents and teachers are focused on Safe Return to Class guidelines, mental health supports and physical safety of students and teachers.  

  • The Ontario government released itsOperational Guidance: COVID-19 Management in Schools which aims to help schools identify and isolate COVID-19 cases, prevent and minimize outbreaks. The Guidelines call for daily screening of children by their parents, school boards to keep their communities informed and protocols to trigger various levels of public health responses or infection control measures.  
  • Local school boards have released each of their respective Back to School plans. Dr. Arra and the Directors of Education from 2 Grey Bruce School Board met with parents via zoom last week to answer questions about what is being implemented locally. 
  • The Grey Bruce Health Unit has a dedicated COVID19 page for Parents and Families where you will find the latest management plans and protocols. 
  • The Chief Medical Officer of Health also issued, COVID-19 Guidance: School Outbreak Management to support public health units in investigating cases, outbreaks, and suspected outbreaks, a protocol for dealing with students who become ill and determining whether a class or school must be closed.
  • The government intends to surveillance test asymptomatic secondary students. Students will not be required to get a COVID-19 test even if they’re sent home with symptoms. 
  • Social distancing in classrooms is still a question for parents and concerns about intergenerational transmission (grandparents and students) once kids go back to school.  These new guidelines do not cut or cap class sizes.
  • The federal government announced up to $2 billion in support for provinces and territories through the Safe Return to Class Fund. The funding is meant to support adapted learning spaces, improved air ventilation, increased hand sanitation and hygiene, and purchases of personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies. 
  • The Ontario government announced $381M in federal funding for back to school initiatives, allocated as follows: $200M for implementing reopening plans; $70M for student transportation; $12.5M to enhance special education and mental health supports; $12.5M for additional Public Health nurses; $36M for remote learning; and $50M for future pandemic learning needs.
  • United Way 2020 Backpack Program:  2,600 backpacks have been ordered and are currently being distributed. There remains available backpacks for families. 2-1-1 is no longer taking orders. Please call the United Way office @519-376-1560 if families have not registered or haven’t heard from the program. 
  • The United Way cannot guarantee that we can get backpacks to towns outside of Owen Sound. We are looking for people who are travelling to various locations because our community partners are not open. 


  • The Grey Bruce We CARE Project in recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day, on September 10th, is offering awareness kits to the community which include a window poster, sidewalk chalk, positive messaging mirror stickers, a battery operated candle for your window, a colouring contest and a double-yellow awareness ribbons. 
  • If your family, business or organization would like a kit for your location, please email jralph@cmhagb.org.  For more details on the colouring contest, please visit www.facebook.com/thegreybrucewecareproject  
  • Partnership for Kids Grey Bruce: In the 3 months of this initiative, 551 children received a new toy, craft or game to help mitigate the negative mental health effects of isolation during the early stages of COVID-19.   
  • The Scenic City Order of Good Cheer and volunteers from Martin School Transit and The Rocking Horse traveled over 10,000 km across our vast geographic region of Grey and Bruce to deliver the toys to the children.  
  • The GO FUND ME page and additional donations raised $33,210.00, which went directly to the purchase of good quality toys, crafts and games for those most in need children.  

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update #26

Dear Colleagues, 

Day 149, 22 weeks. How is everyone doing? 

Rev David Shearman wrote an article for the Owen Sound Sun Times highlighting some of the data from our Community Updates and he highlights the losses to the nonprofit/charity sector as fundraising events have been canceled in 2020.  We continue to be grateful for government and non-government funding that allows our partners to continue to provide emergency services and other essential services. 


Across all our partner organizations we have been monitoring the government’s income support and the transformation of the CERB.   

  • The federal government is extending the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) until 27 September, 2020 and revamping the employment insurance program to allow more people to receive financial assistance during COVID-19.  
  • Self-employed or gig workers can apply for a benefit of up to $400 a week for up to 26 weeks if they have stopped working or had reduced incomes due to COVID-19.  They can continue to earn money, but will be required to repay 50 cents of every dollar earned above $38,000.
  • A second new benefit will provide 10 days of paid sick leave to any worker in Canada who falls ill or has to self-isolate due to COVID-19. That will provide $500 a week, and a claimant can’t claim this benefit and another sick leave payment at the same time.    
  • recent report from RBC Economics called the hit on women’s employment  “unprecedented,” with 1.5 million women in Canada losing their jobs in the first two months of the pandemic.  Women’s participation in the Canadian workforce has fallen to a level not seen in decades, and with uncertain school plans and reduced options for child care, some women are not returning to work. 

Basic Income

  • Tamarack and the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction hosted a webinar, Basic Income: Business Perspective, to explore what a Canadian Basic Income would mean for business, the economy, and society. 
  • On Friday, August 14th, UBI Works released a plan called “Recovery UBI” which proposes $500/month tax free for all Canadian adults and a guaranteed minimum income of $2,000/month ($3,000/month for couples).
  • In September 2020, the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce will propose a resolution to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. The resolution, if passed, will ask the Federal Government to run a Basic Income Pilot and study the costs and benefits of rolling out a national basic income thereafter should that be the findings of the pilot. The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce’s impetus is to address future labour market disruptions.
  • Sameer Nurmohamed of the Basic Income Canada Network proposes a plan called “UBI-FIT: Using the Tax System to Fund a Basic Income” which proposes an annual Basic Income of $24,000 tax free for everyone and a flat income tax rate of 38%. 


  • The United Way of Bruce Grey’s Financial Literacy Program Coordinator, in partnership with the YMCA, will be hosting a webinar on Budgeting in Tough Times on Monday, August 24th from 10:00am-11:00am.


  • The federal government will be partnering with Second Harvest, Food Banks Canada and more than 100 food businesses and non-profit organizations to deliver a new Surplus Food Rescue Program
  • Grey Bruce Community Food Programs are connected with the Foodrescue.ca program of Second Harvest via OSHaRE and connected to Food Banks Canada through the local Salvation Army Owen Sound and some other larger food banks who are members. We have created 2 Distribution Hubs to community meals programs via OSHaRE and to food banks via The Salvation Army Owen Sound.
  • A new Grey Bruce Community Gardens Coordinator and a Food Security Coordinator have been hired to support more links between partners and the work of these distribution hubs and community-based hubs. Fresh produce has been moving from the Meaford Community Gardens and other local producers to food banks and community meal programs. 
  • Overall, we have seen an increase in food bank usage which is being attributed to the ending of CERB for some individuals. 
  • We have also seen an increase in people at the food banks who have received eviction notices in the last week with very short lockouts times (2-3 days notice).  People who have received eviction notices should contact the Grey Bruce Community Legal Clinic immediately or contact Grey County or Bruce County to assist with rent arrears prior to eviction notices. 
  • South East Grey Community Health Centre will be opening up a new Community Cafe in Dundalk at its Erskine Centre.  Newly purchased freezers and kitchen equipment will enable cooking healthy meals, get fit program and a distribution point for ready-made frozen meals (YUM Program). 
  • CMHA Roots Cafe will be opening up soon for curbside service in Owen Sound. Community Gardens have staggered food production and are producing lots of fresh produce for community hot and frozen meals.   


  • The Grey Bruce Health Unit has updated its Considerations for Shelters guidelines
  • As mentioned above, within the last week there has been a large number of eviction notices going out from the Sheriff’s office.  Contact the YMCA Housing, Bruce County Housing, Grey County Housing or M’Wikwedong IFC housing program about rent arrears supports. There is funding to pay arrears and with the low vacancy rates across Grey County and Bruce County it is easier to negotiate with landlords than to re-house people. 
  • Contact the Grey Bruce Community Legal Clinic for a stay of eviction. 
  • People are encouraged to “make a winter housing plan” now and that is looking at ability to pay rent, pay utilities, etc. and contact 2-1-1 or see the Grey Bruce Community housing or utility support services
  • YMCA Housing is organizing “boots to the ground” meetings with partners to increase lines of communication/protocols between housing partners.  Recent joint wellness checks of tent encampments in Owen Sound raised no major concerns. 
  • Several housing agencies and the Grey Bruce Health Services reported an increase of out-of-region clients seeking housing and other support services in the last month.   
  • Transitional housing: M’Wikwedong IFC is busy on new transitional housing for Indigenous communities. Safe ‘N Sound is updating its transitional housing program. Grey County has a wait list of over 600 people waiting for social housing and are always looking for investment dollars for transitional/second stage housing.  


  • The Guelph Owen Sound Transportation, (‘GOST’) transit service will begin operations on Monday, August 31, 2020.  The service will operate seven days a week.  The route will start from the Owen Sound Transit Terminal and stop at Chatsworth, Williamsford, Durham, Mount Forest, Arthur, Fergus and Elora before arriving at the final destination of Central Station in Guelph. The service will be provided by Voyago, who will use a brand new, fully accessible 20+2 passenger bus.


  • Grey Bruce Medical Officer of Health Dr Ian Arra will join Lori Wilder, Director Bluewater District School Board and Gary O’Donnell, Director Bruce Grey Catholic District School Board for a Facebook Live forum on safe and successful school re-opening. 
  • The event will be hosted on the Grey Bruce Health Unit Facebook Live page starting at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday, August 26, 2020. The session will be recorded and made available on the Grey Bruce Health Unit YouTube channel. 
  • Questions for the participants can be forwarded to the Grey Bruce Health Unit through Facebook message, through the ‘Contact Us’ page on our website, or by email to publichealth@publichealthgreybruce.on.ca.

Stay well, Jill