Task Force Blog

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 82

Dear Colleagues, 

We are going through the 5th wave of the pandemic with significant increases in cases in the last 4-5 weeks.  We are hopeful that we will see a reduction in cases soon in response to the current Modified Step Two public health measures.. Today the government announced new public health measures for the next few months, starting on 31 January, 21 February and 14 March 2022.   

In November 2021, the Poverty Task Force table discussed strategic plans for 2022. We examine the work we do to ensure we are addressing systemic change issues as well as meeting front line needs.  Our collective impact efforts support upstream interventions to address poverty-related community issues

HOUSING SUPPORTS

  • Indigenous Housing Investment:  The Ontario government announced it is investing $10 million in new annual funding to provide Indigenous-led, culturally appropriate long-term housing solutions and support services to Indigenous people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
  • Homeless Enumeration Reports: Bruce County and Grey County released their respective reports from the point-in-time count.  
    • 142 individuals and families experiencing homelessness in Grey County
    • 64 individuals and families experiencing homelessness in Bruce County
  • In response, both Councils approved a local rule for housing priority to offer 1 in every 10 units to individuals or families from the Grey Bruce ‘By-Name List’. 
  • By-Name List Training: there is still space on Jan 25th, 2022 9AM-Noon,Jan 26th, 2022 9AM-Noon and Jan 28th, 2022 1PM-4PM. Email Caitlin at Caitlin.currie@grey.ca to sign up. 
  • YMCA Emergency Housing: in the first month of January, up to 500 nights of shelter were provided across Grey Bruce. This included coordinating with Safe N Sound to send people from Owen Sound to Hanover, Wiarton and Chatsworth to available hotels/motels.  
  • Home Takeover Project: is moving forward with partners. The next meeting will be on February 14th to develop an evaluation framework.
  • Seniors Home Safety Tax Credit is extended into 2022.  The credit covers renovations to help make seniors’ homes safer and more accessible. Twenty-five percent of up to a maximum of $10,000 per household can be claimed on eligible expenses.
  • Prime Minister’s Mandate Letter: directs the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, to help ensure Canadians can get a home of their own, through work to improve housing affordability and end chronic homelessness, and to champion the full breadth of our country’s vibrant diversity through greater inclusion. Read the details here.  

TRANSPORTATION SUPPORTS

  • Municipal Transit Funding: The Ontario government announced it is providing $375.6 million to help 107 municipalities across the province operate and improve local transit. 
  • The funding is being delivered through the Gas Tax program and can be used to extend service hours, buy transit vehicles, add routes, improve accessibility or upgrade infrastructure. 
  • The Town of Hanover (the lead municipality for Saugeen Mobility and Regional Transit, which serves Arran-Elderslie, Brockton, Chatsworth, Hanover, Huron-Kinloss, Kincardine, Saugeen Shores, Southgate and West Grey) is receiving $769,398, the Municipality of Meaford will receive $65,797 and the City of Owen Sound is receiving $251,642.

INCOME SECURITY SUPPORTS 

  • Guaranteed Livable Basic Income: a private member’s bill (Bill C-223) to develop a national framework for a permanent Guaranteed Livable Basic Income was introduced in December 2021. The Bill is in its second reading. UBI Works and Basic Income Network have Calls to Action to support the Bill. 
  • Canada Student Grants: full-time student, can receive grants up to $6,000 until July 31st, 2023. Students with disabilities can receive up to $10,000. The government has waived interest on federal student loans until March 31st, 2023. They are also being more flexible for repayment
  • Prime Ministers’ Mandate Letter: directs the Minister of Seniors to ensure GIS recipients who received CERB do not experience any negative impact to their GIS eligibility.
  • GIS Clawback: Payment to be made starting in May 2022 to all GIS recipients who lost GIS b/c of CERB. However, it is unclear whether this lump sum payment will be tax free. And whether seniors need to re-apply and complete a new GIS assessment. 
  • Old Age Security: there will be an increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement by $500 for single seniors and $750 for couples starting at age 65.
  • Prime Ministers’ Mandate Letter: directs the Minister of Finance to work with provinces and territories over the next review cycle to increase the Canada Pension Plan and Quebec Pension Plan survivor’s benefit by 25%. 
  • As well as introduce a one-time income tax deduction for health care professionals who are just starting out in their careers to help with the costs of setting up their practice in a rural community. 
  • And crack down on predatory lenders by lowering the criminal rate of interest. Read more here
  • Four County Labour Market Planning Board has released 2 new reports:

IINDIGENOUS YOUTH SUPPORTS

  • Kinoomaadziwin Education Body: Ontario government announced a renewed 3 year funding for the Kinoomaadziwin Education Body (KEB) $7.9 million agreement to support the achievement and well-being of Anishinabek students. 
  • The agreement will improve access to culturally relevant education supports and services Anishinabek students need to realize academic success and prepare for successful entry into the workforce.

FOOD SECURITY SUPPORTS

  • Prime Ministers’ Mandate Letter: directs the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food to work with the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and with provinces, territories, municipalities, Indigenous partners and stakeholders to develop a National School Food Policy and to work toward a national school nutritious meal program. Read more here.
  • Food Bruce Grey Year End Data: data collected by the United Way for 2021 represents data from 86% of existing community food programs in Grey Bruce. Some December 2021 data is not included yet the following figures show the food insecurity in Grey Bruce: 
    • Meal Programs: 170,362 meals were served, 24% increase over 2020,  which translates into more than 460 meals each day. 
    • Food Rescue: 68,777 kg of food processed,67% increase over 2020, equivalent to 4,326 bags of groceries. 
    • Food Banks – 170,775kg of food distributed, 27% increase over 2020, equivalent to 10,740** bags of groceries.21,442 clients served – 10% increase over 2020. 
    • Fresh Produce: 18,156 kg worth of fresh produce grown, equivalent to 1,141 bags of groceries. 
    • Volunteer Hours: 36,046 hours provided by volunteers, 60% increase over 2020. Using the rate established by Volunteers.ca, that represents a payroll value of $973,242.   

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 81

Dear Colleagues, 

International Human Rights Day was on Friday, December 10th last week. The Day is a reminder that overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. (Nelson Mandela)

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that each person is entitled to certain fundamental rights: the right to life; liberty; equality; and security. In Canada, we have also legislated the right to housing, food, income security and equity.

Taking a human rights approach to our work on poverty changes the way we work. It directs us to share a vision of what human dignity looks like for ourselves and our neighbours. This was a large part of a recent Vital Signs Conversation on Housing hosted by the Community Foundation of Grey Bruce on Thursday, Dec 9th. We do require a mind shift. Not, some people are lucky or deserving of a home, but all people “have a right to a home”. 

HOUSING SUPPORTS

  • Emergency Housing over the holidays: Emergency phone line is open but Safe N Sound will be closed on Dec 25th, 27th and 28th. Contact 211 to verify the hours for housing service providers and other support organization.
  • Homelessness Coordinated Access System: has updated referral documents for the By Names List. Simcoe County has prepared 2 videos on What is a Coordinated Access System? and What is a By Names List? Contact Caitlin Currie, Homelessness Response Coordinator, Caitlin.Currie@grey.ca for what we are doing in Grey and Bruce Counties. 
  • Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario: tenants who have a Notice of Hearing from the Landlord and Tenant Board, can sign up to receive a call back from aTenant Duty Counsel in your area before your hearing.
  • The City of Owen Sound undertook a Citizen Satisfaction Survey in the summer of 2021  These findings form the starting point in the development of the advocacy priorities for 2022 and 2023. The top 5 advocacy priorities are: Affordable housing, cost of living, homelessness; COVID-19, Health including public health and mental health, Employment and workforce development and Climate Action. They also prioritized the development of a Regional Comprehensive Transportation Plan for Georgian Bay and the Bruce Peninsula. For more information, please contact Tim Simmonds, City Manager at 519-376-4440 ext. 1210 or email to tsimmonds@owensound.ca

PANDEMIC RELATED SUPPORTS

  • Sanitation Supplies: The United Way has a selection of 50ml tubes of hand sanitizer, 100 tubes per box and boxes of Lysol wipes (6 packages per box) available for pick up in Owen Sound. If you are interested, email Misty@unitedwaybg.com
  • Enhanced Vaccine Certificate: as of Jan 4, 2022, the enhanced vaccine certificate with QR code will be needed in certain settings. 
  • Download it at covid19.ontariohealth.ca 
  • Get it printed at a library or Service Ontario Centre. 
  • Call the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900 to get it mailed. 

ADDICTIONS SUPPORTS

  • Saugeen First Nation: has a Photovoice Series as part of a First Nation Wellness Initiative. Several videos promote mental wellness under the pandemic. Video 3Video 4  and Video 5.
  • CDAS Opioid Working Group: Preliminary data shows that there have been 31 deaths between June 2020 to June 2021. This is a significant increase over the 12 deaths from June 2019 to June 2020.
  • With the ongoing opioid crisis being worsened by the Pandemic, we need to be aware of benzodiazepines and nitazene opioids in the unregulated drug supply in Ontario. Naloxone kits are very effective with overdoses but will not reverse the effects of these drugs. However, it can assist in keeping people breathing until they can get to hospital.
  • Naloxone Kits: please understand that they can not be used if they have been frozen. So if you are seeing them where people camp outside or if they are left in a car in the winter, please get them replaced or give out new ones. Contact: Bailey Ressler, B.Ressler@publichealthgreybruce.on.ca.
  • Sharps Pilot Report: 56,706 sharps (needles) were returned to Safe N Sound under a 18th month Sharps pilot program with the United Way of BG. People obtained a $5-10 gift card in exchange based on the size of their container.

INCOME SUPPORTS

  • Safe N Sound ID Clinic/Income Tax Clinic: in partnership with CMHA-GB, the United Way and South East Grey CHC to offer a free Income Tax Clinic. It is estimated 1 in 10 people coming into Safe N Sound don’t have their taxes done or ID.  Clinics will be held on January 11th and 25th, 2022.  
  • Federal Budget: the government announced one-time payments to alleviate financial hardship of Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and Allowance recipients who received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) or the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) in 2020. 
  • However, in the technical briefing, it states it will calculate this payment on an individual basis and reimburse them starting in May 2022.   We will need to continue to support seniors through the winter and all the issues the pandemic raises.
  • Students who received the CERB but were found ineligible, will receive debt cancellation pending eligibility for the Canadian Emergency Student Benefit. FYI. This Benefit is closed to new applications. 
  • Campaign 2000 continues to advocate that compensation must now be expanded to include anyone living on low incomes who had other income benefits reduced, including people on social and disability assistance, and those who saw their workers benefit, child benefits and housing supplements reduced. 
  • Campaign 2000 also recommends the reinstatement of the Canada Recovery Benefit for individuals whose working hours are still impacted by the pandemic into Bill C-2.
  • Campaign 2000 encourages the federal government to make their decisions align with their commitments to reducing poverty. This includes dealing with the technical and design elements of benefits, which resulted in these kinds of negative benefit interactions. This would mean that the promised repayment to seniors should be made as a refundable credit so that it does not interfere with payments, in addition to making pandemic benefits deductible on the GIS income form.

FOOD SECURITY SUPPORTS

  • Holiday Meals: 211 has a list of all Holiday community meal programs, hampers and food programs.
  • WRAP Mental Health: has developed a Loneliness Workbook. The content comes from a study of nearly 100 people and their strategies for relieving their own loneliness. 
  • PROOF has released its A Look Back at 10 Years of PROOF   Reframing discussions to recognize food insecurity as an indicator of pervasive material hardship, and therefore a way for measuring success in poverty reduction  shifts the policy focus to underlying problems of income inadequacy.
  • FoodBruceGrey.com: collects Grey Bruce food insecurity data which reflects the level of hardships people are experiencing locally. 
    • 15,559 meals were distributed in November 2021. 166,763 meals have been distributed since January 2021. (11 out of 16 programs reporting)
    • 14,015 households (18,169 people) were supported at 19 out of 20 Food Banks. 

 Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 80

Dear Colleagues, 

Can you handle one or two more reports that say you’re tired? That you are COVID19 fatigued? That people are hungry? That people are challenged to keep their jobs? 

  • 13% of people over age 15 and older reported being always or often lonely in Statistic Canada‘s latest report – Loneliness in Canada.
  • Feed Ontario released its Hunger Report 2021.  An overall 10% increase has been seen in the use of the food banks in Ontario. However, less than 1% of clients who accessed food banks were receiving CERB
  • Poverty in the Midst of Plenty A report card on child and family poverty in Ontario, Campaign 2000.   At a basic level, everyone living in poverty has one thing in common: they don’t have enough money. Higher income is the main ingredient in any recipe for ending poverty in Ontario
  • FoodBruceGrey.com shows a 300% increase in the use of community meal programs. Numbers served are not decreasing this winter but we are hitting the maximum capacity of organizations to meet the demand. 
  • Auditor’s General Report 2021:: According to yesterday’s Auditor General report, about 9,600 Ontarians experience ‘visible’ homelessness each night. Throughout the year, that number jumps to 90,000. In reality the number of Ontarians experiencing homelessness is much higher, as 80% experience ‘hidden’ homelessness, sleeping in abandoned buildings or camping under bridges and in remote locations.
  • Service Canada says employees are not eligible for regular benefits, including Employment Insurance, if you are fired because you didn’t follow your employer’s mandatory vaccine policy. This could be a policy your employer chose to make, or one the government said your employer must have.
  • $10/day Child Care: Still no deal between provincial and federal government  on $10/day child care. P2P Huron-Perth shared this article on why it is needed: COVID-19 is Not “Women’s Work”: The Case for Universal Childcare

While the CERB was seen as “doing its job” for a short period of time we know that going into 2022, it is essential that strong income security and affordability solutions need to be implemented. 

Addressing housing affordability is critical to an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. As well, we need an increase to social assistance rates, amendments to the Employment Standards Act to ensure that employment conditions are safe and secure and that jobs pay a living wage, and ensure that people with lived experience are centered and involved in policy design that directly impacts their lives. 

So what is some good news! 

  • M’Wikwedong IFC Youth Council: are seeking Indigenous Youth in Grey and Bruce Counties to get involved and support Indigenous Youth Voices. Email youthcouncil@mwikwedong.com 
  • Maam Wiim Win Native Homes: Indigenous Housing Support Program renovated a new supportive housing location and housed people in 2 units. M’Wikwedong IFC court worker, addiction support worker and housing support worker will provide support.  
  • Child Activity Assistance Program (CAAP): Bruce County and Grey County support families with an income under $30,000 for cultural, school or sports activities that can’t access Jump Start
  • YMCA Employment has an online booking option for meeting with an Employment Advisor, Job Developer, Adult Learning Centre staff and to book computer time. Available for the Owen Sound office as it is a new system, then it will move to other locations. 
  • Employment Services: clients who lose their jobs because they are unvaccinated, may not be eligible for Employment Insurance. Steps to Justice has some information on what to do to determine if this is the case.
  • Ontario Works: If people are not eligible for EI, they can apply for Ontario Works. Ontario Works caseworker can also connect people with additional resources to help at Grey County and Bruce County. The fastest way to apply is online.
  • United Way Financial Literacy Support:can be provided to analyze a person’s financial situation and access income supports.Contact Caroline Araujo-Abbots at advice@unitedwaybg.com or 519-376-1560. 
  • Worker Income Protection Benefit Program: the Ontario government is extending the program which provides paid sick days until July 31, 2022.  
  • Bruce Power: $81,000 worth of grocery gift cards is being distributed to more than 38  community food banks/meals/cupboards and children’s services.  1,500 toboggans went out to the Toy Drive this week. 
  • CFOS Christmas broadcast: 23 local charities will receive funds for Christmas support. 
  • United Way “Thank an Educator” Campaign:  people can sponsor a fully stocked backpack in honour of a special educator. For more information visit www.ThankAnEducator.ca or call 519-376-1560. To learn more about the Backpack Program, please visit www.Backpacks4Kids.ca.
  • Backpack Program: To access the Backpack Program during the school year, please contact the United Way office at 519-376-1560.
  • Bruce County Dorrell Young Fund: provides a gift for children and teenagers whose families are struggling and are served by Bruce County Human Services. To register contact  1-800-265-3005 or 519-881-0431 orHumanServicesAdministrativeSupport@brucecounty.on.ca
  • Food Bruce Grey.com was recognized as one of 3 finalists for their Community Innovation Award of the Pillar Foundation. See the video for the award prepared by Gotham Studios. 
  • Aha Process has released its 5th Edition of Bridges Out of Poverty. There is a new section on Policy Lens. This chapter features new scenarios from Getting Ahead graduates and more in the institutional and community section. 

Stay well, Jill