Task Force Blog

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update #88

Dear Colleagues, 

The federal government has released its 2022 budget. There was continued and new funding for affordable housing; and advancements in dental care, pharmacare,  National School Food Policy, National Childcare Program and a new national pilot to address period poverty. Here are a few highlights: 

Housing and Homelessness

  • $475 million in 2022-23 to provide a one-time $500 payment to those facing housing affordability challenges through the Canada Housing Benefit.
  • $562.2 million to enhance the Reaching Home program that prevents and reduces homelessness. 
  • $62.2 million to launch a new Veteran Homelessness Program that will provide services and rent supplements to veterans experiencing homelessness.
  • $1.5 billion over 2 years, starting in 2022-23, to extend the Rapid Housing Initiative. This new funding is expected to create at least 6,000 new affordable housing units, with at least 25% of funding going towards women-focused housing projects.
  • Introduces a Multigenerational Home Renovation Tax Credit, which would provide up to $7,500 in support for constructing a secondary suite for a senior or an adult with a disability, starting in 2023.

Dental Care

  • $5.3 billion set aside for dental care over the next 5 years  and $1.7 billion ongoing, to provide dental care for low-income Canadians. This would double public dental spending.  
  • Canadians can access a new dental care coverage plan before the end of the year – if their income is less than $70,000 annually. The program will provide care to those under 12 years of age and expand to under 18-year-olds, seniors, and persons living with a disability in 2023, with full implementation by 2025
  • Families with incomes less than $90,000 would be eligible for a portion of their dental costs being covered 
  • Families earning less than $70,000 would be fully covered

Pharmacare and Addressing Period Poverty

  • The government committed to establishing a National Pharmacare Program with a clear timeline of tabling legislation by the end of 2023. 
  • $25 million to Women and Gender Equality to start a 2 year national pilot project aimed at making menstrual products available to Canadians in need. 

National Child Care Program and National School Food Policy

  • $30 billion over five years to implement the National Childcare Program, and as of now, all provinces have signed on
  • The government commits to working with provinces, territories, municipalities, Indigenous partners, and stakeholders to develop a National School Food Policy and to explore how more Canadian children can access nutritious food at school.

What more needs to be done? 

  • There is still more work to be done to guarantee income for people living below the poverty line. This includes single working-age adults and people with disabilities. 
  • While the Canada Housing Benefit helps those at immediate risk of homelessness or to exit homelessness, with no increase in income and rising housing costs, people who are renting are still struggling. 
  • The Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (WOWC) has recently identified the following key priorities for the coming year:
    • Affordable and Attainable Housing in Rural Areas
    • Workforce Development through the Implementation of the Western Ontario Workforce Strategy
    • Continued Broadband Infrastructure Investment and Advocacy
    • Mental Health and Addictions

INCOME SECURITY SUPPORT

  • The Ontario government has announced it is making the Birth Certificate Fee Waiver Program permanent, eliminating the $35 fee for birth certificates. Access to government identification is important for people to access vital supports such as housing and social assistance. 
  • Ontario’s general minimum wage is set to increase to $15.50/hr, as of Oct 1, 2022.
  • The federal government is announcing a new phase of the Connecting Families initiative program that provides high-speed internet at $20 per month to low-income families and seniors across Canada. This will improve the internet speed for seniors who currently are paying $10/month. Further subsidies will exist for families receiving the full Child Tax Benefit and Seniors Guaranteed Income Supplement.
  • South East Grey Community Health Centre: 2 Income Tax clinics remain –  April 21st in Dundalk and April 26th in Markdale.

HOUSING SUPPORT

  • M’Wikwedong Indigenous Housing Support Program: currently serving 78 households, 100 people (56% chronically homeless, 35% youth led families and 25% discharged from institutions), 18 people were sex trafficked. 
  • Habitat for Humanity Grey Bruce has created a Truth and Reconciliation in Action video. In 2022, they will be building 7 new homes will be built in Saugeen First Nation #29. 
  • The YMCA Emergency Housing program is reporting the numbers of people being sheltered are high!  It is increasingly difficult to find affordable rental housing and this is only going to get more difficult as we move into the summer tourism season when we see motels booked up.

FOOD SECURITY SUPPORT

  • United Way of Bruce Grey supported the donation of over 700 lbs of beef from Courtney Miller, local farmer to 5 local community meal programs. 
  • FoodBruceGrey.com: Since January 2020, over 350,000 community meals have been prepared. 
  • No Matter What Tailgate Soup Kitchen: have served 1,060 meals this winter season. 
  • Tobermory Food Bank spoke to the impact of rising costs, inflation and challenges for families in their area. 

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 87

Dear Colleagues,

Waiting for an apology can be a thorn in a healing process. More than 6 years after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission published Call to Action # 58, there is an apology from the Pope. And while the Pope has apologized for the “deplorable conduct” of members of the Catholic Church, there remains a lot of work to be done to heal. Calls from Indigenous leaders, including the Honourable Murray Sinclair say that stories of residential school Survivors must be integrated into Church services and Sunday schools. It was a great injustice that all people must learn from.

  • Education on Residential Schools funding: The Ontario government is providing $412,500 to support the Anishinabek Nation with a range of initiatives to educate and inform the public about the history and legacy of the Indian Residential School (IRS) System in its territory, and to help Survivors living in the 39 Anishinabek Nation member First Nations share their stories.
  • M’Wikwedong Indigenous Friendship Centre: is offering monthly Community Fires for teachings, community and a meal.

MENTAL HEALTH  & ADDICTION SUPPORT

  • Grey Bruce Bayview Wellness Centre: the Ontario government announced on Friday, April 1st it is investing $6 million through the new Addictions Recovery Fund to immediately enhance access to addictions treatment support in Grey Bruce. This investment will fund 14 addiction treatment beds, 12 withdrawal management beds and 10 supportive treatment beds at GBHS. This funding will support the addition of immediate new beds and the creation of a new regional wellness centre.
  • SHARPS Pilot Program:  Since June 2020, over 65,600 sharps have been returned to Safe N Sound.  The United Way provided gift cards to participants for returning full containers. In January 2022, the program expanded to Saugeen First Nation.  

INCOME SUPPORT

  • Tuition freeze: The Ontario government has announced it is extending the current tuition freeze for colleges and universities by an additional year, through 2022-2023, providing financial relief and predictability for students and families seeking access to affordable postsecondary education.  Students enrolled in a university undergraduate arts and science degree will pay an average of $660 less in tuition. 
  • Affordable Child Care Agreement:  Ontario and Canada have signed a $13.2 billion agreement that will lower fees for families and deliver an average of $10 a day child care by September 2025. Parent rebates, retroactive to April 1, will begin in May.
  • The government will maintain the Ontario Child Care Tax Credit program for expenses for licensed and unlicensed child care. 
  • Challenges still remain for Grey Bruce to hire new early childhood educators. The government announced it will support improved compensation for all Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs) working in licensed child care.

INTERNET SUPPORT

  • High Speed Internet: The governments of Canada and Ontario announced funding to support construction of new broadband infrastructure for 4,300 homes, farms and businesses in Bruce County by December 2022 and 1,800 in Grey County by November 2022. 
  • Free Wireless: the Owen Sound & North Grey Union Public Library announced it will loan wireless hot-spot sticks, which provide free Internet access, to library members in April 2022. The Library also  has Amazon Fire Tablets and Chrome books for borrowing. Other libraries, including Meaford and Thornbury libraries have wifi lending programs which include equipment and wifi sticks. 

HOUSING SUPPORT

  • Safe N Sound new hours: Mon, Wed, Thurs and Fri 9am to 3pm, Tues- 9 am – 2pm, Sat 10am – 5:30pm, Sun – CLOSED. No evenings until November 2022. But now it is open on Saturdays. 
  • Bruce Power Housing Advocacy:  a letter has been sent to the Honourable Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, Ahmed Hussen speaking to the need to address urgent issues for rural communities.  They asked to accelerate policy and financial commitments to address rural housing affordability by partnering with our region to accelerate these investments beginning in Budget 2022. 
  • Grey Bruce Coordinated Access/By Names List:  As of March 31st, 2022 there were 153 active individuals on the list. In March, 9 people moved to inactive (they left the area, passed away or lost contact), 11 people returned from inactive and 45 new individuals were identified. Numbers continue to grow as partners get more comfortable working within a coordinated system. 
  • The Future of Housing in Huron Perth: the Social Research and Planning Council of Huron-Perth and United Way of Huron Perth released a new report The Future of Housing

HEALTH EQUITY

  • Portable Benefits Advisory Consultation: The Ontario government announced it is examining how to expand benefits (health, dental and vision care) to more workers, even if they change jobs. Members of the Portable Benefits Advisory Panel will conduct research and consultations to recommend the design and implementation of a new plan that will cover millions of precarious workers in various sectors. A final report is expected by Summer 2023.
  • Coalition for Dentalcare has created a new series of posters to raise awareness for access to dental care during April – Oral Health Month.  

FOOD SECURITY SUPPORT

  • Love You No Matter What Tailgate Soup Kitchen will close at the end of April and resume in the fall of 2022. It will operate throughout the winter of 2023. This week they served 45 meals. 

Stay well, Jill  

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 86

Dear Colleagues, 

When the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March 2020, the Tamarack Institute and its members – including the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force – had been celebrating Canada achieving the lowest level of poverty in the country’s history.  However, in 2020 and 2021 many of the successes around poverty and inequality reflected in Canada’s Official Poverty Dashboard have been reversed. 

  • Tamarack Institute’s Communities Ending Poverty Impact Report reports from community stories that income, housing and food insecurity have risen; there is a decrease in physical, mental and emotional well-being; and developmental losses for toddlers 6 years and under are being experienced. With the end of the CERB, emergency savings are depleted and the number of low income individuals and households are increasing. 
  • Children’s Mental Health Ontario reports a disturbing increase in mental health disorders of children and youth through the pandemic. Many are dealing with complex mental health issues beyond anxiety and depression. 
  • Enhanced access to customary care arrangements: the provincial Government is taking action to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous children and youth in the care of children’s aid societies through amendments to Ontario’s Child, Youth and Family Services Act so children and youth can remain closer to home, helping ensure they remain connected to their culture and traditions.

HOUSING SUPPORT

  • Housing Outcome for Rural and Urban (Off Reserve) Indigenous Peoples: has released a new Research Insight report. The project revealed 4 outcomes, which are described in detail in the Research Insight:
    • Among Indigenous peoples, perceived general and mental health is better for homeowners. The same holds true for those with affordable and adequate housing.
    • Indigenous youth living in multigenerational households are less likely to attend school. This is mitigated by homeownership and housing suitability and increased household income.
    • Homeownership is associated with a greater likelihood of participating in the labour force and having full-time employment.
    • Indigenous children living in subsidized rentals are most likely to speak an Indigenous language regularly at home. This is followed by children living in market rentals and then by those in owned dwellings.
  • M’Wikwedong Indigenous Housing Support Program: are seeing on average 95 clients/month. 
  • YMCA Housing: provided 1,048 nights for 141 households housed in February 2022. 
  • Safe N Sound: in 2021, SNS gave out 200+ tents and over 1,000 sleep bags.  A reminder that there are laundry facilities at SNS and laundry soap available. Over the next 6 weeks, South East Grey CHC will be carrying out drop-off income tax clinics with guests.  
  • Homelessness Prevention Program: the provincial government is investing an additional $25 million annually to help more people experiencing or at risk of homelessness find the right housing services and other supports. As of April 1, 2022,  three existing programs will be combined: Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative, Home for Good, and the Strong Communities Rent Supplement Program. The new investments can be used to fund the operation of supportive housing units created through the province’s $1 billion Social Services Relief Fund (SSRF).
  • Grey County Housing Task Force: received a report today on progress of new supported housing build and exploring the use of public land for housing. 

ADDICTION SUPPORT

  • Naloxone Kits in the workplace:  the provincial government has introduced legislation that will require workplaces that are at risk of a worker opioid overdose to have naloxone kits.
  • Needle Syringe Program site at Grey Bruce Health Unit (101 17th St E Owen Sound) has reopened. Open 8:30am-4:00pm, Monday to Friday.

FOOD SECURITY SUPPORT

  • Love You No Matter What tailgate soup kitchen; are now providing meals for up to 80 people each Sunday both downtown Owen Sound as well as at area motels. Since November 2021, they have served about 750 meals. 
  • Eat Local Grey Bruce: has found a new home in Meaford. 
  • School food literacy: the provincial government announced food literacy will be mandatory for all Ontario students in grades 1-12 to ensure that students are given opportunities to grow food, prepare food and learn about local foods. 

DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION SUPPORT 

SENIORS SUPPORT 

  • Seniors Community Grant Program the provincial government announced funding of $6 million in 2022-23 for seniors-based projects that help Ontario’s seniors stay safe, healthy, active and connected to families and friends in their communities. Applications are open until April 28, 2022, at Ontario.ca/getfunding for community organizations, municipalities and Indigenous organizations. 

TRANSPORTATION SUPPORT

  • Ontario Good Roads ConferenceBruce and Grey counties will be requesting delegations with the Minister of Infrastructure at the 2022 Ontario Good Roads Conference to talk about the challenges of providing public transportation in rural communities. 
  • The delegation and request to the minister would ask the Ontario Government to investigate and report back on the potential to extend the Community Transportation Program, with the aim of developing a comprehensive Provincial Rural Transit program.
  • Ad Hoc Transportation Action Group: The Poverty Task Force will be calling an Ad Hoc Transportation Action Group meeting to discuss ongoing issues ranging from challenges with transit routes & accessibility, volunteer drive programs, etc. under COVID19. Contact Jill Umbach if this impacts your work and are interested to join the discussion.

Stay well, Jill 

Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 85

Dear Colleagues, 

As we begin to open up again, “Public Health trends support COVID-19 becoming more manageable and predictable as we navigate the recovery stage of the pandemic. As we begin to have conversations about transitioning from pandemic to endemic, we’d like to remind everyone that it may take time and will require help from all around the globe.” Grey Bruce Health Unit

  • Grey Bruce Public Health recommends: the best way to move forward and deal with COVID-19 as we begin to talk about this important transition stage is to mask when necessary, get vaccinated, sanitize whenever possible, and practice good public health measures.

COVID RELATED SUPPORT

  • Vaccine passports are no longer required as of March 1st, 2022. However, we recognize the incredible role that Public Libraries played in ensuring people had them printed out and available.  
    • As of March 2nd, 2022 Bruce County Libraries printed over 26,000 receipts. Southampton, Kincardine, and Port Elgin branches all had weeks where they printed over 1,000 vaccine receipts. 
    • During their busiest week, the Kincardine Branch printed 1,751 receipts which translates to 35 every hour they were open. 
  • Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) /KN95 Masks: The United Way Bruce Grey has distributed 1,000s of tests through community partners starting December 22nd. Additional RAT tests and KN95 masks have been provided by Health Canada/Canadian Red Cross and by Bruce Power for distribution by the United Way Bruce Grey.   
  • The United Way is offering them at:  
    • Owen Sound Transit Terminal March 4th, 10 am – 2 pm. Bus riders can pick up a free kit of 5 QuickVue At-Home OTC COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Tests and a box of 20 KN95 masks.
    • Bus riders can not social distance while riding and therefore are more vulnerable than people with private transportation. Recipients will need to show a bus pass or a bus ticket to get the items. 
    • Heritage Mall Shopping Centre March 5th, 10 am – 4 pm or until the tests are gone. These kits are boxes of 30 tests, provided by Bruce Power. A limited number of 3 ply medical masks will also be offered with each box. One box per household at this time.
    • There is no cost for any of these items but the United Way invites attendees to make a donation to help cover United Way related costs.

RESEARCH & REPORTS

INCOME SUPPORT 

  • License Plate Renewal: The provincial government has waived the renewal fee. A refund will be paid to eligible individual owners of vehicles for any licence plate renewal fees paid since March 2020. 
  • Vehicle owners will receive a cheque in the mail starting at the end of March and throughout the month of April.
  • Vehicle owners will still be required to renew their licence plate every one or two years at no cost to confirm their automobile insurance is valid and pay any outstanding Highway 407 tolls and other municipal fines

HEALTH EQUITY SUPPORT

  • SOS Mobile Clinic Pilot: supportive outreach has proven to be a more effective way to access support services for more street involved people. Every other week the drop-in clinics create a touch point for intervention and support for critical health needs that may otherwise go unmet.
    • Approximately 36 individuals attended the January 5th clinic in Hanover. 90 individuals attended the January 12 clinic in Owen Sound. The mobile team assists up to 30 people per day.
  • GB Works Needle Syringe Program has 16 locations in Grey-Bruce and announced it is reopening its site at the Grey Bruce Health Unit. 

HOUSING SUPPORT 

  • Grey Bruce By Name List: Since the creation of the By Name List in Grey and Bruce 29 individuals on the list have been connected to housing. 
    • 158 Individuals/Families Active on the BNL
    • 95 Individuals/Families Inactive on the BNL (this means there has been at least 90 days with no contact)
  • In January, 22 people referred to the BNL reported that they were either sleeping rough or not sleeping throughout the night due to not having a safe place to sleep. In February 17 individuals referred, reported the same.

Stay well, Jill