By Valerie MacDonald,
NORTHUMBERLAND - More than 12% of families in Northumberland County live in poverty, according to a status report from the Northumberland Poverty Reduction Action Committee.
The report, entitled Reach Out. Change Lives, looks at the county's population of just over 82,000 people for the period 2012/13.
When asked about the key findings of the report and actions needed, committee co-chair Beth Bellaire said her first reaction was putting more money in the pockets of the poor as the first step – but it's not as easy as that.
"We have just had an increase in the minimum wage announced by the provincial government, but we also need increases to social assistance rates and rates for those on Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). However, the argument against this is that costs such as rents will just go up to negate the impact of those increases. Perhaps I would then suggest having stable, affordable, and safe shelter as the central need," she continued. "This approach of 'housing first' is gaining momentum and has been adopted by our own county council. But to maintain such shelter, a stable and sufficient income is needed - and we are back to point one.
And, she stressed, "to maintain a reasonable income, one needs a job, so now we are at another need - employment opportunities. To get to that job, there also needs to be affordable transportation and education. Of course, through all of this, people need food to merely survive."
These key themes are very inter-related and not one can be teased out, saying, "Fix this, and then poverty will be reduced," Bellaire said.
The report itself contains some very disturbing information. It includes:
Read more here...
In the midst of doing what we do, we're always exploring new and interesting ways of improving what we do. This week we had the opportunity to visit two innovative projects in the heart of Toronto.
The Stop is a leader in the Community Food Centres movement that "strives to increase access to healthy food in a manner that maintains dignity, builds health and community and challenges inequality".
Sketch creates opportunities for young people living street involved, homeless or otherwise on the margins, to experience the transformative power of the arts. They're in the process of moving into a new location that's part of an innovative project by Artscape. Incidentally, The Stop's Wychwood Barns location that we visited is also a collaboration with Artspace.
Green Wood provides assistance to many people who are homeless, according to the Canadian Definition of Homelessness created by the Homeless Hub at York University. That definition describes a spectrum that ranges from living without any shelter, on one end, to insecure housing, on the other end. For those living on that spectrum, there are common anxieties as well as a shared powerlessness to change one's circumstances.
"The problem of homelessness and housing exclusion refers to the failure of society to ensure that adequate systems, funding and support are in place so that all people, even in crisis situations, have access to housing."
-Canadian Homeless Research Network
While we don't see a high number of people in the category of 'absolute' or 'street' homelessness, the people in our community who do fall into that group are particularly vulnerable due to their invisibility, and to the lack of services available that could address their need.
We've been working with one such individual this month (a particularly cold and snowy winter to be outside), and finding safe shelter for him has been particularly frustrating. Contrary to what one might think, there is a cost to not providing housing for people.
In spite of living outdoors (yes in February, in Cobourg, Ontario) for one week, couch-surfing (not as much fun as it might sound) for two weeks, the cost of assisting this person, with a patchwork of emergency shelter situations, exceeded $900 this month. That money came from government sources as well as community-funded organizations like Green Wood Coalition, and doesn't include the working hours of various social service providers.
Along with the members of the Northumberland Affordable Housing Committee, we are actively working to define the needs of homeless people in our community, and to seek creative solutions that will bring peo
This thought-provoking, animated video clip was made in the USA which may mean some statistics vary from the Canadian experience, but the truth contained here should give pause to conversations around poverty and the government's role.
Had any good food lately? How do you define 'good food'? It tastes good? It's good for you? It comes from good sources? Joel MacCharles and his partner, Dana, have fun with those questions at their blog WellPrerved.ca, as well as in the rest of their life. We're pleased to be hosting a talk by Joel at IMAGINATE; An Evening of Possibility, on Saturday, February 15. Click on the IMAGINATE button for tickets. Here's a sample of the kind of fun that WellPreserved is up to: