Doug Ford’s Changes to Social Assistance Will Push Ontarians Into Homelessness, Service Providers Warn

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Ford government billed its changes as ‘compassionate’

As Doug Ford’s government gets ready to overhaul social assistance programs, Ontario service providers are warning Ford’s changes, billed as “compassionate,” could force many recipients into homelessness.

Ford’s plan to cancel the Transition Child Benefit and raise assistance clawbacks has already drawn the ire of many service providers.

Earlier this year, Toronto City Manager Chris Murray wrote in a note to city council that Ford’s cuts will increase the strain on municipal services, including its family shelter system. Similar concerns were raised by social service managers in WaterlooLondon and Windsor.

The HIV & AIDS Legal Network Ontario — which provides legal support to many Ontarians with disabilities — has noted average recipients of both Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support program will be poorer once eligibility is recalculated.

Under the new rules, Ontario Works recipients will only be able to keep up to $300 of net earned income each month, while ODSP recipients will only be able to keep up to $6,000 per year — every dollar recipients earn beyond those targets will reduce assistance by 75%.

HALCO community legal worker Jill McNall said “the new rules will mean that many people on OW/ODSP who work will be poorer than they were before.”

“Many will be below any credible poverty line,” McNall told PressProgress. “They will be at risk of homelessness.” MORE

VANCOUVER B.C. says modular housing is working — here’s what it will look like in Maple Ridge

MAPLE RIDGE, B.C.—With the latest phase of a controversial modular housing project set to open in Maple Ridge, B.C. Housing says newly released statistics show the province’s “housing first” strategy is working.

The new numbers, released Tuesday, are based on surveys at the first seven supportive modular housing projects in Vancouver and Surrey.

The surveys of those living in the Vancouver and Surrey modular housing, though, has found the vast majority — 94 per cent — of them remained housed after six months.

Eighty-four per cent said the housing had improved their overall well-being, and more than half said their physical health had improved.

“As you can see, it’s making a difference in people’s lives,” B.C. Housing Minister Selina Robinson told Star Vancouver.

“By bringing people inside, helping them stabilize their health and have some safety, they are better able to focus on their other issues, whether that’s addictions issues or mental health,” Robinson said.

The statistics come as the province prepares to unveil its latest supportive modular housing development on Burnet Street in Maple Ridge.

Star Vancouver was given an advance copy of the report and a tour of the new building on Monday. It includes 51 individual units, each with its own washroom, kitchenette, full-sized fridge and an air conditioning unit.

Like the existing modular housing project on Maple Ridge’s Royal Crescent, the Burnet Street site includes a lounge area with a flat-screen TV, an overdose prevention room and an industrial kitchen that will serve meals at breakfast and dinner

It will also have wraparound services for residents, including outreach workers, wellness checks, life-skills training, employment programs and referrals to community services and support groups. Sixteen on-site support workers from Coast Mental Health will help provide referrals to Fraser Health for treatment and other clinical services.

The only substantial difference between the two sites is that units at the Burnet Street location are substantially larger than those at the Royal Crescent site. MORE

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‘Nowhere to go.’ Iqaluit homeless stay in shacks, old boats amid housing crisis


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, takes part in an announcement with Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq and Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern in Iqaluit, Nunavut on Friday, Aug 2, 2019. File photo by The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick

Nushupiq Kilabuk wakes up every day in a shack on the shores Frobisher Bay in Iqaluit with only a lantern and a camping stove to keep him warm — but he says he’s one of the lucky ones.

Next to his shack, which he built himself a little over four years ago, there are two abandoned boats. One is a wooden fishing boat with a small front cabin, the other, an overturned canoe. Inside the fishing boat are sleeping bags and a jerrycan. Underneath the overturned canoe is a mat and an empty packet of cigarettes.

People have been sleeping in and under these boats at night — often several people crowded together to escape the elements.

That’s why Kilabuk believes he’s fortunate for his shack.

“I thank God for the abundance of what I have. But the people around me that are sleeping around in the boats … I have warmth. I’m lucky. I feel bad for them,” he said Friday.

“But I feel bad for myself too because I don’t have an apartment or running water or power.”

Kilabuk is one of many homeless Inuit living in dilapidated shacks along Frobisher Bay. Some are families with small children. Some are elders. Some, like Kilabuk, do have jobs and incomes, but simply cannot afford the steep rents for homes and apartments.

A Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation report published last year found the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Iqaluit was $2,648 in 2017.

There is also a major shortage of housing across the vast territory of Nunavut.

The federal government estimates Nunavut needs more than 3,000 units to meet its current housing demand, with over 4,900 individuals on waiting lists.

That’s why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was keen to call a media conference during his two-day visit to the territory to announce a new housing agreement with Nunavut.

It will provide $290 million over eight years to “protect, renew and expand” social and community housing, as well as repair and build affordable homes across the territory.

“We recognize that this is a big step forward that is going to make a huge difference in creating thousands of homes and we know this is really going to make a tangible impact in the lives of people here in the North,” Trudeau said in Iqaluit.

The newly allocated money will flow to the territory under the Trudeau government’s previously announced, decade-long national housing strategy.

“A few of them have no other choice than to commit a crime and go to jail for the winter. They get themselves a criminal record just to stay in a warm place in the winter.”

Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq and Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern stood next to Trudeau and expressed gratitude for the federal cash — but both also noted that more is needed.

“It is a housing crisis,” Savikataaq said. MORE

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Indigenous Women Survivors in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

Image result for Indigenous march vancouver downtown eastsideIndigenous women march in Vancouver, Downtown Eastside Photo Rebecca Blissett

“We need to keep families together. Colonization and missing and murdered Indigenous women has broken families. The children left behind by missing and murdered Indigenous women are mostly in foster care and then when they age out they end up on the street. The violence against missing and murdered Indigenous women continues with their children who are also violated and made vulnerable.”

On April 3, 2019, The Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre (DEWC) released Red Women Rising: Indigenous Women Survivors in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside based on the lived experience, leadership, and expertise of Indigenous survivors. This comprehensive report is the culmination of a participatory process with 113 Indigenous women and 15 non-Indigenous women regarding the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Violence against Indigenous women, girls, trans and two-spirit people is one of the most pressing human rights issue in Canada today. We know that the over-representation in statistics on homicides, poverty, homelessness, child apprehensions, police street checks, incarceration, and overdose fatalities is not a coincidence; it is part of an infrastructure of gendered colonial violence. Colonial state practices target women for removal from Indigenous lands, tear children from their families, enforce impoverishment, and manufacture the conditions for dehumanization.

Red Women Rising: Indigenous Women Survivors in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is an extraordinary report with Indigenous women survivors at the center; rather than as a secondary reference. Indigenous women in the Downtown Eastside (DTES)—a neighbourhood known as ground zero for violence against Indigenous women—are not silent victims, statistics, or stereotypes. This unprecedented work shares their powerful first-hand realities of violence, residential schools, colonization, land, resource extraction, family trauma, poverty, labour, housing, child welfare, being two-spirit, police, prisons, legal system, opioid crisis, healthcare, and more.

View report online
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CMHC sets target to make housing affordable for every Canadian by 2030

A construction worker shingles the roof of a new home in a development in Ottawa on Monday, July 6, 2015. File photo by The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick

A federal housing agency hopes to see every Canadian with an affordable home by 2030 and has offered up a plan full of experiments to make it happen.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said Friday that meeting that target will take help from governments and the economy — hence the aspirational nature of the goal.

“We believe that everyone in Canada deserves a home that they can afford and that meets their needs. We also believe that we are in the best position to make that happen,” Evan Siddall, the corporation’s president, writes in an opening message in the document. “We are single-minded in striving toward this goal and it will guide our work in the coming years.”

An estimated 1.6 million Canadian households are considered in “core housing need,” meaning that people live in places that are too expensive for them or that aren’t really suitable for them. MORE

B.C. legal group plans to go back to court after 6 arrested at homeless camp

Image result for maple ridge homeless camp rcmp
Police stand outside the Maple Ridge homeless camp known as Anita’s Place on Sunday, where the city was enforcing a court injunction.

MAPLE RIDGE, B.C. — Pivot Legal Society says it has filed leave to appeal the B.C. Supreme Court injunction used by RCMP to enter a homeless camp in Maple Ridge, B.C., and arrest six people.

Ridge Meadows RCMP said in a release officers made the arrests as Maple Ridge fire department officials and bylaw officers entered the Anita Place encampment on Sunday to enforce the injunction granted earlier this month.

Officials say they were concerned about propane heaters and stoves posing a fire hazard when used in or near tightly spaced tents.

Pivot said in a news release Monday that some of its members witnessed the enforcement and both city officials and RCMP contravened the injunction order.  MORE

Toronto city council votes against declaring homelessness crisis an emergency, now what?

Last week, Toronto Mayor Tory and Toronto City Council showed their impotence to deal with one of the most severe social welfare disasters in Toronto’s history — homelessness. 

The homelessness emergency affects over 8,000 people. Over 1,000 people are living in what can only be compared to refugee camp conditions: respite sites including a disaster dome, overnight drop-ins, and basements of churches and synagogues.

The housing emergency affects close to 200,000 people: 181,000 people are on the social housing wait list and another 16,000 await supportive housing. Essentially neither is being built.

In a debate over whether to declare Toronto’s housing and homelessness crisis an emergency, the directors of Toronto’s emergency management and legal services offices dispassionately addressed language in the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, including what entails an “emergency.” Equally dispassionate were the General Manager of Shelter, Support and Housing and the Medical Officer of Health.

Councillor Gord Perks, who brought forth the motion last week with Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, attempted to give staff an opening, suggesting that causes out of the city’s control, such as deregulation, could cause a disaster. After all, homelessness and the housing crisis is the direct result of federal and provincial abandonment. MORE

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