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March 27, 2013

MCCO's Recommendations for Poverty Reduction in Budget 2013



Budget 2013 is on its way.  The exact date is not yet known, but Ontario's Provincial Budget is expected to arrive mid to late April.  During the final two weeks of March, the Ministry of Finance held public consultations to hear what "people, organizations, associations and other [provincial] stakeholders" believe should be included in the budget. 

Though MCCO did not have the chance to participate in person, we did take the opportunity to provide input into this year's budget.  


Our recommendations, which come directly from the work we do with marginalized people in Ontario, include the following:
  • Increase the maximum Ontario Child Benefit to $1,310 a year per child in 2013 as originally planned and then index the OCB to inflation.
  • Increase the minimum wage, which has been frozen since 2010, and index it to inflation.
  • Make a down payment on the Social Assistance Review Commission’s recommendations:
           o  Raise social assistance rates for single adults by $100 a month and    
                    index rates to inflation. The Special Diet Allowance should be
                    maintained.
           o Increase the earnings exemptions to $200/month before claw
                    backs begin. But this should not be accompanied by a
                    reduction or elimination of the Work-Related Benefit for
                    people receiving ODSP.
           o Increase the amount of assets people are allowed to have to qualify
                    for social assistance.
           o Allow single parents receiving social assistance to keep at least half
                    of every child support dollar they are entitled to receive and allow
                    them to decide whether or not to pursue child support.

  • Contribute permanent, annualized funding to municipalities to fully cover the amount that was cut when the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit was rolled into the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative.
  • Bolster support for community based initiatives that respond to all who have been impacted by crime.
You can click here to read the submission in its entirety or visit MCCO.ca/poverty and check out "The Latest" for more communications.

March 18, 2013

TORONTO SHELTERS: Are there enough beds?


Recent news stories have highlighted a budget cut of $128 million dollars to Toronto’s Shelter, Support, and Housing Administration.  Shelters are only a small part of this figure, but 2.9 % is due to be cut from the 2013 budget compared to last year.  

According to Lazarus Rising Street Pastor Doug Johnson Hatlem, the budget cuts amount to 114 fewer shelter beds each night.  This is at a time when demand is greater than it has been for several years, and many shelters are full.  Doug says that each night people are waiting in the shelter assignment office for a bed: they may have to sit there all night – or worse, on the crowded evenings, wait outside until someone waiting inside leaves.  

People are free to travel to one of the York Region shelters, such as the one hosted by Rouge Valley Mennonite Church on Wednesday nights from January through March.  But even there, the “inn” may be full, and some nights people have to be turned away.
              
In mid-February, the monthly Homeless Memorial ceremony outside Trinity Church at the Eaton Centre commemorated the 700th death of a homeless person on the streets of Toronto.  That’s 700 people in the last 27 years who have died alone on the street.  Some are listed only as Jane or John Doe.
                
Is the opening of more shelters the answer?  Doug believes shelters are an inefficient use of funds for helping marginalized people.  He quotes statistics to show that the monthly expense for a shelter bed for 1 person is nearly equal to modest room rent for 3 people!  If shelters are more expensive than rent subsidy, in addition to being demeaning and potentially unhealthy – why is there not more assistance for actually housing homeless people ?  Why is there so much more talk about shelter beds, and not about permanent housing?

If you live in Toronto, send a message to your City Councillor to say that No One Should Be Left Out in the Cold.

March 13, 2013

The Time to End Homelessness Was Yesterday!

Suggestions for Ontario's 2013 Provincial Budget:
Excerpts from  Lynn Macaulay's recent presentation to the People's Budget

Canada Cannot Afford Homelessness
Monday, March 11, 2013

 In order to maintain housing people need three things, adequate income, adequate housing and access to appropriate supports.   While addressing one of these issues helps some people, if we are serious about ending homelessness then we need to be addressing all three. 

While we now have a nationally accepted definition of homelessness, it is very difficult to determine the number of people impacted by housing instability.  While we can count the number of people using formal shelters or the number of people on waiting lists for subsidized housing, this does not include people who are couch surfing, using informal shelters such as Out of the Cold programs, staying in housing that is temporary, living in the rough, whose housing is precarious because they are living in places that are not adequately maintained or accessible or that are way too expensive based on level of income. 


Photo credit: UCobserver.org