Our partner, Legal Assistance of Windsor, decided to focus the project initially in two low-income neighbourhoods. Following our workshop in June 2008, they continued meeting with social housing residents in the two neighbourhoods and identified key issues that interested residents: inadequate housing and knowing your legal rights.
Legal Assistance of Windsor linked the work to province wide advocacy work by encouraging and assisting local residents to attend anti-poverty events organized by the 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction and the Colour of Poverty Campaign. They then initiated working groups in an additional three low-income neighbourhoods. Working with social work and law students they conducted surveys and hold legal clinics with low-income residents to address individual needs while identifying broader systemic issues. In 2009 these groups were brought together and they formed “Windsor Essex Voices Against Poverty”.
Meanwhile, a community round table was set up-Pathways to Potential– and the “Windsor Essex Pathways to Potential Poverty Reduction Strategy” was released in December 2008. Members of Windsor Essex Voices Against Poverty are now represented on all of the subcommittees of this table (ie. Income supports, affordable housing, child care, health, education & skills).
The group is actively linked to province wide anti poverty initiatives. In June 2009 they had a 50 person meeting to Do the Math and have been since trying to meet with local MPPs to do this exercise with them. Voices has been active on EI issues with a petition drive & participation in a local forum. Voices members had a strong presence at the July 15 Windsor Housing consultation with the Housing Minister. Using a workshop format developed by Jacquie Maund (Campaign 2000) and facilitated by Jennefer Laidley (ISAC), Voices held a workshop on Social Assistance review issues in September 2009. The report from the workshop, entitled Ontario’s Social Assistance System: Identifying Problems Proposing Solutions, made 8 key recommendations and was presented to local agencies and organizations, turned into a brochure, and sent to MCSS Minister and members of the new Social Assistance Review Advisory Committee. Following some training the group plans to present the report to the Windsor Poverty Roundtable and meet with their 3 local MPPs about it.
Following our English workshop in Ottawa in May 2008 and a French workshop, a new group was formed called the “Ottawa Poverty Reduction Network” (OPRN) that includes service providers and low income people. Our “Ending Poverty Project” local partners are a sub-committee of this Network and include a representative from each of the following: Child and Youth Health Network of Eastern Ontario, the Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres of Ottawa, Canadian Mental Health Association – Ottawa and the Ottawa Alliance to End Homelessness.
When government consultations began on the Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy, this Network organized a large community meeting of 200 people in June 2008 to provide input. A report was produced (titled “… something left at the end of the month”) and delivered to local MPs, MPPs, the Mayor, city councilors and the Ottawa Poverty Advisory Committee to Council. This report provided the impetus for the decision by City Council to develop an Ottawa Poverty Reduction Strategy in consultation with the community. OPRN was asked to provide two representatives to a community-based steering committee so Bob Maher (with lived experience of poverty) and Hélène Menard (a service provider) joined the committee. The OPRN also gave a pre-budget presentation to the Finance Minister and shared our project report “ Solutions Start with Us” with community groups.
In 2009 OPRN held a June 22 update meeting with 40 low income people to encourage input to Ottawa consultations on municipal Poverty Reduction Strategy and to the July 27 Ottawa housing consultation with Minister Watson. Jacquie Maund gave an update on provincial poverty reduction work and campaigns. OPRN then actively supported low income people to participate (i.e. provided training, transit, child care) and secured an excellent turn out of low income people for the packed July 27 Housing meeting.
OPRN has 2 co-chairs and meets on a monthly basis. During fall 2009 OPRN was very involved with the development of Ottawa’s municipal Poverty Reduction Strategy providing input and supporting low income people to attend the consultations. Ottawa’s Poverty Reduction Strategy has now been passed by Council. OPRN members are participating in a lobby of local MPPs and MPs on poverty issues.
Our local partners credit funding from the Ending Poverty Project and the required accountability for helping to formalize their anti poverty work into the Ottawa Poverty Reduction Network.
Sault Ste. Marie
Although there are numerous community groups working on poverty issues in Sault Ste Marie none of them include low income people. This is one of the reasons why this project really took off in this community and why we had such strong interest in the initial workshop with 54 people in attendance. A new group called the “Voices of Action Against Poverty”, supported by our partner the Algoma Community Legal Clinic, was formed as a direct result of our June 2008 workshop. The group has been growing in creative and effective ways since then. They have a Steering Committee which meets monthly, have held a ‘visioning session’ facilitated by a local teacher from Algoma University, and have held numerous public events to raise the profile of poverty issues and solutions.
Following their formation in summer 2008, Voices of Action Against Poverty presented the report from their workshop to local MPP David Orazietti (who was also a member of the government’s now disbanded Poverty Reduction Cabinet Committee). In December 2008 they partnered with the local Labour Council and the Soup Kitchen to hold a community meeting at which our report “ Solutions Start with Us” (summarizing findings from all the workshops) was launched, with media and local federal and municipal politicians present. The event was covered in the local SooNews.
Through this project and support from ISAC/Campaign 2000, Voices of Action Against Poverty has become actively connected to province wide poverty initiatives. They are focusing on housing and social assistance issues.
Members of the group participated actively in province-wide strategizing meetings in Toronto organized by the 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction. We linked them into work with the Housing Network of Ontario to prepare for public consultations with Minister Watson to develop Ontario’s Long Term Affordable Housing Strategy. The first of 13 ministry meetings was held in the Soo on June 16 with members of the Voices group among the 75 participants. The group subsequently made a submission to the housing consultations.
Then on June 25, 2009 they organized a forum which included the “Do the Math” exercise, a release of “Stories from Soup Kitchen” booklet, and a performance of the play “ In My Shoes” written and performed by group members. Dana Milne (ISAC) gave a presentation on social assistance issues, and the forum was covered in the local paper with a link to the “Do the Math” website.
During Poverty Awareness week (Oct 17/09) Voices held a display in the local shopping mall on poverty issues which included: the ‘paper house made of housing reports’ display from Social Planning Toronto, distributing copies of their reports and wearing Voices T Shirts. The event got local media coverage and lots of community attention. Next steps include: meeting with their MPP to “Do the Math” exercise with him; following through on their visioning exercise to focus on 1-2 issues; and securing funding to support their ongoing work.
Local partner the Grey-Bruce Community Legal Clinic followed up with participants from our May 2008 Owen Sound workshop and invited them to join a new Poverty Reduction Strategy Committee. This group then got actively involved in the government consultations on Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy by attending the nearby Kincardine meeting with MPPs Carol Mitchell and Deb Matthews. When their own MPP refused to hold a local consultation, the group partnered with the local Labour Council and United Way to organize a community consultation in Owen Sound July 29 with media coverage.
Their momentum continued with a “Stone Soup” rally and march in Owen Sound on October 17th, and a Poverty Forum organized with the local Children’s Alliance on November 27th. The group partnered with the Grey Bruce Coalition for Peace & Justice to hold a second Poverty Forum on February 24, 2009 at which our project report, “ Solutions Start with Us”, was publicly released with coverage in local media.
Since then the group has been focusing on housing issues in particular. Using a workshop format developed and facilitated by Jacquie Maund (Campaign 2000), the Legal Clinic held a workshop on June 25, 2009 with low income people to get views on housing. A broader coalition was then developed, the “Grey Bruce Affordable Housing Coalition” with low income people, agencies & housing providers.
Unable to convince their local MPP to hold a consultation to give input to Ontario’s Long Term Affordable Housing Strategy, the Coalition organized their own Oct 14 Owen Sound housing consultation and submitted a report to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. This was encouraged and supported by Campaign 2000 staff person Jacquie Maund who persuaded a representative from the Housing Minister’s office to attend.
On November 27 the Coalition held a forum to learn about successful housing initiatives from other communities, with funding secured from CHHC. Low income people participated in both meetings. The group is actively linked to the Housing Network of Ontario and 4 reps attended a provincial meeting on Nov 30 in Toronto. Next steps include a meeting with nearby MPP Carol Mitchell who sits on the Results Committee of the Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy, and their MPs.
Our project began with a community forum in May 2008 on the government’s plans for developing a Poverty Reduction Strategy. Dana Milne from ISAC spoke at the forum. This was followed the next day by our workshop with about 20 low income people attending. Our work with local partner the Lakehead Social Planning Council has focused on encouraging more low-income people to become involved in the Thunder Bay Economic Justice Committee (TBEJC), an existing group of low income activists.
They became re-energized by the provincial housing consultations in summer 2009. They organized a September 17 ‘Housing, Food & Gabfest’ meeting of 40 low income people to prepare for the September 30 housing consultation with Minister Watson. Our colleague at the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, Yutaka Dirks, attended and then offered a media training workshop the following day for TBEJC members. As a result 20 TBEJC members attended the Housing consultation, put out a press release & got media coverage in print and radio with quotes from TBEJC members. Five members attended the Housing Network of Ontario’s November 30 Leadership Forum in Toronto and shared information on northern housing issues.
They have done other outreach activity through the fall and new active members have joined. For example, they organized “Feed the Poor” day on October 17, 2009 outside the homeless shelter with grocery store donations and 300 attending. They made a ‘Thunder Bay Glimpses” video on poverty now on YouTube, and are planning a neighbourhood clean up day in spring.
Toronto: Rexdale (working with low-income women)
The Rexdale Women’s Centre held a follow up workshop of their own to our original June 2009 workshop with women. This led to the formation of a local advisory group of about 20 men and women to work on a “poverty campaign” in their neighbourhood focusing on local issues of concern: child care, affordable housing, employment, health, transportation.
The group was linked to the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care and one of the women appeared on the front page of the Toronto Star on budget day commenting on the need for child care. Campaign 2000 staff provided advice to a small group of the women on how to conduct an MPP meeting. A group of four then met in July 2009 with their MPP Shafiq Qaadri to speak about the lack of child care. With support, they followed up with a letter identifying the number of children on the local wait list and calling for government action. The letter was signed by 300 parents. Members from the Rexdale Women’s Centre attended a local housing consultation meeting organized by the MPP. They are continuing to follow up with their MPP with a focus on child care issues.
Toronto: Scarborough (working with low-income youth)
Following our August 2008 workshop with Scarborough youth, our partner the Toronto Community Housing Corporation continued the project through a new youth program in Chester Le called (Creating Leaders in Chester Le (CLIC). As a result of our workshop the group decided to focus their planned photovoice project on poverty issues. Youth (aged 12 -15) spent 10 weeks learning to use digital cameras and editing software to explore what poverty and leadership looked like in their neighbourhood. They planned in 2009 to launch the photo exhibit in the Chester Le community along with a panel discussion on poverty issues. ISAC staff worked closely with TCHC staff and local youth leaders to support this initiative but this has not yet come to fruition.
In 2009 CLIC gained access, through TCHC, to a dedicated community space and received funding through a trustee to operate a youth-focused space in Chester Le. Within TCHC, our colleague was able to achieve some increased profile of anti-poverty work which has culminated in the establishment of a city-wide, resident led, staff-supported issue-based committee focused on poverty.
Toronto: ARCH (working with people with disabilities)
Our September 2009 workshop with people with disabilities, in partnership with ARCH Disability Law Centre, attracted both experienced and new disability activists. Problems with the Ontario Disability Support Program and the inadequacy rates dominated the discussion. After follow up meetings with low attendance levels, ARCH decided to partner with the Anne Johnston Health Station which works extensively with people with disabilities and runs many community-based programs.
Smaller meetings were held to identify issues and strategies. ISAC staff Dana Milne provided ongoing support by connecting them to the ODSP Action Coalition, informing them of the “Do the Math” campaign, & providing tips on how to meet with MPPs. The Anne Johnston Health Station held a Poverty Workshop Forum in spring 2010 with members of the disability working group involved.
Toronto: CASSA (working with racialized communities)
Our partner CASSA (Council of Agencies Serving South Asians) partnered with the East Scarborough Storefront to train two low-income women to facilitate our August 2008 workshop with South Asian and Somali men and women. Issues raised included: low-wage and precarious work, lack of recognition for foreign-trained professionals, lack of available training and educational opportunities, and the need for affordable child care. It was hoped that workshop participants would join other organizing that CASSA has done on employment equity, Bill 139 (the new Temp Agency legislation), child care, and equity and education, but it is not clear to what degree this happened beyond the women who facilitated the initial workshop.
Many of the women at the original workshop live in TCHC housing in the Morningside/Lawrence area. They wanted to organize local fundraisers in the summer of 2009 and then do some training for employment skills. CASSA organized an event for International Women’s Day in March, where they spoke about the project and the fundraising plan the women are executing. At the event one of the two main women trained at the start of the EPP was presented with some funds to kick off the fundraising that will end in May at the South Asian Heritage Festival.