PACC Crashes Party... er meeting ...Making Ends Meet in York Region

A snapshot look at York Region's breakdown as presented in Feb 2011
PACC has literally put homeless and at risk persons to paid work at the "House of Hope", an affordable housing prospect attached to built-in supports initiatives already running and now "hoping" to raise funds to open doors in Sept 2011
Men's shelter bed are critically low in York Region yet there are still no plans to help them
York Region was exposed as having little affordable housing affecting our vulnerable in winter
Newly announced Newmarket/Aurora provincial NDP candidate Robin Wardlaw at a recent " Do The Math" meeting

I'd received an e-mail regarding a presentation of a new collaborative initiative being put forward by the Human Services Planning Board called, "Making Ends Meet in York Region" and had decided to check it out... only to discover...I wasn't expected! Yikes! Likely the message had come from another group PACC stays in the loop with called the Forum for Children, Youth and their Families in York Region, and meant sent to me as information about the upcoming launch of this initiative but not as an invite, per say, to the presentation... C' est la vie! Surprise! I'm staying now...(awkward silence)! I guess it was one way to forge closer ties! Ha!

It did give me a chance to meet with the York Region presenter to mention some "solutions" directly to as well as meet Kirsten Eastwood Executive Director of the Women's Centre of York Region, Janice Chu Director of Community Investment United Way York Region and Dino Basso York Region's Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives and Administration among some. Introductions were quickly made around the table and the presentation commenced - of which a copy on " memory stick" was made available in the "kits" everyone received to assist in launching, " Making Ends Meet" in York Region.

The idea, I think, was that in order to maximize participation levels, numerous organizational Chairs and E.D.'s endorse "Making Ends Meet" in advance of asking agencies to participate in this data collecting/solutions based exercise, which by design, receives input from agencies and community groups which is then entered into their computers. This "data" is compiled, deduced, and calculated, hopefully spitting out focused solutions in the end! Sound simple? Complicated? It does sound like more of that " collaborative" talk - with an electronic twist - that was the buzz lingo of last week....before that it was 'silos". Of course under the right setting and circumstances, and starting with such an impressive list of endorsing organizational heads, this may actually prove a useful exercise and anyway I figure if Y.R.'s newish Commissioner Adelina Urbanski backs it then it's likely well planned, as the Commish has proved efficient and forward thinking during her short tenure thus far.

I inquired as to why they chose the before tax amount of income to decide the " low income cut-off" threshold for it's purposes and not the after tax amount, and Mr. Basso was quick to point out that a difference of $2,000 per year could be deemed a significant amount to some. He's very right. Off the stats sheet provided with the Making Ends Meet launch kits I read that a single person in York Region would be considered at the low-income cut-off mark when making $19, 144 per year - wherein someone receiving social assistance could be receiving about $11,000 less than that. Tough to do in York Region or anywhere, but of course those rates are set out by the provincial government and out of the Region of York's control - yet available GTA pooled, and other funds can be used to assist we feel.

These millions of dollars in returning "pooling dollars" were revenues successfully lobbied back to the Region from Toronto some years ago by numerous " collaborating" organizations on the guise they were needed for our own social service costs, yet Y.R. has consistently used major portions of it to pay down debt and pay infrastructure costs instead. Not really fair to those lobbying groups and residents I'd say. This part IS a regional (council) responsibility and when I see the immaculate lawns of these magnificent structures we house our government workers in, one has to wonder about our society's priorities when pretty lawns trump giving someone food and shelter with dignity. An alien visiting earth would be confused methinks, but this is our societal "norm".

From the Making Ends Meet literature I read that in addition to having one of if not the lowest rental housing stock availability rates per capita in all Canada (with only 12% of all available housing stock as such), in 2006, 57.3% of low and "moderate income residents" had post secondary education certificates, diplomas or degrees, that the majority of of low and moderate income earners also worked during the year, and that 35% of moderate income residents spent between 30-50% of their earnings on housing - 71% of low income residents did the same. This means having an education in York Region does not necessarily mean you will be out of poverty. This data backs a recent U.K. study that also showed having an education or a job does not guarantee one can live above the poverty line, but the available local jobs / pay rates and conditions do. So a job is no guarantee against living in poverty in other words.One is actually considered "at risk" of becoming homeless when you pay more than 30% or your income on housing costs. Gulp.

At any rate I raised desire for quicker action, citing homeless men in our forests in winter as an example of obvious needed changes that don't need "data" or further 'study", and as well pointed to Behind the Masks - testimonials from those marginalized by income - York Region's first ever social audit and one the Region has adopted already, as containing many suggested "solutions", conveying my hopes that it was / would be consulted as well. The Region looks to receive input from as many organizations( in York Region) as possible and is asking participating agencies and organizations to start promoting it by displaying their "Statement of Endorsement" certificates in-house also included in the "kits". Each participating organization then inputs specific data and ideas on easy to use computer entry-ware!

Ready set....go!

Deadline for submitting solutions is October 6 2011.

Watch for the Official Making Ends Meet in York Region Launch June 21 in Markham.

....And it was nice to have been able to meet everyone that I did, although somewhat haphazardly, and was great to chat a little with the Women's Centre of York Region's Executive Director to throw some thoughts to her about the House of Hope/men's centre idea and as well mentioned our pilot PACC /TALK 2 ONE " project wherein we distribute free phone numbers /24/7 message service" for at risk and homeless persons - as some women in need would benefit by being able to leave a "safe" contact number where they can be left private messages either by workers, jobs, or housing providers where only they have access to their messages. This is a service I hope to convince the Region to pick up, as it will assist numerous people across many sectors and can be used to collect important data. I also spoke a little about how we've been placing persons at risk and others into jobs and training some others to be skilled, which the E.D. told me the Women's Centre was starting to look at similar ideas with more private enterprise involvement, offering to share any experiences she's had already. Hmm... maybe there's something to this 'collaborating " thingy after all!
I do know our "Do the Math" collaborative group was interested too and looking to learn more
about "Making Ends Meet in York Region."

Meantime PACC's Vice-Chair Kristine Carbis was able to attend the East Gwillumbury Accessibility Council input meeting, where she heard they await a report being tabled by Charles Beer, who was one of the Rapporteurs of the PACC hosted, ISARC guided social audit "Behind The Masks", and which also featured Speaker David Lepofski who's famous for having audio announcements on public transportation made mandatory under the law. Not bad action from an organization that refuses government funding. Lepofski finished with this,

"Know the three rules of advocacy. 1) Know exactly what you want 2) scream as loud as you can 3) scream until you get it!" Ha!

And speaking of advocacy, Robin Wardlaw, formerly known as Rev Wardlaw of Trinity United Church, has been officially nominated as the provincial NDP candidate for the Newmarket / Aurora riding for the upcoming fall election. I know Robin well from attending some of PACC's various initiatives as a socially conscious pastor including for the Put Food in the Budget campaign, as well a supporter for years of the Oct 17, International Day for the Eradication of Poverty held at Newmarket's Fairy Lake Park, and as a Reverend also worked with me to get a homeless father and son situated (see video) as he's always been a vocal supporter for people's rights, especially the vulnerable. Robin Wardlaw is most certainly a man of good character and I believe a man of principles - something rare in politics these days I find.
only knows. Oops, sorry Robin..old habit! Not that habit! There I go again! Doh!

Well..folks..That's it! Watch for the next action from Poverty Free Ontario including lawn signs..coming soon to an electoral district near you! Next PFO meeting June 20

Next PACC meeting Wed June 22 - TBA time/place

Now..Enjoy Part 2 of Homeless in York Region

Tom out!

Working Poor, the new "sexy"

Aurora Public Library home of June 7th's York Region Poverty Free Ontario presentation
York Region draws modest turnout to a stellar presentation
Hey..the fresh coffee was great and fair trade product
Dennis Bailey, Legal Clinic of YR Director (above left) engages YR Councillor John Taylor at Poverty Free Ontario presentation held at the Aurora Public Library. Poverty Free Ontario has a mission to eradicate, not reduce, poverty.

Poverty Free Ontario Presenter Professeur Marvin Novick engages afterward PACC's Deedra dropped in and high fived me..okay maybe it was a slap! Ha!

Someone asked me at a fundraiser for Edward and Damian, what it was that I had meant in a video where I'd said volunteering at a homeless shelter was "sexy". The two guys' names I refer to were a once homeless father and son who had found themselves by circumstance homeless and living in the forest in winter. The system seemingly deemed them not a fit, but as a result of publicity we generated about their plight through mainstream (York Region Media Group) media and PACC channel on You Tube, received a tremendous outpouring of public support for them and the friends from the street they'd leave behind. The media coverage brought much needed attention to the lack of shelters and programs for men in York Region at the time, the absurd rules within the system and the fact that affordable housing - homes - for these guys, or at least transitional housing, was needed to give a chance to succeed or "step out". Surely we could do better for our own than this had been the outcry!

Getting back to 'sexy". What I meant was that many "do-gooders"(god bless them), as "good" as they are, would mostly rather be known amongst their friends and peers for ' helping the poor" by volunteering at an Inn From the Cold, than for advocating for those they purportedly want to "help"per say. If people truly wanted to "help" they'd lobby to get their fellow human beings more money from social services so as to help them afford to get a place to live, buy their own food with dignity and able them to compete for a life.... and they'd help lobby our government to encourage and support step-out opportunities to help these sons and daughters and fathers and sons survive, and encourage them to provide some safe and affordable homes to actually live in after their 6 weeks maximum shelter stay is up. I used to say compete, we needed to try and help people marginalized by circumstance by providing all the tools needed to compete I'd say, but now it's down to survive. That type of help just isn't as sexy it seems with the Jones' though, especially if they live next door to the Nimby's, however it's people's dignity that is sacrificed, and as those numbers grow so too do the mental health crisis costs. So why not try and reduce this mainstream-onians? Not sexy enough? Grab me another blanket please.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states " Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of ALL members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace.......

Why the sexy talk? Because I believe it's the same formula the provincial poverty reduction strategy will be taking in this election year, judging by all pre-indications. Last round for them, their "sexy" was tackling poverty through the heart strings by focusing on woman and children, while 90% of our homeless are men. 44 year old males have been the median age for those newly becoming homeless for over 10 years running now, but who cares about facts? Facts get in the way of a good thing for some.

York Region, Ontario, Canada has only 25 full time shelter beds for men in a population base of 1 million. Women and some children make up the bulk of the available spaces through various categories ( family, abused women, youth, women's) with 2 more shelters for women in the works including some more transitional housing, meantime the Sandgate Women's Shelter in Georgina and located on the beach is somehow annually booked in advance by returning attendees during summer season so I'm informed. How they know in advance they are going to be abused (again) during a certain month I don't know, but this has been common knowledge for some time (from an inside worker) and yet we keep getting fed this line about the tremendous "need" for shelters. These types of abuses and misuse of the system leave an unwanted black-eye of another kind, and leads to misguided use of our scarce resources for housing and programs in York Region.

What we actually "need" in York Region - spelled out in the YR Social Audit " Behind The Masks" - are more affordable places to live for singles ( male and female) and (older) couples without children as well as transitional housing for men - or a men' s centre with programs similar to those the women have already, as written about in a recent YRMG article.

Poverty Reduction Strategy

The next strategy of poverty reduction attempted by the current provincial government and lead by Minister Laurel Broten will be focused on the working poor is my prediction, with a cross over housing benefit open to low income earners or perhaps property owners - but ultimately packaged along with some other goodies- I'm sure on the backs of the sexy "working poor". Much sexier than "bums on welfare" don't you think? Of course no-one says focusing on something isn't good, just not at the expense of others, which is what we'll see is my prediction.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 25 states that " (pre-amble) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate to the health and well being of himself(herself) and of his (her) family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age, or other lack of livelihood beyond his or her control."

By allowing such conditions currently such as providing our lowest income residents with an income that is $11,000 below the poverty line and that within the make-up of our "system" asks our own to use unhealthy sources for food - like food banks - and by not providing these above listed rights but instead CHOOSING to spend our country's wealth on tax breaks, military " needs", and any other cost - my goodness, are we not in breach of this declaration now!?

Edward was able to get off the streets and into a place to live and into a job through our and your assisting efforts and donations, and now so too has his son gotten off the streets. For some others however, without the helping hand we and you gave, and who may be enjoying summer weather now, come October will again looking to spend some winter time in and out of living outdoors - which is criminal to do to an animal in this country - but not apparently our residents!

There is no investment better this province and country can make than giving back dignity, and in turn strength, to her own.


Enjoy part 1 of the documentary on Damian and Edwards plight!

TP Out!

Vote for a Poverty Free Ontario

York Regioner's recently attended a Put the Food in the Budget campaign rally in Toronto

MM-mm-marginalized! New Seasonal Multicultural Mexican Fajita keeps workers happy too!

Social Planning Council of YR meets recently with PACC in attendance to keep things honest! Ha

York University Professeur Marvin Novick addresses at the Poverty Free Ontario launch

I read an article today in the Toronto Sun about the Campbell's Soup Company of how they are helping end hunger by selling a 'special"nutritious soup called "Nourish", and donating 25 cents from each can sold towards supposedly ending world hunger, then also donating one can for every can sold to Food Banks Canada. MMM - m-marginalized! Or as Nancy Roman, spokesperson for the important sounding United Nations World Food Program said,

" When children start the day hungry, they can focus on little else, including their schoolwork."

Aw, how nice...touching in fact..I can just see all those kids lining up in droves to eat a can of "Nourish" soup for breakfast. Right. Somehow I don't think this will be a "Hey Mikey, he likes it!" moment. How about just doling the $ right into their parents' hands so they can purchase fresh food themselves that their kids may actually eat? Dignity needs no middleman as our PACC Vice- Chair Kristine Carbis once panned. Uncanny. Pun semi-intended. Okay fully.

I say this knowing our provincial government's assigned poverty reduction taskmaster, er mistress rather, Minister Laurel Broten, recently had a photo-op with the Campbell's company president extolling the virtues of reducing poverty through "these types of partnerships". It's time they officially married methinks. This is how our government chooses to attack poverty? By leaving it to private organizations to provide charity - and we assume tax breaks - in lieu of taking on the responsibility of ending poverty themselves, erstwhile entrenching food-banks as a viable source for nutrition - which they are not. Where we live they dole out 3 days rations a month, with many people choosing to forgo this option as too much of an expense / trip or as too stigmatizing. While Nordic countries such as Sweden, Denmark, and Netherlands can virtually eliminate poverty, we here in rich Ontario (Canada) cannot afford to take care of our own it would seem. Don't buy into the excuses. Ask your provincial election candidates to publicly support real changes for families and singles through initiatives like the $ 100 Healthy Food Supplement ... Watch for further updates.

Or for those wishing to address the much "sexier" issues of the 'working poor"(my prediction on the government's next strategy focus, through housing benefits etc and initiatives focused to low income workers) please attend the upcoming movie screening of " Poor No More" on June 2nd at the R Hill Library 1 Atkinson St or June 9th in Newmarket at 7pm at Crosslands Church at 47 Millard Ave W in Newmarket which examines the "working poor" issues in Canada and visits Sweden to showcase that / how poverty eradication can be done. Email to attend a screening.
Eradicating poverty, as opposed to reducing poverty, is also part of the mission of new Poverty Free Ontario.

We also look towards announcing some new soups ourselves - including mental- health minestrone, vagabond vegetable, cream of crop, Broten broth, and much much more!
Watch for our new Marinated Mediterranean SALAD IN A CAN as well!
MM-mm - multicultural good!!Ha! Can it already!

Here are some more cool dates and events upcoming:

Since I missed Toronto's, June 6 in Hamilton is an invite for attending the forum for "Playing for "Keep's" an invite to decide what gets done with facilities etc after the upcoming 2012 and 2015 games here.

The Social Planning Network of Ontario in cooperation with the Social Planning Council of York Region and the Human Services Planning Board of York Region presents - Human Dignity for All - Working for a Poverty Free Ontario - at the Aurora Public Library 15145 Yonge St 9AM - 12 noon on Tues June 7th with presenters SPNO's Peter Clutterbuck and Professeur Marvyn Novick.

ISARC religious leaders forum. By invite only.This should be good, as I never pictured myself as a religious leader, but by virtue of PACC hosting and myself co-authoring the YR ISARC directed social audit, I guess somehow I sneaked in through the back door.

..And finally if you haven't yet and live in York Region or work regionally please check out this important survey part of a Trillium Foundation and York University in partnership with the York Region Community Foundation project asking for direct input for change.

I leave you with this inspirational musical pictorial inspired by Y.R.'s first ever social audit
Behind The Masks... testimonials from those marginalized by income