Christmas, 'Tis the Season

Imagine having Christmas, wherein you have to rely on others to decide what your kids or even grand kids will get through charity because all of your income goes to keeping a phone for Xmas or the heat on, and when you look at what's left you find nothing but a lump of coal. Now imagine that's for a person considered lucky. Each year at this time I always get a number of calls or requests or pleas that are out of my range of actual influence - although by using different methods we can still keep the pressure on year round.

One of the recent concerns raised was the upcoming cancellation / shifting of distribution of Community Start Up funds which was available under the provincial government for those seeking 1st and last months rent and unable to afford it. The homeless used this fund to get into a place from the streets or a shelter. Another long time running fund up for review by regional council now was made available to home owners to upkeep their homes to liveable levels, and these funds literally help keep thousands off the streets.

One single woman I know of is being evicted, and aggressively so, by a group that is supposed to care for our disadvantaged - the ones with addictions or mental health issues - and seem to believe they can control these 'wards' or kick them out. These religious landlords/programs such as Cross Links - no matter how they try to hide it - should not be the only options for these people. "Landlords" as such become complacent when they are essentially the only game in town for people in this predicament and begin to feel they can impose rules as they please and muddy the rights of these tenants, who often are unaware, if they steer off their decided path. It seems the only help these charges get - the free legal clinics - are reluctant to tackle or challenge these groups to the degree they need to keep people in their homes without constant threat of removal should they not fit a particular mold being sought. They are assured programs are voluntary when they start out living in these places, but should people opt out the heat gets turned up it seems.

Another person lived in a Cross-links building infested with bedbugs - yet they billed him only for removal costs while the rest of the building's tenants weren't. When he balked they pounced. He moved out eventually frustrated by their persistence to oust him. These points of concern regarding the areas 'help" devises for the 'poor" came up during our in-depth social audit, Behind the Masks - testimonials from those marginalized by circumstance of a few years back, but as yet it seems the Region drafted it in name only as it seems to collect dust whilst they fund various forums to find out the same info, such as the United Way's recent series of 'community input" forums..Of course they too were criticized in the audit.

What we have done in regards to the Community Start-up funds is drafted some suggestions and forwarded them to the Region of York wherein we were invited into the discussion that regional council is now embarking on regarding these funds and the upcoming downloading of O.D.S.P. to the municipalities to distribute. I have no plans to attend but used the detailed draft letter complete with itemized suggestions to put them on notice. Prior these funds as well as O.D.S.P. - Ontario Disabilty Support Program - has been distributed by the Ontario government. Our main objection, in addition to wanting a guarantee the emergency funds will remain intact, is that municipalities are less educated to the root issues of poverty and more inclined to think in stereotypical terms - that these people are just lazy or can be dealt with through hand-out systems - like food-banks. The fact that a regional councilor also has a father with ties to many of the local homeless connected charities, often deemed part of the "solution" here, worries me frankly.
Some prefer the streets to these luxurious accomodations
For instance did you know everyone staying in the YR shelters pays to! That's right they are fast tracked into welfare but must sign off their rights to the cash to the shelters as a condition of staying - leaving what incentive to create housing as opposed to more temporary stay warehouses for people? Not that they're building any for the 90% street homeless which are men in York Region. Remember them? The ones who die on the streets?

The one's no one has written about but me.

Anyway low income women are not getting an easy run for Xmas either as one person who caught up to me reminded. They are trying to take her grand kids away from her because one of them is ' difficult' and has a number of ' diagnosis" apparently. I know the kid. He's not a bad kid at all and in fact very polite. He may have these so called diagnosis but this is no reason to remove a child from family. Once again a family unable to afford all the "help" they apparently "need" for their child will result in a REMOVAL?! Merry Xmas to you too!

The woman was at her end to hold back from crying as she was out shopping at the dollar store with them, for Xmas no doubt.This is becoming epidemic with kids being removed or parents - often single moms - controlled by being ordered by C.A.S. to participate in outrageous often unwarranted "programs" because they say so..or else...what if they can't afford the transportation or program cost? It's like living under glass jar! One person who attended a "mandatory" anger management "program" told me they watched movies every 'class".  
Someone's making a killing and its not the students! Another woman I know is going through the same thing with her daughter removed in front of the whole neighbourhood - based on statements made by a neighbour not in her household - and for 10 months has now fought for her child back! Still another had the baby taken at birth! All have one thing in common- low income.

Today I met a woman at a volunteers thanks lunch put on by the York Region Food Network. She manages to volunteer, where she is allowed to, even though she lives in her car! She grew up in an aboriginal household looking after her siblings having a severely alcoholic mother. It was her the taxi companies would deal with when a child had to go to the hospital from their rural location. "Which one is it this time?", they'd ask her, the mom too fall down to deal with anything. Recently she was stopped from volunteering based on new rules asking for "food handling certification". To wrap sandwiches? Give us a break! Wear gloves! People just want to be involved not controlled and needless "programs" waste resources and alienate. Christmas to her is a terrible memory - when the drinking would be at its worst. I Invited this lady to the Deli House Catering Xmas - Bread & Jam party and vowed to give her at least some fun this year!

People sometimes are born of circumstance as well. One person I know who's spent many a year in shelters, rooming houses, and even jail - often where the down end up when there's "no room at the inn".. He was sexually abused as a child, beaten by his father and brothers. He was ostracized at school for being unkempt and for what he wore and because they were poor. The father drank heavily. Recently, this same guy while drunk, was jumped and beaten when leaving a community dinner by some men coming out of the Habitat for Humanity store back warehouse area. So even eating is a danger now to him, let alone have to hit a shelter if it came to that. You get the picture..

Another I ran into, a family man with both parents working full time in factories and concerned they'll not have anything for presents for their kids after bills are paid out. You can read such stress in their faces like lines in a book, and that it breaks their hearts not to be able to despite apparently doing everything expected from society, yet still with minimal overhead comparatively, they struggle. Year round.

One guy had never had a friend. He never stayed in one place long enough to gain any, basically got wasted everywhere he went, and when things got too bad he packed up and left to the next town or city. Until one day he made a friend who believed in him, and encouraged him, and guess what? That was all he needed...along with some other supports, was another soul out there that gave enough of a fuck to say,

"Hey man how you doing?" and mean it. 

Can it all be so tough for people to do? Goodwill to men and women?

Merry Xmas and Happy Holidays!

PS there is a Xmas Party - FRI DEC 21 6 - 8:30pm The 1st Annual Bread & Jam Xmas party at Deli House Catering Hall 1220 Stellar lane Newmarket for those who might have it tough this year and also those who assist in that plight when they can. PACC will be on-hand and some presents for the kids and award(s) given out.

Entry is $1 for a gourmet buffet dinner or $10 if you can afford it. Entertainers for Open Stage welcome!

Charity Labour - Ontario's secret shame

 I've noticed this "trend' of "training" opportunities" or 'employment opportunities" for people with disabilities or low income and, besides the fact the government is trying to mandatorize labour for those on disabilities regardless of education or skills, the use of 'charity" businesses that use free or cheaper labour (sometimes they pay them with food) is outrageous.

Do these programs really help or take away from paid work?

Under disguise of "helpful programs"programs' like the Inn from the Cold Catering "company" should be banned in its present model as it is not part of their mandate to begin with, let alone another way to make money from the poor via having them "learn" how to make sandwiches and the like under the disguise of teaching them a skilll from which I suppose they say they would now be able to get a job from. Meantime this business gets free labour? Hello!.

But wait you say they are doing a wonderful thing training people how to cater. Bull crap. Most jobs do that anyway at entry level, but at least you'd get PAID a wage then! One local struggling young man I know who works for a catering company was promised full time hours - something hard to get these days - but as yet the place hasn't been able to afford him enough to do so, and the kid walks to work - over 4 miles - ashamed to tell the boss he can't afford it.We don't need homeless shelters preparing food we need them for shelter emergencies only, which should be RARE, not the accepted status quo.

A friend of mine has a catering company and I'm sure he's not thrilled to lose anymore business to competition than he has to in an all ready tough market. Tough to say no to the poor shelter people, and great way to make your business appear "caring" by using such a catering "service". What a farce.

They likely got the idea from a visit I made to Montreal some years back that had a gourmet restaurant tucked in an old church in a poor part of town - Resto Pop - which uses high end discarded catered food as well as a CERTIFIED CHEF in house who teaches culinary skills. These meals are then sold for change to low income and shelter dwellers out of this converted church. And when I say change I mean 50 cents -$2 for a meal etc. and the workers were paid FULL WAGES. This was the model I spoke of when I raised the idea here at the square-table on Poverty in 2006 or so with Belinda Stronach et al, who are seemingly connected to shelters here now through the new "shrine" for single women to be filled by women from outside York Region when it opens in order to fill it, but learned long ago they are all about photo-ops and appearances than reality or caring, or if they are, are rather naive which I doubt.Unless of course the current course of governmental poverty reduction efforts continues and we will afford our aging low income single women to join their male counterparts on the streets - literally- and it will no longer be a manufactured notion as a pressing "need". A that point her Belinda House shrine is going to seem much needed!Yet by just giving people a little more to work with they could avoid being homeless most often - but they don't support that. Hmmm.Too dignified a solution I suppose.

I was speaking with another person at a business who had needed their yard cleaned up of refuse etc and was able to get a quote for about 1/4 of anyone else's. How can they do it? They use people with certain mental health disabilities on ODSP and don't pay the workers but they use it as an 'activity" or " program" for them or if they do get paid it's token. Often they have care and control of these "workers" who also live in residents. Make no mistake these "charities" are making money on them and / or saving it using them under the guise of " volunteers"when often these 'volunteers" are hungry as is and just happy to be warm and eat and if they get thrown a few bones it keeps them coming back enough that they can claim their "program" is a success. yea a success at keeping people attached to them instead of breaking free.I know men without who'da loved the job but how can he compete with almost free?
Free labour at local charities often pays them in food instead of money
As government steers a course toward forced labour on the disabled our local papers write that our social service 'professionals" think the review is going in the right direction
(I personally don't think it needs an overhaul whatsoever just a few tweaks like giving people more to work with to start with). Which professionals were these? The ones who's livelihoods depend on keeping people mired in poverty or come to their "programs" or rely on the free / cheap poor labour to conduct their "charity" business?

People who can already seek out work DO and don't need a hand or forced incentive pushing them to do it, but what will happen is " volunteering" will begin to cut into the paying jobs in hard more than it already has while working businesses who have to compete with real world overheads and don't have the sympathy card to play for funding from government bodies or the public so lest we get to cozy with this charities for all solution don't forget who the labour force will be made up of!

Tom Pearson

Oct 17 is Int Day for the Eradication of Poverty

This Wed Oct 17 is International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. It is a day marked around the world as THE ONE to speak out for those marginalized by poverty. It was started by Joseph Wrtezinski, a man of religion in Paris France, who had grown up in abject poverty. Millions worldwide now gather on this day.

2012 to be held at Newmarket's Riverwalk Commons stage
In York Region, or Newmarket rather, we hold an annual event which includes information on world and localized poverty and affords opportunities for aspiring people to speak out via various means such as performance artists who play original or otherwise related pieces...A Beatles love song may fit the bill, whatever the song or performance means to someone could also be explained prior to the singing of a song. Although original material is preferred. For example, if someone knew of someone marginalized and a particular song was a favourite of or its lyrics reminded them then explain that and why and a little about that person or situation beforehand.

The day's events are kicked off at 2pm with the reading of the pledge against poverty and some opening words from PACC Chair Tom Pearson. The mic / stage is then open for anyone wishing to speak. Ambient performers /drummers permitted.Indoors will be lined with information booths, tables/seating, and include ambient music with DJ / Open stage Host Funnyman Dan Philion. Indoor and outdoor areas available until 8PM.

4pm - Free Hot food and nourishment is usually part of the equation as well to entice people to come out in the usually cold weather and this year the lords prayer will be read into play as well to commemorate the service churches give to aid those in poverty. Fresh hot soup, bread, maybe some fruit bars with coffee and away we go. At least this year we have a nearby indoor facility as well to keep everyone warm need be. And bathrooms for that matter, as each year the former location at Fairy Lake would seemingly close down just before Oct 17. Lets just say that was a deal breaker for some. Ha.
Open Mic - 2-6:30 pm - Main Stage performers 6:30

The local event in 2012 is being held at Newmarket's Riverwalk Commons and as well inside the Newmarket Community Centre's Lions Club Hall and will feature a gaggle of information tables such as Make Poverty History, aboriginal crafts, presentation by Options for Homes CEO Mike Labbe at 3pm, Freedom 95 a group of senior food bank volunteers pushing for an end to food-banks,  Legal Clinic of York Region, Housing Help Center including the distribution of free (Talk2one messaging) phone #'s and ID clinic, Y.R. Food Network, PACC, some projected media, live Performance Artists and most of all an open mic on the main stage for anyone wishing to communicate via whatever their art - be it spoken word or miming or improvisation or what have you. Indoor opportunities as well for performers.

4:30pm Tribute to Youth - Quest for Youth show producer Luther Mansraj..also youth singers including!

5:00pm Outdoors - Open Stage continues main stage - open mic / jam musicians included / booths indoors / hot food & drink continues

6pm - Videos - Indoors

6:30pm - Main Stage Performers to 7:30 or 8pm.

Includes - Author / Poet David L Rogers (The Dark Road), more youthful singers, Schtik Jagger, Hip Hop Artist Test of Test Logik, Singer guitar sensations Lucky Jackson from England, Joe from The DanglesFred Joly, Aboriginal Drumming by Kim, Street sensation Singer/guitar/picker Daniel, & Select previous Open Stage Performers!

Put Food in The Budget campaign - on track again

Mcguinty Mannequin cross Ontario tour in Aurora
Recently I traveled to Toronto in anticipation of the screening of the Put Food in the Budget campaign's "Premier Mcguinty mannequin tour". The campaign, of which I'd been an attending and participating member of, is a cross Ontario group lead by educated and experienced leaders and involving those with lived low income experience. The thing I'd liked about the group, besides the fact the ideas we
came up with were usually well executed, was that they included those with experience and actually used their input - unlike other groups or forums or participation events I've been to where they go through the motions but never actually use participants' viewpoints or input, just the appearances of doing so. Something like the Ontario government did with its poverty reduction strategy hearings. I call it pandering. Then they use those who they are purported to be helping as their mouthpieces to attract attention and / or to show worthiness for continued funding from associated groups - like charities do to vulnerable people when they get them to do their bidding through 'testimonials' after which they get rewarded usually.

Eyes on Toronto

Programs and ideas are best generated from the community on out, and particularly when dealing with a community barely surviving. They will know barriers for people as they themselves have often experienced it or know someone who has. That's why their input is THE MOST critical part of any plan and is exactly why the Put Food in the Budget campaign completely missed the mark by producing a movie that excluded using excerpts from all the communiteis who submitted video footage. They used people to further their cause( and name) by doing the bidding in communities to promote the mannequin campaign and went around with "him" introducing him to community members and taping interactions with "him". In our case we gave video footage of everything from Mcguinty visiting a community dinner to seniors telling him off, to a kid with mental health issues speaking off camera with the mannequin "listening" to a community movie. We even had footgage of him helping at a foodbank as well as bike riding all of which could have been played with music layed underneath but nothing.
PFIB campaign fights for more social assistance from the Ontario budget

" Mike," I'd said to the movements director Balkwill, " This is embarrassing. You're supposed to be about inclusiveness, surely you could have and should have included at least 5 or 10 seconds from everyone!". I wasn't the only one, some had traveled from as far as Thunderbay to see no northern inclusion. Very disappointing. Mike was understanding and said he'd bring it to the "committee" and that some technical issues had been involved.

"Committee?" I thought I was going to be part of the editing process? Did this committee have anyone of experience on it? Because if they had, this never would have happened." In addition I have produced and hosted a number of shows for TV and some film work too, as well as went to school for tv and film production so figured my professional experience could be utilized too. Guess not. I left without watching it and disillusioned.Was I being bamboozled again by another pandering do-gooder outfit that really didn't care about the "cause"?
"Do The Math" one of the actions we helped PFIB campaign implement

For 4 years I chaired a program (and helped start) called Operation Sparrow  It is likely the most user friendly and dignified model of programs distribution out there having now distributed 10's of thousands of dollars worth of karate, theatre school, art and other activities alongside "regular" kids with no special labels or "programs".

It was so successfully set up BECAUSE it contained some members of the COMMITTEE with lived experience, and they had to be listened too as I was chair. It runs today with its constitution firmly in place and hundreds of kids take part annually. Recently access to skates became part of it, allowing kids to skate and maybe play hockey.

To the credit of the Put Food in The Budget Campaign - they are going to revise the advocacy video to include York Region and some other suggested changes.  Also a time factor had come into play and they needed to have something to show that day.  They've always been a good group in the past and we have open discussions where they actually seek out input from those coming from lived experience and seemingly use it.

Let this be a lesson learned - to err is human - once per.

Help spread the word on Oct 17, International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

Ontario Disabled couple's baby stolen

Dan Philion receives award for community service...but not good enough to have his daughter they say

This year's underlying theme for "Quest for Youth" is mental health. Mental health rears its ugly head more often than we know.School educators hope to inform and educate through this forum to better identify those in need earlier and to understand better how to handle kids with certain conditions, but what about when someone is mishandled as an adult?
Dan's daughter taken - his crime? Being disabled

My friend Dan solemnly informed me the other day that it has now been two years since he and Ashleigh had the control and care of their child taken away from them at birth. Yup, Children's Aid decided they were a risk to harm their child and not only took their daughter but have kept control ever since.

Drug addicts you ask? No. Alcoholics? Child abusers? No and no. Try disabled.

Children's Aid Society first got involved in their lives through a regional 'care-worker" they confided in who contacted childrens aid early in the pregnancy to "help them prepare for having their baby". Ha. Some help. Ashleigh was told they wouldn't take her baby then as well. Double ha.

At the time both were in wheelchairs - although Ashleigh had limited mobility with frequent seizures- and Dan with M.D. had previously raised two kids ( mostly alone) successfully. In fact he took pride in the fact that his son never (and daughter rarely) missed a day of school when they lived with him his oldest graduated now with honours. He has a world of knowledge and experience, having raised them mostly alone too, but that was all cast aside with the insertion of Children's Aid in their lives. Dan, who also has a parenting course certificate, saw no reason why he need jump their other hoops not related to his illness, like making him take " anger management", counselling, etc and after some months of their "visits", asked them to leave his house and not come back. Who wouldn't be mad if they took your child away and gave control to strangers? They also expected him (them), with limited mobility, to go visit their daughter at the Children's Aid's offices. He / they were treated like drug addict child abusers - as Dan put it,

"They even let drug addicts have their kids Tom, what's that all about? We just want our daughter".

After the birth of the baby where Ashleigh was denied the RIGHT to hold her baby in the hospital bed like all the other moms ( baby was removed without supervision) she understandably got depressed. Likely postpartum as well, and because she communicated that aloud - depressed - that was held against her and ordered to see more psychiatrists, take parenting classes, medications and and and on...Add a (Dan's) mother in- law with self motives and you have yourself a real kettle of fish.

Then one day a miracle happened - after 6 YEARS being diagnosed as epileptic and MADE to take anti-seizure medication that caused her such severe convulsions up to 12 a day - so much so that she had to be in a wheelchair- she was told by a new doctor that she was wrongly diagnosed and took her off it! Her new Doctor then told her to get ready to walk again! Ashleigh now is able enough she plays goalie in street hockey for the neighbourhood kids!

It's now been 8 months without a single convulsion and Ashleigh is walking like a champ! Unbelievable.

Dan & wheelchairbound Ashleigh with Lois Brown as BBQ Volunteers in 2009
In trying to get answers from the Doctor who misdiagnosed her he now claims to have had a break- in and all the files belonging to Ashleigh gone! What a sham! With no money, people like Ashleigh and Dan get what they get!

So this is where the happy ever after part usually comes in like in all those Era Banner news stories that tell those fantastic wondrous happy ending stories on behalf of those great funders and help programs. Ha. Like the "help organization" who set this couple up with Childrens Aid? Ha. Sorry, no happy ending here, as even though Ashleigh has no more physical limitations, Dan does they say. And Ashleigh's mental health is an issue . Really? Well I don't think any women should have anything she says held against her post partum - especially one treated as she was and separated from her baby. Her (support) "worker" told her " The reason you don't have your baby is because you can't afford her." Outrageous.

As Dan told me, "I love my daughter and would never ever do anything to harm her. I don't need to prove that to anyone. We just want our daughter back and to be left alone like everyone else. We haven't done nothing wrong"

I saw Dan's son and other daughter the other day playing with the baby as they were lucky enough to be around when she was brought for a short visit and couldn't help but think "what is wrong with this picture", as they all waved goodbye to their own flesh and blood, Dan and Ashleigh quiet.

I watched Dan over the years raise those two and they were always clean and helping with chores and had a school record any able bodied parent would envy.

When I press them on why they haven't gotten better representation for custody they say their lawyer says nothing and goes along with them it seems, 

"It's what they want, the easy way out and cheapest for the system and seems no matter what we do we feel they aren't going to give us custody. In two years of this we never saw a judge NOT ONCE!". They skipped the last formality day of the process as it has been preordained that daughter April would be given to someone else's care.... and they couldn't bare witnessing that.

This is nothing short of discrimination and an assault on human rights in my eyes.

Want to meet Dan & Ashleigh and show them your support? Come out Wed Oct 17 - International Day for the Eradication of Poverty at Newmarket's Riverwalk Commons - 200 Duncan St from 3-8pm.

October 17 Event Newmarket Riverwalk Commons

As you may be aware, October 17 is International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. The internationally marked and United Nations acclaimed day features gatherings world-wide to draw attention to poverty and advocate on behalf.

Special Newmarket Ontario PACC Event

Speakers - Performers - Politicians - Poets - Free Food

For the past 8 years a public event has been held in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada featuring guest speakers, information booths, music / art related to poverty, and most important a microphone for speaking about poverty related issues – particularly those directly affected. In 2012 the location will be shifting north of Fairy Lake to the new Riverwalk Commons, which has both an outdoor stage/area and indoor hall. Traditionally it includes serving up a free meal and hot soup to attendees / passersby.

P.A.C.C., which also acts as the York Region Make Poverty History chapter, has hosted this event in the past along with community partners providing assistance through donations of food service, food, materials, cash donations, or payment through hosting a booth ($100 single - $175 double) at the event. PACC receives no government funding and relies on donations and cooperative partners to ensure this event is held. For 2012 we’d like to see more participation from community groups related to poverty - as the event is a vital tool for advocacy.

This year we hope to attract some additional speakers and booths to help generate fodder for discussion, and to attract and engage politicians through forums including low income home-owner developer presenters and movie / media presentations.

Past participants have included The York Region Food Network, Alliance to end Homelessness, Blue Door Shelters, Canadian Mental Health Y.R., Legal Clinic of York Region, Operation Sparrow, Krasman Centre, Ninos Kom Tin, Talk-2-One messaging systems, Housing Help Centre YR, various churches, performers, poets, politicians, and others.

Should this interest your organization to participate or join our organizing committee, please let us know. You can view more on Oct 17 past years’ highlights via

Tom Pearson – – 289-221-0928
Chairman, Poverty Action for Change Coalition

The Dark Road - Book of Poetry treats depression and addictions

The Dark Road's Author David L. Rogers where he once sat homeless

When you think of 'therapy" for deep depression, anxiety, or drug and alcohol rehab, one doesn't usually think of poetry, but for one man it is just that.

David L. Rogers wrote his book of poetry at a time in his life when he was trying to rid himself of his addiction prone lifestyle that had lead him down so many dead-end roads - often ending with him in jail.

 A resolve to overcome his demons was one thing, and a support network of family, friends/spouse and community helped too, but David needed something more to help him in times when he could feel the old winds blowing.

The poems he subsequently wrote, often act as a reminder as to where he's been and that the dark roads lead nowhere. David feels anyone can relate to the book and that by reading them people then know that they are not alone, that others have felt the same helplessness they have felt and with that knowledge it assists the healing process.

'This Book proves you're not alone. People may say it, but this book proves it. When people read it they can relate to it, and it makes them feel better knowing they're not alone." David L. Rogers

A number of factors came into play that lead David down those roads, with one being an undiagnosed deep depression which he now receives treatment for, but his disposition was rooted as far back as grade school where he and his brothers would be mocked for their "poor" appearance, coming from a low income home with no running water. At one period in time, for about 4 months, as a punishment they'd lock David in a storage room during school lessons, letting him out only for lunch and then back in again he'd go. When he got bigger he lashed out predictably.

I've known the gruff sounding, yet gentle souled David, for a few years now as he volunteered without fail every Thursday at the York Region Food Network, helping to box up and load grocer donated packaged food and toiletries which got distributed to residents in need through delivery via P.A.C.C. as well as some other groups, such as Yellow Brick House abused women's shelter which also picks up donated supplies on occasion.They stopped giving to PACC a year ago or so but David continues to volunteer there.

Although P.A.C.C. doesn't support food-banks as a solution per say - deeming them inadequate, misleading and undignified - they do recognize the desperation some have in obtaining everyday living supplies, and to that end, try to help keep the process as dignified as possible at least.

Mr. Rogers seems to have found some peace at last through poetry, both writing and reading it. His experience reminds me of other types of "art" therapies I've come to know about over the past years from people I've met, such as visual art and photo, but for some, poetry seems to work the magic.
If you'd like to read or share a copy of The Dark Road with someone you care about, contact Author David here! Only $15.

Hear readings Oct 17 at Riverwalk Commons Newmarket 7pm as David will be donating 50% of all poetry book sales to P.A.C.C. on Oct 17 - International Day for The Eradication of Poverty.

You can also hear more from David himself through our video interview which we will link for your viewing. Below, an excerpt from "The Dark Road". Tom out!

Lessons Learned

Stumbling and reaching,
Misguided and lost, 
In search of direction,
Opportunities tossed,

Needing a goal,
Wanting to succeed,
Overwhelming emptiness,
Ambition I need,

Motivation is soundless,
So many doors are shut,
Effects seem mindless,
I need out of this rut,

Not using or abusing,
Just confused that's all,
Sorry if it seems so,
I'm just afraid to fall.
David L Rogers
The Dark Road

The Dark Road...a book of poetry to help heal the addicted and depressed.
  P.A.C.C. Report by Tom Pearson

Quest for Youth 2012 The journey begins

Seen  outside the YRDSB building before the meeting.

  Today I attended a meeting at the York Region District School Board building for the Quest for Youth initiative, as part of the planning for the November forum.

  When I first got involved, I wasn't sure exactly what it was to be honest but I think I have a much better understanding now. It is a 3 day event that acts as both an educator and a learning tool for some of the worlds educators in the quest for improved student achievement. The Quest for Youth is an educators forum wherein not only Canadians but teachers from around the world come to take part in the various workshops and educational events that are organized.

  There are underlying themes each year, such as last year a focus was on gay and lesbian students and tied to that bullying. The art work depicted for last years event, in which the performance piece included youth artists completing their artwork in a shadow-like form onstage, contained various images - from men embracing to someone hanging himself. Heavy stuff, and not the "usual" one would see everyday in a regular classroom presentation by students I'm sure. But it gives/gave a voice to kids/youth affected by these themes where it would often else-wise be no more than the white elephant in the room, and perhaps some insight for educators on how to identify and more effectively deal with this should they face it in their schools.  
This year's underlying theme will be mental health.

  The purposes of today's meeting however was two-fold. First we were to discuss one part of the event which is a workshop that's to be a real life maze of what a young person may face when accessing the social services and agencies via a scenario we will present them with.  For example we can make one group a homeless family and they have to then go access the needs they may have such as contacting a shelter, welfare, housing etc and the process that it entails. As the "Quest" event takes place at Toronto's Sheraton Hotel I believe, we talked about being able to set up locations in and around the building allowing us to run people around a little as they try to access the various available resources.

  The maze thing has been done before and I'm not convinced of it's value towards really giving someone that feeling of vulnerability and embarrassment that goes with being vulnerable or destitute, but nevertheless I'll do my best to add some elements that give some 'punch" to it.  Hmmm...but what? Perhaps have them call a real agency or shelter to get the feeling?

    A few years ago I tried to push some of the collaborative partners to do a real maze wherein we dress up a real politician and have them apply for food banks etc but to no avail - with someone citing that we shouldn't embarrass them. I don't agree, but whatever! Ha.
Luther Hansraj

  The second part of the meeting was to discuss the performance piece, which as I understand typically happens on the Wednesday of the education forum. This is where art and performance combine to present messages to the attendees en mass.  For this part, I was to meet the performance Producer/Director, Luther Hansraj, a social activist of sorts and a man with 30 years theatre background who also produced last year's well received performance. I'm a creative guy too and actually taught a theatre school class some years back for Spotlight Theatre School as well as performed/produced The Canadian Improv Showcase and have acted lead on-stage in a musical among some things, so I at least have some knowledge as well to add to the live mix, and am excited to work with an experienced stage visionary like Luther on this.

  As we relayed some York Region stories, including about a homeless family and a father and son who'd been homeless and living in the forest in winter, about a youth with mental health issues unable to leave his house but still able to design our road hockey tourney logo, and that our York Region Anti-homelessness programs actually require applicants to make $30,000 a year, he appeared stunned. Eureka! Finally someone who gets it I thought!

  I'm quite enthused about this performance part of the forum, as I feel it could become something very powerful. We've talked of having visuals via pictures and video in addition, and I already have plenty of that, but as a youth angle I'd also like to tie in the annual youth road hockey drive/event we do. Some may know we have run this 9 years now and give an award to a community leader at the same time. We charge kids nothing to play in the all day tourney, and provide hot chocolate & hot dogs for the players free too. We have always had a hard time getting any kind of sustained cooperation with the schools or Board to attract more participants (let alone the media), as we always felt that to be a natural conduit for the event to be announced or even school teams entered representing if on their on time even as this is a March break held affair. This is something we do hope to change via the performance piece through showing the good it instills to these kids.

  I was quite impressed with the  quiet yet motivated Mr. Hansraj who wants to come out into the communities as well, and I look forward to showing him firsthand some of the challenges these kids face and how through road hockey we build foundations for friendships, leadership and self esteem.

  I'll be honest, in the neighbourhood the event was first started, road hockey had become stagnant the last few years with many of the kids moving on out or growing to old to play. All it seems to have taken is another interested dad to instill more interest and suddenly this year a number of new kids are taking to it - but younger. That's okay too, because the last few years we created a mini event for the younger ones too so we welcome it!

  One day recently a little girl(see video above) showed up carrying a branch from a tree as a hockey stick. She stood among the boys who were playing road hockey, which included her older brother and others, so I approached and asked if she'd like to play. She turned shyly from me and indicated no and at that time someone informed me they spoke no English.

  Next day she again made like she wanted to play holding this branch, so I took one of the small sticks from the 'community" barrel I created, and showed her how to hold it properly and let her hit the ball telling the boys to back off for a moment. After a couple swipes she hit it and laughed with sheer glee. I was told it was the first time the mothers there had heard her laugh! As of late her mother has joined the watching of the kids on that street with the other mothers - now seemingly minus the head gear I first saw her in when her daughter excitedly ran to her hockey stick in hand and smile on face. The mom smiled too and being Muslim and from another country and unable to speak much English, I must say we accomplished quite a lot through a simple game of road hockey - not to mention introducing Canada's national past time and tradition to newcomers!

  We're looking for people who have artwork or ( background)music to be part of the performance, or to act as work station assistants- so if you can help or would like to know more about the Quest For Youth contact us!

Tom out!

Era Banner Chris Traber writes of Owned Affordable Housing

John Taylor and myself Int Day for Eradication of Poverty - I approached him in 2010 on low income home ownership. He showed no interest at the time.  I was surprised to get a call from Era Banner about "Taylor's' initiative.

  Era Banner scribe Chris Traber and I have an odd understanding between each other. I wouldn't go as far as to say it's a friendship or even a relationship of any sort, but I guess at times we offer each other something each finds valuable. Still, I respect that he continues to call when I've sometimes criticized stories he's written, as well as the paper itself, but still he allows a bone every now and then for P.A.C.C., unlike it seems many other areas in our local mainstream media family. And besides, he does write the odd effective piece, even if he does slightly misquote me on occasion. Ha. His recent article regarding affordable owned housing options is one of those. Aside from him quoting me as saying the region would qualify potential home owners( it's actually the developer who sets that up) there were only a few other minor discrepancies in what he wrote this time.
I raised the idea of owned condos for low income earners, contained in Y.R.'s social audit , with the Newmarket Mayor - not with the Town of Newmarket as reported by Era - Banners Reporter Chris Traber

   For Traber it's been pretty good though I think. The first time we hooked up, P.A.C.C. offered up some great participants in a series on poverty he wrote called "Below the Line" I believe, and it won a (national?) community newspapers press award with that series or so I read about later after the awards presentations and dinner.  Thing was, I wasn't completely pleased with the focus of that series or the way some people's lives were exposed, as giving their names has always been part of the deal. But I learned an early lesson - that being they don't really care about you or your cause - it's just another story to them.  So I try to protect that now (before sacrificing lambs) by being more protective and aware of people's integrity and dignity within a story and trying to safeguard what's revealed accordingly. I also try to advise people not to say too much (like I tend to!) as reporters will pick bullet points and quotes that relate to their story - and not necessarily your subject's focus of need. The more you say the more disjointed your 'quotes". Now I always ask first off about a story's directed focus before going further.
2011 Fairy Lake, Newmarket - that's not two rocks.

   I was certainly not completely pleased after I served up a homeless father and son on a plate for him - mind you they'd requested it in desperation - for a story resulting with the homeless duo then being thrust out into the public limelight with unrealistic bestowed upon expectations. I had wanted its focus to be on the fact that they needed an affordable place to live together - after which they could concentrate on even thinking about a job - and that our system's shelters keep homeless families apart when their kids reach 18.   

The "kid' asked me then, "I don't want to be the kid that doesn't shower, and where would I do my homework?" as he and his father then lived on the streets - or forest rather - and yes, it was winter.

                                 "Just Get A Job!"

   At the time I'd attempted to get Chris to focus on the critical lack of affordable places to live for single adults (as they were now considered by our social safety net system as opposed to a family) in York Region and that expecting people to work before they have a stable place to lay their heads down was just not feasible.
Homeless dad sits in "living room" of friend who died homeless in 2011
   The results of the story brought a bigger reaction to any they'd (Era Banner) ever done on poverty Chris later revealed when contacting me for a follow up, but it's a shame essential points got missed whilst the attention swirled. There was no real focus on housing in the articles nor on the lack of real men's programs or their instilled revolving streets-to-shelter-to-streets system, and secondly it painted a rosy picture of the twosome's future after invoking an unprecedented outpouring of emotional responses from people wanting to help them out. It was touching, no doubt, but much like food bank donating mentality, these were are not dignified solutions, but rather feel-good gestures that help only short term. People felt moved to do something but didn't know what, so it was a perfect time to tell them, and instead they heard about the wonderful so called job offers etc, when what they really needed to hear about the need for immediate longer term help from our safety-net system for guys in their position. But for the Era-Banner and Chris Traber  it was presented as another happy ending. The photos were great too, with the two smiling alongside piles of reader-donated winter wear,  tents, and food - as they were then living outdoor in winter!  I tried to explain to Chris - through all that love and offers, at the end, they still don't have a place to live together - the reason they were homeless to begin with - and until they get a home cannot follow up anything really so write about that I'd urged.

   Offers of a room for the kid alone in another town, or for both in an obscure out of town rural location where they'd not be able to work or school, or of so-called job offers - one being a solar lights installation course you had to pay to take, but was represented in the article as a job offer - another offer required the dad to be bonded for which he was not able to be and another for a job starting months away with a fourth "job offer" - supposedly from a Tim Horton's of which I was never given a contact name for. So really he had no offers but now instantly, the dad would look to be unwilling to work if he wasn't immediately, his face a familiar sight now from the articles written - and the son too for not opting for room in another town away from his dad for free for awhile. Nice, but not solutions for a desperate family clinging to any shred of togetherness left.
   In the end I was able to 1st get the dad a room to rent and then an almost full time job - enough for a room only type- income. The kid was not able to stay in the rental room as the only one was "allowed", but he sneaked him in on occasion for awhile. I did manage some memorable docu-style video footage in parts though that I feel covered most of the ground I mentioned here - and they have received hundreds of viewings to date.
Writer Chris Traber, left,  visits a homeless camp with Tom Pearson in 2011

   Slowly since, over the past two years now, the streets have hardened and swallowed up this kid. His once vibrant and hopeful eyes now replaced with bitterness and the cloud of substance. His frustrated and ailing father, after initially succeeding and loving his new life with his job cleaning buildings with the hopes of obtaining a home for his son, increasingly slipped to drink again as he anguished over the boy's now ingrained habit of hanging amongst younger shelter dwellers, and in alleys he'd hoped to keep him out of.

   So when Chris called this time I asked what the focus was and it was for my opinion as P.A.C.C. chair on the models for owned affordable housing that Newmarket Regional Councilor John Taylor had co-chaired, I just shook my head in dismay. At first I felt a little embarrassed, not even knowing about such a symposium and then hearing one of the very developers I'd spoke to them about, Michel Labbe of Options for Homes which had apparently been developing successful models of mixed income condos, was part of their presentation. It irked me that not only was P.A.C.C. or the social audit getting any mention in this "innovative idea" but seemingly did not rate an even an invite for input as the Region's Grassroots voice for those in low income positions. Time and time again this region makes the mistake of leaving out the grassroots voice of these issues who can help shape systems that work and are more dignified and realistic.

                                     Above Video PACC's Multicultural Road Hockey Program

    I attended a Canada-wide poverty conference a few years back in Montreal where I heard that the best programs that actually worked were the ones that had grassroots origins. Who betters knows what a community needs than the people in those communities they asked? A presenter cited a poor neighbourhood (possibly St Dennis) in Montreal, where within its boundaries lay a warehouse where Cirque Du Soleil made their stage sets. Working from that, they approached the Cirque people about a work program for locals which turned into great careers for some building show sets, enabled hope for the community and provided good jobs close to their homes

   Here at home, one needs only to look at P.A.C.C.'s influence and model in helping form Operation Sparrow which places kids into mainstream activities - without parents going through embarrassing face to face meetings, eliminating any unneeded private info sharing, and included transportation options for all the kids - all P.A.C.C. influences - which I personally chaired the non- profit for 4 years, and PACCer co-chair Kristine Carbis also sat for several years on the board. Anyone who applied then will tell you that program was designed as the best and most dignified of any out there - bar none.Or our road hockey program free to all kids and now running 10 years!

   When I'd discussed the idea of owned mixed housing condos in York Region with Michel Labbe the Executive from non-profit group "options for Homes I'd communicated with about presenting here if I could arrange it he told me at that time the problem was getting the regional governments to part with the land for it. Labbe was one of the presenters at the 'affordable housing symposium" Taylor hosted.

   I subsequently mentioned this and the idea verbally to John Taylor during that 2010 social audit as he participated in the politicians portion, and again in November 2011 during the "Poverty Free Ontario" launch from The York Region Food Network and at least once to Mayor Van Bynen - but not to the town of Newmarket as Chris Traber wrote that I'd said. Neither party responded at the time at all nor showed any interest in pursuing it. The idea for affordable owned condos in a mixed income community that includes qualifying those who would not other wise qualify for a mortgage through the nonprofit developers was then inked into the social audit - which by the way I speak of is of course"Behind the Masks" testimonials from those marginalized by income a comprehensive, in depth cross section look, at York Region's low income issues, which took months to prepare a ( I co-authored it) report from the data, after which the Regional Council adopted its recommendations as representative of the Region to the Ontario government.

    I assumed if Regional Council read it and believed in it, as they endorsed it, and that we'd hear from them to discuss some of the mentioned solutions and ideas but other than a few obscure path crossings P.A.C.C. has pretty much been left out of any processes since. Whatever happened to all that fancy " collaboration" talk we heard so much about with fanfare last year? Oh, that's right, I had to crash that event too to hear that message Ha. No problem, plod on we go.

   But for Taylor to act as "lead" in this innovative idea ( that I personally first raised with him and Newmarket Mayor Tony Van Bynen in 2010 and which its literally contained as my quote contained on page 64 of the 2010 York Region ONLY EVER Social Audit - Behind the Masks testimonials from those marginalized by income - that they both endorsed as regional council members.
PACC's winning entry in Canada - wide one minute adspot contest depicting growing gap

  Here's is a quote from my recommendations in the social audit report as received by the Region in 2012 under

The critical lack of affordable housing section on page 64

"Social housing is not the only solution. New housing that includes rental town homes and apartments and low income ownership models can also be pursued and included in any town / regional planning. A developer offering low income condo units mixed regular cost units approached me with this idea, yet to date, I can't seem to garner any interest from politicians or land owners. They recently successfully launched a similar model in Ottawa, making a percentage of units available to those who would not normally qualify financially for ownership.With developers who are willing to take this kind of approach, innovative solutions such as these can be implemented. Should the regional or municipal governments have an interest, a presentation can be arranged."Tom Pearson

  Obviously it was eventually. But without us..

 I suggest Councilor Taylor and company actually read that audit as it contains some more solutions - like the Talk2one messaging system for homeless people putting them in homes and jobs - another service we first introduced here once including Taylor's Neighbourhood Network / Habitat for Humanity attached dad - having brought the company reps here to present twice, but there was no interest they had said. I pitched the idea to the Region of York too not just via deputation of the social audit entry to council, but personally recommended it to Commissioner Adelina Urbanski during a meeting with her after the Comissioner had newly arrived to the post as PACC had been offering the service on a limited basis and were trying to get them on-board. Now, as I understand, Talk2One is to be launched via the regionally funded " Housing Help Program".I Heard about that through the grapevine too.
  One of my biggest fears of helping collaborate on the social audit, was that there was no guarantee that people opening up to strangers would have an affect and they partcipated because they believed in us. I don't want that unspoken promise to be broken to them, and to that end will be launching a documentary soon to commemorate the social audit. It contains live excerpts from participants including politicians, workers, and those with lived experience including powerful testimonials.

  To date, we hear little on any of the great ideas and initiatives contained in the Y.R. Social Audit and when we do it's second hand - like when Reporter Traber calling me to ask what I thought of "Taylors idea". Ha.

  I'll invite Councilor Taylor to Oct 17 International Day for The Eradication of Poverty at a forum to discuss this idea and other audit contained ideas that they have yet to discover, but I'll tell you what, we weren't paid one penny for the hundreds of hours PACCERS put out into helping produce York Region's social audit and frankly the people represented expect action , not lip service, and so do we.  Our time is valuable.

   Next time out there will be a consultants fee if they want our help, as frankly we're tired of being treated with disrespect, when our track record of community diligence and success suggests we should be valued and listened to.

You can work with us, or work against us all, it's your choice.

Tom Pearson

BBQ Main Street Newmarket Canada Day

Youth Wall Art Mural Contest

Hi people!...! On July 1st Myers Costumes at 37 Main S is holding an open stage for entertainment and youth Art Mural contest and have allowed P.A.C.C. to sell BBQ stuff and drinks from their MAIN ST location Canada Day. The elderly owner has been repeatedly tagged with Graffiti and the hope is a beautiful mural will end that as the town makes her remove it at her expense, and lets just say costumes are mostly seasonal.

PACC Volunteers Needed for Canada Day BBQ

  Funds raised can go towards our International Day for the Eradication of Poverty which will hopefully be held this year at Newmarket new Riverwalk Commons location off Main St and cost us more.We hope to attract a number of related organizations this year to help defer the costs and we'll iron an invitation and letter out as such in the next meeting.

  We're looking for volunteers to take 2 hour shifts - perhaps people planning to go to Canada Day celebrations already - to help pull this July 1st fundraiser off. Anyone who can supply anything needed also let us know!

  A symposium hosted by Regional Councilor John Taylor was held last night that used the very nonprofit company ( Options for Homes) as one of the presenters of affordable housing options (ownership) that we proposed as an option long ago, but were ignored. We got no invite from Taylor to this as I only heard about it when the Era banner called for an opinion. What's up with that? Didn't we produce Y.R.'s social audit and list that as an idea for more affordable housing? Just saying.

  Last meeting we more or less got updated on the road hockey event and the like and discussed some of the various action oriented things we're involved in such as 2012 Quest for Youth with the YRDSB among others, and for which a luncheon is being held to discuss further a Nov event that this year focuses on youth and mental health issues.If you'd like to attend and participate let us know! Last year's Quest event included a stage production and ideas are at discussion stage so input is still essential!

Rock n Roll Night

  Unrelated directly - but perhaps indirectly for those interested to get out and meet someone, friends, or take a mental health break! Ha..I am hosting a live entertainment event called American Bandstand Night tomorrow night in Newmarket and singles or couples are welcome!

Tom Pearson

PACC's Road Hockey Program Bonds Multicultural Kids

Location for July 1st P.A.C.C. BBQ fundraiser
Hi people!...! On July 1st Myers Costumes on (237) Main S is holding an open stage for entertainment and youth Art Mural contest and have allowed P.A.C.C. to sell BBQ stuff and drinks from their MAIN ST location Canada Day. The elderly owner has been repeatedly tagged with Graffiti and the hope is a beautiful mural will end that as the town makes her remove it at her expense, and lets just say costumes are mostly seasonal.

Wall has been whited over most of the graffiti ready for youth Artists Canada Day!
Funds raised can go towards our International Day for the Eradication of Poverty which will hopefully be held this year at Newmarket new Riverwalk Commons location off Main St and cost us more.We hope to attract a number of related organizations this year to help defer the costs and we'll iron an invitation and letter out as such in the next meeting.

We're looking for volunteers to take 2 hour shifts - perhaps people planning to go to Canada Day celebrations already - to help pull this July 1st fundraiser off. Anyone who can supply anything needed also let us know!
A symposium hosted by Regional Councilor John Taylor was held last night that used the very nonprofit company (Options for Homes) as one of the presenters of affordable housing options (ownership) that we'd proposed as an option long ago, but were ignored. We got no invite from Taylor to this as I only heard about it when the Era banner called for an opinion. What's up with that? Didn't we produce Y.R.'s social audit and list that as an idea for more affordable housing? Just saying.

Last meeting we more or less got updated on the road hockey event and the like and discussed some of the various action oriented things we're involved in such as 2012 Quest for Youth with the YRDSB among others, and for which a luncheon is being held to discuss further a Nov event that this year focuses on youth and mental health issues.If you'd like to attend and participate let us know! Last year's Quest event included a stage production and ideas are at discussion stage so input is still essential!

Speaking of road hockey, we may have to add another age category! Recently I organized a neighbourhood clean up afterwards a road hockey game broke out! More and more our "barrel" of fun is catching on with an honour system that all kids are to return the equipment. Here's a sneak peek at what our road hockey program can do. The little girl in the video showed up one day and kind of stood between the play in the way. I asked if she wanted to play but she turned away. I learned she - nor her older brother - spoke English.
The next time she showed up she showed up with a branch from a tree, holding it like the hockey players were, well sort of, ha and I replaced it with a real one while showing her how to hold it properly! This program uses the tools available to keep kids safe and close-by and integrates kids from various backgrounds as equals and who have no other playground area to speak of after toddler age. Enjoy.

Unrelated directly - but perhaps indirectly for those interested to get out and meet someone, friends, or take a mental health break!.. ha I am hosting a live entertainment event called American Bandstand Night tomorrow night in Newmarket and singles or couples are welcome!

Tom Pearson