Seniors Inspire Ontario Poverty Reduction's Stroll and Roll to Freedom July 7 2015

Dan Philion, happy with initial meeting with M.P.P.
Yesterday was inspirational. It actually started the night before, when Dan Philion, stricken with Muscular Dystrophy and confined to a wheelchair, with limited physical capabilities, was trying to beg off going to a meeting with his MPP. 

Dan has done a lot for the community, awarded for his efforts, and a single dad at one time raising two alone, then a partner since gone. Hey, she can walk now, a story for another time, leaving Dan with limited access to his daughter.

So he lives alone, often relying on the help of others to assist him with certain tasks that he has a tough time doing, such as shopping, cooking (food), and household maintenance although he does get a cleaner and personal support workers who drop by, including assistance dressing, and getting into and out of bed at night - having an electric hoist-like pulley with velcro straps that is used to position him for bed or chair or...

Rejected shoes or makeshift boots
Of course, if he had it his way, he wouldn't need anyone with anything, but knows that isn't in the cards. Still, he feels the basic necessities in life he should be able to afford as its not his fault he's in this predicament. He had no shoes for the meeting.

" I'm not going to the meeting Tom. It's not that important to me anyway", he lied, trying to soften the blow. I'd known it meant a lot to him, he was just nervous about having to speak about it with someone like this in this forum and I knew it. That and the fact he had no shoes or boots.

" What size are you I asked?" I'll get you shoes, but you're going!"

M.P. Lois Brown once awarded Dan for community service
MP supports charity solutions like free coats

I've gotten to know him pretty well over the past 10 years or so and can get away with talking to him like that because we're friends now. Danny's a pretty straight shooter as well. He'd gotten into the habit of not having his drop-in, personal support workers dress him in the morning, giving him another out for not venturing out of the home. But these are often tell-tale signs of oncoming depression also, and, with winter, he is also affected much worse by cold than " normal" blooded people, with his illness, not to mention cleaning the wheel tracks he can't reach or making sure the driveway is cleared by someone in order to get out. He's a social guy, and shines when he does go out which was sorely needed at that time for him. Lucky for us, on this day after the first snow storm of the year, a Neighbourhood Network volunteer showed up, eliminating yet another barrier to his participation in life.

That night before I had an event and was unable to get out for his boots, but had managed to locate a pair of 12 wide dress shoes, along with strips, that could be worn to simulate boots, which Dan immediately shot down upon seeing for the first time.

"I'm wearing track pants", he said, " I'm not wearing dress shoes with track pants.. And what the F$#@& are these?" he added, laughing at the leather leg pieces.

" You said boots", I meekly offered.. "I've worn them for the Santa suit and for the Grinch..."

" Ha, you wear them then, I'm not".... He wore his usual thick wool socks instead of shoes.

Some community accreditation Dan has received
I visited the canvassing Chris Ballard during the election
Going into the meeting, I wasn't expecting much, knowing the M.P.P. new to the caucus / processes, as a rookie, and the strategy was to give a little background first on Dan - like how he literally fell down one day at work, never able to work / walk again without assistance - and how his disease progressively gets worse, so he's unable to do much physically anymore, about P.A.C.C., and about the issue and inform him about the plan for the spring of a march to his office called Stroll and Roll for freedom, with the hope he could support an increase to what those in Dan's position get in income.  We weren't going to ask that he support the 50% increase that Dan thinks would be fair, but rather if he could agree that he deserved better than having to come asking without shoes. It's a tough one to decline.

Dan is tired of asking of charity for basics and hates food banks
That said, I did hope he could embrace the idea of such an action, and even participate, which he sounds open to doing, and, so, when he's asked now as a rookie member of Ontario parliament what's new in York Region, he'll have something to raise, and a reason too. We did not want to overwhelm him with stats and figures, but reminded him of our past involvement with MPP's and even as participants in their governments poverty reduction hearings, but, more than that, I wanted him to just meet Dan, first hand, asking personally, for a better deal.

It is a reasonable request, and one the Ontario government will tell you they are working on this master plan for - but the one thing they have consistently resisted, despite the Harris era 40% cuts - is raising O.D.S.P. rates to livable rates. While welfare is meant to be temporary and used in parcel with community supports to move people forward in life, those with certain disabilities most often do not have that option, yet are painted with the same brush.

Join Dan July 7 2015 on the Stroll and Roll to Freedom starting at York Region Headquarters on Yonge St. Newmarket at 12 noon and ending at the MPP's office.

" We've listened, and people have said they want to work"  Ontario Government on their Poverty Reduction Strategy

I call that selective hearing. Yes they want to work. But they can't all do so. What they really want is just to be recognized as valuable and useful members of society. That's the issue. "You hear the expression falling through the cracks? Well guys like Dan are the ones who fall through those cracks", I explained, " and the direction of the poverty reduction strategy does nothing to address this..That's where these cracks surface."

That very week alone, Dan had to call the ambulance service to come put him to bed as the March of Dimes provider service had begged off, saying they had no replacement. I wonder how much $ extra that costs everyone instead of having a back-up, on-call person(s)? Last year I had to do this for two weeks over Christmas prior to Dan getting into the M.O.D.'s program. I'm not trained for this.

As the meeting progressed, Dan's comfort level rose in voicing concerns about how he's having to live, and even mentioned the worry of falling into a mental health crisis, to which the M.P.P. offered up about the tremendous costs for that too. Turns out M.P.P. Ballard also had a hand some time ago within the schools in Aurora as a fundraiser for school trips and such, always ensuring all kids could go and without embarrassing stigmas attached. It was good to know he'd had at least some ground level experience and understanding to the roots of the issue. The M.P.P. mentioned one of the things they planned to do first was tie the rates to the cost of living so it would not have to be addressed continually.

To this I queried, "Why would you do that first Chris when the rates are still far too low? They've never really addressed it since those Harris cuts, to bring rates more in line with reality, so why would you do that first? He needs more $ first. Then you can tie it to inflation."

I also stressed to Ballard that since Dan already has subsidized housing, and special diet, he is already getting the best deal we offer guys like him, and it isn't near enough. I pointed out the 1% raise his government gave those on O.D.S.P. amounted to 3 bus rides in expensive York Region - $12 a month. The visit to his office would take up $8 of that, $16 for two both ways.

We both got the feeling Chris Ballard was receptive, and he even said he would possibly even march himself, leaving Dan feeling pretty good about the whole thing, and me satisfied, but not surprised, as we'd soft-stanced our ask, only looking for endorsement in principle, that Dan deserved a better deal. But still, all things considered, it was positive - but about to get even better!

Part 2 - The Trans-ride home pulled up, and, having been booked on as an escort, I got to ride along. As we entered, I immediately noticed it chock fullish of seniors ladies, one in her 90's and another 80's, it would turn out, as still another spoke not one word the entire ride.

Dan wants a 50% increase in his income rates rates in order to buy his own groceries, clothes, and to socialize
Having spent some time recently around seniors, as a close relative went through a home and then death as I stayed bedside, I had some experience around seniors and knew they could be engaging if you made them welcome too, so we bounded in, Dan and I laughing up a storm a bit, bringing life to a previously serene-like setting..

"This is where your M.P.P. is ladies should you ever need him!" I announced.

"Who's your M.P.P.?" asked one... "Is it Chris Ballard? another.

"Yes, and we were just in seeing him about getting Dan a better deal."

" Oh yes, and the amount of people using food banks is awful", offered a lady, " Some don't even need it who use it" she added, "and that's bad too"....."and seniors are hard hit often", another said, " and now expected to retrieve mail in this weather" And on it was ...inspirational actually.

We reached a pick-up stop wherein a lady, who ended being 82 years old, was expected to walk through a 2 foot snowbank for about 10 feet to get to the bus / van's door entry, a task you could hear her almost muttering about as she studied an entry point, having made her way already down a front stoop of stairs. The frail looking woman stood, looking unsure, as I instinctively stood up, Mom's lessons ringing in my ears.

Seniors issues also raised on bus ride
" That's ridiculous", some started to mumble, but my mom was kicking in at that point.  It was expected, where I come from, to help someone, and anyone - male or female - and able bodied would have gone out and offered her an arm such as I then did, and lead her through my footsteps to her to get back. I know Dan would have loved to! It's not anything special as far as I'm concerned, it's just manners, but the ladies were impressed it seemed.

As I returned, I could vaguely hear one of the  ladies, 91 years old who looked 70, and lived alone, recite a poem as Dan laughed excitedly,

' Tom, do you hear this? She's rapping about what just was happening. Unbelievable! I thought she was reading a poem at first, but she's actually making it up, and it sounds great!"

And sure enough, the woman quietly finished her ' rap" about a poverty fighting man helping an old woman through the snowbank and we wish we'd recorded it.

Who knew rap was actually invented by older ladies!?

PACC dropped these in Y.R. during the election
We rode the entire route as the ladies were dropped one at a time, each, save but one who I wondered about - perhaps deaf or mentally ill - thanking us profusely for an inspiring ride, having enjoyed the conversations, even Dan's corny jokes and wishing us luck on the quest for a better deal. I welcomed them to ride along in scooters if they could, and to watch for Stroll & Roll in the future..It was a 15 minute trip to the M.P.P.'s office with York Region Wheel-trans on the way there, but took an hour and a half to get back with all the ladies' stops, the driver carefully walking each to the door.

But the socializing was therapeutic somehow for everyone this day it seemed, and it all was driven by the infectious personality and disposition of Dan Philion. Had he chosen to not get dressed this day he'd have missed out, and so would they! I believe Dan  and society  deserves more than hopeful moments. He deserves to participate in life in dignity and be made to feel good about who he is, like on that ride.

 " You guys made my day", the elderly but spry rapper-lady smiled on the way off, ' And you stay out of trouble!" she jokingly offered Dan

I got news for you Ma'am, you made ours! Happy Holidays and Merry Xmas everyone!

PACCman out! Follow our Stroll and Roll for Freedom on Twitter...or Facebook.

ONPHA Conference Provides Mixed Affordable Housing Solutions

Outside the Ottawa Convention Centre
I was in Ottawa during the recent 2014 ONPHA Conference attended by housing providers from across Ontario, and where prominent, long time York Region Housing employees were among the honoured and retiring, including Doug Manson who had headed up Y.R.'s residential housing operations, and Sylvia Patterson from Georgina, a long time Y.R. fixture in social housing and services. I had the privilege of working with him personally, assisting with input, and subsequently sitting on, a housing reference group with him.
Ironically, they also gave myself and others a 5 year recognition award for participating in this advisory capacity, A classy move, likely at the behest of Doug Manson, made before he left.

Manson had visited England during his tenure and returned with a strong belief in having more grassroots input and ' ground up" programs and
implemented some of that philosophy, successfully pushing for the creation of a tenant reference board, and subsequently encouraging the formation of housing community tenant groups.

A pioneer in some ways, here especially, and long time supporter of our community development based road hockey program,  it's too bad to see him go.

His photo, and those of others, who were being honoured and retiring, flashed over the big screens, in between the mesmerizing onstage entertainment at the conference ending dinner, a spectacle that really has to be seen to be appreciated including aboriginal drummers and dancers followed by traditional throat singing, a form of which I had never witnessed. CityHousing Hamilton was also singled out for its tenant engagement programs work receiving the 2014 Award for Excellence as well as others such as the WoodGreen's Celebrity Single Mom's program.

One interesting idea that was discussed with me by an attending Hamilton area Paralegal who has worked for both Ontario's largest private affordable housing provider and for Canada's largest social housing providers, who suggested dealing with persons with mental health issues, and in her specific example, hoarders, is a growing problem that needs be attended to, and that they need be dealt with in a fair and dignified manner. Ironically, as I write this, a reportedly elderly hoarder, was killed in a fire over the weekend, highlighting the fact that hoarding can also be a deadly. But what to we do about tenants with specific issues tied to (mental) illness, like hoarders?

According to my paralegal friend - although she wouldn't talk specific cases - you tailor make something. In her past experiences, she has had to evict everyone from gang members to hoarders to those with addictions, and is well versed in both procedure and how to get results. However, too often she pointed out, evictions that can be avoided, aren't.There are affective rent (arrears) collection schedules that can be set up and maintained she claims, and, in the case of hoarders, she has come up with a unique approach, based on her successful experiences in dealing with them.

Her idea travels even further than coordinating collections, going so far as suggesting having mixed housing models - some subsidized, some not, with hoarders being among them in the same building. These hoarders would have to agree to gradually remove their stuff in order to keep / receive their subsidized housing and be encouraged to 'rejoin" main stream society through supports.

"Firstly", she noted, " hoarders' "stuff" means a lot to them, and that is a problem, but not an overwhelming one." If that stuff is important to them, she reasons, it is too much to ask them to just throw it out - but if it were going to someone in need, then they might more easily part with an item. So a charity of their choice could be chosen, or, should they opt for it, a hoarders items website could be set up, or a suitable one used to sell items, with an option to keep all the money or split it with a favorite charity or non-profit.This would act as reassurance that their belongings were going somewhere meaningful and not just discarded.Removal of items would be monitored regularly and their program would also include connecting them to ongoing treatment or support to move forward and decrease the risk of relapse - just like an addiction.

These make great points. Currently our system of supports, in and out of housing, too often are generalized with a "one glove fits all" type of set up which does not work in special cases, cases which invariably end up in tribunals and courts, costing more time and money for everyone involved, let alone adding to the homeless problem.

I would even take it a step further and have buildings with Counselors or Personal Support Workers located in an office in the building for easy communication and access, who could also then easily co-ordinate home visits to follow up with the residents and ensure they are being supported in their goals. Specialized " housecleaning' and general house / apartment maintenance instruction could be incorporated as well, and, in some cases, perhaps ongoing support in that area, need be by a third party source, say for housekeeping for example which may already be available if the person has a certain disability, but sometimes needs a worker to uncover access for them to do so.
When in Rome!

When visiting a unique housing set up in St 
 Catherines some years back, called Bethlehem House and Support Services, they were very proud of their model of soliciting private donations from community members and businesses, proudly displaying their names on their entryway wall after opening an affordable housing apartment complex that mixed seniors with young families on either side, and kept an in-house social worker on site who also did home visits and advised on some basics too, like house-cleaning and personal grooming for some. What they found was that young people helped the seniors and the seniors helped in advising the younger ones! Surprise! Who knew you didn't have to reinvent the wheel!?
Lester T.. More than just the name in common!

It's good to hear that these housing providers are still studying ways to implement better services to lower income resident tenants through conferences such as this - think tanks if you will - conducted outside the stuffy confines of government only directives, and with a unique mix of private enterprise providers, mixed with social housing / government housing providers with the inclusive minded sharing of grassroots projects - resulting in sharing some unique, progressive, " Canadian experienced" ideas.

Let's just hope the next batch to replace those who have just left the fold, continue on looking at effective solutions to housing all our residents, and judging by the inspiring thoughts of but one paralegal amongst a sea of those who may just attempt to evict - it is surely a good sign!

"Ultimately, the landlord has an obligation to try and accommodate a person's disability"
 Ontario Paralegal

Homelessness Strategy misses mark in York Region

Seems 'tis the season for all things poverty lately and the most recent thing being a report released by York University, which was researched by the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness and the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness. Like anything report (follow the money) related it has truth mixed with supposition and ideology and conclusion finding solutions based on those, so you get what you get which is a mixed bag.

On one hand, it points out the obvious, on the other, it's solutions are slanted towards creating a two tiered rental market, or even three or four, with the end result being landlords creating slums and exclusive areas. And it's actual definition of 'affordable" housing I also have issue with, although they do use the term " at risk of " a fair number of times to confuse one would suppose, leading me to believe they are really branding this point home for some reason. To me, second suite apartments are not affordable either, whereas to them, they are.

Formerly Homeless. With supports, now a Poet
Some bullet points I took from the report, to highlight some previous rants of mine that I'm often maligned for locally by those on the peripherals, include the fact that about 75% of all those using shelters are single men age 26 and over. I ask, of the 7 existing full time shelters in York Region that we have, how many full time beds do we house these homeless men in - bearing in mind a population of 1.1 million people? Guess?.....try one shelter with 26 beds. Instead, 75% of our shelters house women - so the national numbers show we've obviously missed the mark in York Region. I've chirped it for years, but it's certainly nice to get some more supportive stats to back me. Meanwhile Y.R. boasts the least amount of rental housing  / owned houses ratios in the country and rates among the lowest percentile of occupancy availability rates in all of Canada already. Housing is but one element for what ails anyway, especially if they plan to roll out everything based on current broken models, and, in the case of rent subsidies, an experimental one.

YR Councilor given another chance
For example Dan Philion has subsidized housing and is confined to a wheelchair with limited mobility. In winter he suffers more-so and is naturally less mobile outside his home, but even if he wishes to, it is always a stress. Is the snow shoveled? Can I afford it? Do I have the energy today - but they'll charge me for cancelling a fare? Each trip out is calculated in worth vs value. Each month he begins it knowing he has only $100 plus dollars for after bills disposable income, regardless if he managed to earn more money somehow, as they simply adjust his check amount - first should he make "too much", then also adjust his apartment rental amount, either way he can't get ahead, and having trouble writing makes it more unlikely for him to try and get through it all anyway. None of their
solutions eliminate or address this reality, and it is a loophole that needs correcting, adjustments if you will, and believe it is within the resolve and power of the current Ontario government and York Region to make such adjustments, and should do so.

Out of desperation, Dan, who is also Vice-Chair of the Poverty Action for Change Coalition of York Region, the group responsible for bringing York Region its first ever social audit in 2011, "Behind The Masks", has spearheaded an idea for a type of march, to be held in the spring of 2015, to draw attention to the plight of those already housed but living lives of misery. Dan hopes others afflicted by similar circumstances propelled by poverty, and individuals or groups who support their right to a better existence, will come out.

Oct 17 event drew awareness
Says Dan, when informed of the recent 1% raise for those on O.D.S.P., announced by the Ontario government to be added on his check,

" 1%, are they serious? What are we supposed to do with that? That's 3 bus rides."

And with that being the catalyst, the idea for an event that would raise awareness to his / this issue began, the end result being  

Stroll and Roll for freedom.

Dan is tired of living like he's just existing, and says he didn't ask to live in a wheelchair and to have limited abilities and adds why shouldn't he have more money? Good question Dan, especially from many of the same group who voted themselves 30% raises not so long ago... And he's not shy, asking for a 50%  increase in his monthly disability support check, up from the current ceiling of about $1200 per individual. The hope action event will start at one destination - tentatively the York Region headquarters on Yonge St - and would peacefully roll and stroll down Yonge St, ending at the M.P.P.'s office in Aurora where the Liberal M.P.P. Chris Ballard would greet us and agree to take something to parliament on behalf. Something tangible. TBD& A'd.

Dan Philon wants a life!
Dan feels he deserves to live each day, not worrying about if he'll have enough to last the month and feeling a real pinch from mid month on. We believe he also has a right. A penny pincher as is, he doesn't smoke and has an occasional beer, mostly at home if he does unable to afford much more than cheap karaoke night out once in awhile should he choose to, and even then, his home table-menu then suffers later on in the month.

As we "speak", we're having logo design's looked at so Watch for Stroll and Roll for freedom online and on FaceBook!

Politicians and Hip Hop make for Strange Bedfellows

Stone Soup Live!
I looked forward to International Day for the Eradication of Poverty this year. Although it's a day when you might hear tales of personal woe and misery, it has also been, for the past few years, an event for providing inspiration and not just free stuff - although the free pumpkins offered this year went a long way. It has also become a day to express messages through music and the arts.

I got the text somewhere in the aft of the day of, that the pumpkins had arrived and where did I want them? The 2 pm call caught me in between locations, having already been at Riverwalk
Commons Lions Hall earlier dropping off a first load of equipment and supplies for the outdoor event. Luckily for me, the town staffer I interrupted while eating his lunch, agreed to allow us a small area to store it as we retreated to get more, including the sound equipment. Typically, this day is very hectic but this year, with everything in place early, and enough low budget promotion to attract some people and voices and talent, I was pretty sure we were in for a good one.

The first inkling of what was to come, came hours before the event's official start as I waited for the sound man and volunteers to arrive noticing various people wandering by the dozens of pumpkins adorning the stage, wondering what they were for? I'd then moved our sign over, as well as info about the event, as a focal point, within view of passersby facing Timothy Street, and explained the Int Day to others who'd inquire while offering a pumpkin should they want one.

One couple who'd wandered by by chance were thankful, but, ironically, homeless, and thus had nowhere to put a pumpkin. They were invited back for the after 7pm start too.

When asked, I'd been telling people the pumpkins were free but that we'd accept a donation if they were able. One man who looked as if he'd seen a few shelters in his day, and now lived nearby, approached, asking about them and looking sheepish upon my explanation, having approached, likely, after overhearing me say they were free. Sensing his hesitation I interjected, " Go ahead, take one ".... "Seriously?", he said. " Go for it. That's what they are for!" I replied. I then took the opportunity to tell him about the event. That is was a day to hear voices speaking out about poverty, and that the night would end with some great entertainment with an open stage should he know anyone who sang or played guitar. He returned later to take part, dancing and even singing some Elvis onstage with me. He felt welcome and a part of the community methinks.That was what it was about too. Inclusion.

Formerly Homeless poet meets anti-homelessness advocate
The pumpkins themselves arrived because of the need to want to help. Annette Brown a long time PACC supporter and community development worker and volunteer passed away and her last passion was making sure kids had pumpkins. She'd noticed while living and working communities in Newmarket and Georgina, that some kids / families, without cars especially, as transit was not as great, would go without pumpkins at Halloween so they'd arrange it so they did and also coordinate neighbourhood pumpkin carving parties. In mentioning this to Newmarket Food Pantry Director, Joe Sponga I had no idea he's arrange a crate load for distribution but every one went!

Mike Thornhill Youth Award Winner Jason Baulch
PACC Vice-Chair Dan Philion finds some warmth
The event featured some powerful testimonials, such as the poems read aloud by book of poetry Author David L Rogers whose poems from his book, "The Dark Road", reflect real life experiences, and act as therapy to those with addictions and suffer depression... and from displaced Farmer and former Markham mayoral candidate, Sam Orrico who's story may finally be seeing some light due to the attention we've been able to draw to his dilemma - as he's once again being moved without means. JAZZled youth COO Wendy  Marais spoke about youth scholarship and sponsorship opportunities as well, and we handed out the Mike Thornhill Youth Leader Award to 2014 winner Jason Baulch, Author Ivan Prokupchuk spoke from a seniors perspective while JustFlow's Justin Harris felt inspired to speak from a personal youth viewpoint. I touched on a few disability issues on behalf of PACC Vice Chair Danny Philion also attending in the crowd but not comfortable speaking on stage - Did I mention we had no ramp? Gulp - raising the issue about those in wheelchairs now being able to go out past 10 pm - in part due to our lobbying - was a point I wanted to make, and so did, as it's important to let people know about the wins we have in order to offer some kind of hope that through communication and inclusion we can create better systems that treat people more fairly, and with more dignity. Meantime Dan has $117 dollars left mid month to get him through including needing groceries.

Mixed Bag
Regional Councilor John Taylor likely squirmed a bit as I broached the wheel trans subject and then dwelled on the transit strike which affected Dan's community for 4 months through Xmas and let the town's Deputy Mayor know that was not forgotten. But added also that he was but one person and council vote and not solely accountable for the strike's handling. I also expressed disappointment in the lack of media around various poverty issues, but particularly during the transit strike, feeling the dilemma people were facing was not covered with much sense of urgency, or the devastation it caused some. And I would have said more, but wanted to try and get focus on some positive ideas and thoughts for 2014, like Walk & Roll, a march of sorts in the works for spring 2015 to draw attention to poverty issues in York Region.

Intense performance
The part I look forward to more and more each year for the The International Day is the addition of more music and arts, and this year in particular, with a focus on youth and the addition of hip hop slotted to end the night off with. It is just a great fit to the theme and encourages rappers and spoken word artists and hip hoppers to express themselves in what is already a natural forum for them to speak out in - already in theme even!

Passion from JustFlow
Maurice Weeks AJ Music
With hip hop roots coming from poverty it seemed a natural fit, and these young talented vocalists, including from walk-ons who happened by and had heard ' the scene", as well as from the Just Flow and Arthur Jr Music Family crews really gave it their all. These guys -  and GAL! - with female MC, Newmarket, now by way of Aurora's own Dean Wild of Stay Blessed Productions, were way passionate and also appreciative of being a part of such an important event, and, I got the sense anyway, of being included by the town if you will too. There's that word again - Inclusion.

And some of these performers represent the very faces of poverty in York Region, or the voices or hearts, and they may not be what a stereotypical face of poverty would be considered to be - but they are most certainly representative. Local Music Producer and Performer Maurice Weeks from AJM is one example of a local phenom talent as well as JustFlow who develop young talent as well. Their song Politics was a perfect fit for the show!

I was really impressed and some performances brought to mind words of wisdom from another event I'd worked a judging panel on with Canadian Idol's Farley Flex. At the end of that event, Flex had taken time to talk with the contest performers and flat out told some of them they sounded like American rappers

" But you're not even American. Be yourself. Tell your own story. It's those that stand out from the rest who will make it, not those who sound like everyone else."

Farley Flex, former Canadian Idol Judge

Jackie Playter plays middle person
Great advice. And these youths showed more class than some of our politicians who I take it were mostly too busy to attend, with only Councilors Taylor, Sponga and Tom Veigh showing up. I guess they are taking their cue from the mayor who hasn't seen fit to show up in several years, opting for a Photo op at car dealership instead in 2013 and who knows in 2014. In Mayor Tony Van Bynen's defense, he used to come out, until I got very critical one year, sort of ambushing him with negative comments about how the region / town was doing on the issue. Perhaps a less abrasive approach would be more affective to get him to the table in earnest, and, to that end, look to the future for just that - or with a new mayor - whichever plays out.

Jeanine with Wendy Marais from Jazzled.
Council hopefuls also showed they cared enough about all our residents by braving the cool air including Newmarket mayor candidates, always supportive " Elvis" Dorian Baxter, as well as Chris Campbell, School Trustee and anti-bullying advocate candidate, Bessie Vlasic, Council hopefuls Doug Crosse as well as Wasim Jarrah who seems to have a community conscience, and Regional Councilor hopeful, Darryl Wolk who has pledged support on the issue for some years, as well. Ward 2 Newmarket council candidate Bill Kukulewich was granted an opportunity to speak into the open stage mic as his platform impressively includes a 7 point plan to eliminate homelessness, even offering to put up his salary to offset some of its cost if elected!

Die hard supporters Mary & Linda
In between, people got a chance to chat and it was great to have so many come up and say " We've met on face book but not live" and "maybe our politics aren't so far apart", or " I really appreciate what you're doing" etc..It was great to also see many of the town's leading residents attending, such as Jackie Playter who volunteers relentlessly and sits on a number of boards, as well as supportive business owners such as Olga and Glenn from on Main St. who want to sponsors shirts now for next year, having now caught the meaning and spirit of this great event through attending.

Does Councilor Taylor ever take a bad picture!?
You see, when you get off the computers and go meet people in person, wonderful things can happen. Common ground is not that hard to see if inclusive in our decision making towards this - and any issue (and in our boardrooms) - you allow yourselves to look for it. If we are, we will make much more real headway. If only in small incremental ways to start, that is fine, so long as we move forward in unison as best we can toward a common goal. Speaking of computers and common goals, the event's volunteer school youths also saved the day with their knowledge of technology to access our back beat sounds, while getting valuable experience and meeting some industry people. Just a great event and day overall in so many ways.

The biggest scandal to rock this year's show was during a youthful performance towards the end when the enthusiastic performer decided to smash a few pumpkins, agreeing mid-rap to clean it up afterward which they did! In my day we'd have stuck it to the man! Ha. Respect. Another Word of The Day.

The only regrets for 2014 I have, are not spending more time having and nurturing conversations between hosting duties and making intros,  

"I never got to meet that politician wanting to end homelessness...I'm homeless!" Farmer Sam

Food bank Director and Councilor Joe Sponga with Yappers
and the lack of representatives from most local charities, churches, and non profits, especially after they have been pushing for more " collaboration" and "sustainable systems', yet stayed away from a forum allowing face to face interaction with "clients" within a productive environment, and resist having grass roots committee members. And we sure could have used someone organizing / dishing out some free hot food like in years past too. We do thank Deli House Catering for use of their hot chocolate dispenser though!

The Yappers rock the stage @Riverwalk Commons
International Day for the Eradication of Poverty was actually the first official event ever at Riverwalk Commons aside from the grand opening in 2011. Next year, Oct 17 happens on a Saturday and we shall endeavour to make it the best ever, with more elements and performances, and maybe expand the arts part of it even more with the Newmarket Arts Festival seemingly running during the same time frame in the same area of town.

Dean Wild, left, breaks from the stage with her dog

Who knows!? Maybe we'll get an inclusive town council that will come out and shout to the world how proud they are of this event too and show it the respect it deserves like they do the Newmarket Jazz + Festival...Hey! We can use the photo op! Our entire budget was $500. What was theirs?  And, after all, there should be no doubt as to which date is more important in the world.

More event photos here courtesy of Glenn Rodger Events Photography. Show elements provided by TPE Productions.

The @PACCMan Report
Chris Campbell and Wasim Jarrah
Tom Vegh, Councilor and Habitat for Humanity York Region

Doug Crosse with Bessie Vlasic...Who knew he was funny?
The help!
Local Home Boy
Poverty makes for strange bed fellows..Thank-you very Much!

And an End Of Night Good Time had by all!