An archive of Community Development Halton media releases dating back to 1999.
Burlington, July 5, 2011 - Community Development Halton and Poverty Free Halton, at the invitation of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, met with Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh, Commissioners of the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario. Halton and its municipalities rarely receive visits from commissions appointed to investigate social issues. As John Versluis, co-chair of Poverty Free Halton commented, "Poverty in Halton is often hidden, buried under the veneer of affluence and well-being." He continued emphasizing that "the gap between the annual income of a family of four on social assistance and that of the median Halton family income is $5,793 per month or approximately $69,230 per year. These people live in different worlds, making bridges of compassion and understanding difficult to build."
Rishia Burke and Jen Gerrard of Community Development Halton told the Commissioners that they, and others from their research team, had crossed the Region talking with people living in poverty. The many stories of people painfully showed that the basic necessities of life such as food shelter, recreation, opportunity to belong to their community were outside of the reach of those in poverty and especially those on social assistance who live in "deep poverty." Rishia Burke added "Mental health was always an underlying theme during community conversations. Poor people live under tremendous stress. They do not have enough money to live and face choices between housing or food. Every day they face the stresses of surviving." Jen Gerrard told the Commissioners that programs and services should respect the dignity of people. They should not feel "less" as a result of asking for assistance to meet basic needs.
As the conversation moved on to social assistance reform, Dr. Joey Edwardh of Community Development Halton, pointed out that the dialogue and, ultimately, the recommendations for change must be evidence-based. She observed, "Today, there is no evidence-based process for determining social assistance rates and as a result, the benefits have no relation to the cost of living in a community." The Commissioners thanked the delegation for their thoughtful and insightful presentation.
For more information, contact:
Dr. Joey Edwardh, Ph.D.
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Burlington, April 26, 2010 - The social and economic value and contribution of the nonprofit sector to the prosperity of Halton communities has never been in doubt, yet as executive director Joey Edwardh commented, "Demands created by demographic growth and the economic recession, on top of years of project funding practices, have pushed the sector to the limits where it precariously balances between sustainability and disaster."
Community Development Halton is pleased to learn that based on a series of discussions with nonprofit, private and public sector leaders, a white paper will be prepared under a collaborative initiative of the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration and the Ontario Trillium Foundation. It will:
Laila Eiriksson, President of CDH, stated, "If we are committed as a society to create caring communities which respond to human needs and respect and include all members of these communities, this small step of a white paper that will assist the nonprofit sector is coming at a critical time for Halton communities."
Burlington, September 22, 2009 - Monday night, September 21st, approximately 75 community members gathered at Community Development Halton's forum bringing together social justice advocates and environmentalists to search for common ground that unites them in the urgent need to address the social and environmental impact of climate change.
Mike Balkwill, a long time community organizer, trainer and group facilitator, opened the evening with the critical questions: How bad is the environmental crisis? How much does society have to change? and What is the social change strategy?
"The Eco-system is collapsing as fast as it can. If it becomes severe enough it could end the conditions that make life possible for humanity and many other species," commented Mike Balkwill. He suggested that global society will have to change radically and he added that the extremes of climate change will bring social chaos and "when societies are stressed there are a range of reactions, from totalitarian state control to revolution and everything in between."
Panellists commented from their own experience. Liz Benneian, President of Oakvillegreen, feels the weight of the profound responsibilities we bear for the world we leave behind. She emphasized the importance of ensuring the survival of the next generation something she said "is not guaranteed." Willie Lambert, President of Oakville & District Labour Council, reminded those assembled that significant transformation of the dominant economic system with its endless search for growth, is a requirement if we are to respect the Earth.
Reverend Doctor Morar Murray-Hayes, Minister of Maple Grove United Church, stressed the need to move away from our secular culture based on the values of power, money, pleasure and comfort, to a culture of care and stewardship of creation. Adding to the dialogue, environmental journalist, Lawson Hunter, pushed the audience to move from measurements of economic productivity to those that make life worth living. He stated "fundamental to our new measures is respect for the Earth from which our collective wealth comes."
Balkwill brought the meeting to a conclusion with the insights of Paul Hawken captured in his book, Blessed Unrest. Hawken wrote: "If you look at the science about what is happening on Earth and aren't pessimistic, you don't understand data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this Earth and the lives of the poor and you aren't optimistic, you haven't got a pulse." All concluded that moment in which we live provides the opportunity for environmental organizations, social justice organizations, labour, faith and indigenous groups to come together in a new unified front that values people and the Earth.
Burlington, March 27, 2009 - Community Development Halton (CDH) is deeply concerned about the Ontario Government's plans for harmonizing the Provincial Sales Tax and the Federal Goods and Services Tax. People on social assistance cannot afford to lose ground as cash is taken out of their pockets for increased taxes on things like gas, electricity, and transportation leaving them with less for food and other necessities.
CDH fears that the rebates and tax credits proposed in the budget to offset the increased taxes resulting from the harmonization scheme will not be sufficient to minimize the impact on low-income people.
Ted Hildebrandt, CDH's Director of Social Planning, stated,"I am not optimistic. My initial conclusion about harmonization is that it will take food off the table." For example:
Joey Edwardh, Executive Director of Community Development Halton said, "As the bills come in and the rent is due, money for food becomes discretionary. In our Halton communities, hunger and eating poorly creates a tragic situation which affects the long term health of people, the capacity of children to learn and lost economic productivity through disability and absenteeism."
CDH recognizes that the provincial budget does make provision for a 2% increase in social assistance rates but CDH points out that this increase does not move people on social assistance to Statistics Canada low-income cut off. It does not even keep pace with the rate of inflation for food. The Association of Local Public Health Agencies (alPHa) reports that the costs of a Nutritious Food Basket increased by 3.2% between 2006 and 2007.
CDH and other community leaders across Halton have promoted the introduction of a $100 monthly Healthy Food Supplement for adults on social assistance as a central part of a poverty reduction strategy. Regrettably, the 2009 provincial budget does not include this measure. As Hildebrandt emphasized, "The issue is having enough money on a monthly basis to afford the basic necessities of life including food and rent. More and more people in our Halton communities are making the connection between food, health and poverty."
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Burlington, December 10, 2008 - Local Halton groups are welcoming a recently released poverty reduction plan by the Government of Ontario. The report entitled, Breaking the Cycle, provides leadership both socially and economically and turns a corner on poverty. It breaks away from the past when governments could ignore and could even make political gains on the backs of the poor with cutbacks in social assistance and social support programs.
Across the province and in Halton, individuals and groups concerned about poverty have been supporting the plan of the 25-in-5 Network for Poverty Reduction to reduce poverty by 25% for all within five years and 50% over ten years.
"We called on the Government of Ontario to produce a plan with targets, timetables and accountabilities," said Dr. Joey Edwardh, Executive Director of Community Development Halton. "The plan released by the Government of Ontario is a key first step in improving the lives of Ontario's poor families and children, and commits to lifting 80,000 Ontario children out of poverty."
But she also stated that the plan does not go far enough to address those who are most at-risk of poverty, particularly seniors, newcomers, people with disabilities, members of racialized communities and those on social assistance. She said "more attention must be given to creating liveable incomes, early learning and childcare spaces and affordable housing."
The Burlington-Halton chapter of Make Poverty History is among those who are identifying the plan as a good foundation, but are pushing to see a good jobs strategy in which all people who work fulltime are ensured a standard of living out of poverty.
"Almost half of all Ontario families living in poverty have at least one parent working fulltime, year round," said John Versluis, who chairs the local group. "Hard working Ontarians who meet their responsibilities by working full time should not be forced to raise their families in poverty."
Anti-poverty activists are pleased that the Government plans to table legislation to have a dedicated secretariat to support the implementation of the poverty reduction plan and measure its success and failures. "We have a group in government with whom we can work to make this commitment to poverty reduction a reality," commented John Versluis.
"A recent poll by Environics Research Group showed that 81% of Ontarians support government action to reduce poverty - especially during hard economic times," added Dr. Edwardh. "It is critical that the Government of Ontario builds on this public support and makes an adequate down payment in their spring budget in order to meet their commitments and further strengthen their plan."
For local information on poverty reduction, visit Community Development Halton at www.cdhalton.ca. For more information on the 25-in-5 Network for poverty reduction, visit www.25in5.ca. You can also visit Poverty Watch Ontario at www.povertywatchontario.ca.