Part 5 in a 5-part series
(note the introduction to each of these blog entries is the same; skip down to the sub-heading to avoid the repetition)
Given last week’s announcements of:
- the cancellation of the Ontario Basic Income Pilot (a program strongly supported by high-profile members of all political stripes, including former Conservative senator Hugh Segal, who helped to design the pilot program); and
- the slowing of increases to Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) from 3% to 1.5% on rates which are already at rates far too low to provide safe, affordable housing, nutritious food, and other basic necessities,
it’s imperative that we talk more about what Niagara Regional government can do to alleviate poverty.
The alleviation of poverty is a concern for everyone to whom I’ve spoken. This has been true not only since I filed my nomination papers in May, but since I was on St. Catharines City Council (where I asked for a report about what a living wage would be in St. Catharines and how we could advocate for it, then was invited to join the Niagara Poverty Reduction Network‘s Wages and Work workgroup) and then went on to work at YWCA Niagara Region as their fundraiser.
Throughout the business community, the community of non-profit agencies, and at people’s doors, people are thinking about what we can do to alleviate poverty. In 2013, the cost of the consequences of poverty in Niagara is $1.38 billion per year. With the use of homeless shelters and food banks increasing every year, we know that this cost has only increased.
Poverty is an obviously complex problem that requires the expertise and support of numerous people, agencies, and initiatives.
Through this series of blog posts, I will share some ideas for what Niagara Regional government can do to alleviate poverty.
You might be wondering what role data can play in the alleviation of poverty. Simply put, the collection and availability of comprehensive data ensures that funds are being spent on the programs and services that are needed most.
We already have the annual point in time study, but this shows only gives us a sense of part of the picture.
When we know the root causes of poverty in Niagara, we are better equipped to address them. Yes, we generally know the root causes of poverty on a grand scale, but it would be useful to know if and what variations there are in Niagara compared to that general knowledge.
Presently, all agencies that assist people who are experiencing poverty keep some data. These agencies are required to keep data when reporting to funders. The challenge is that there is little consistency in what data is collected and how it is collected, making it difficult to compare one agency’s numbers to another and get a true picture of the overall issue.
If the Region required agencies to collect data on a broader range of indicators and in a uniform manner, we might better know how to target investments in poverty reduction.
Is housing the biggest issue? Employment? Food security? Mental or physical health? Addictions? Transportation? Which comes first? How do they impact each other? What preventative measures can we take to reduce the chance that someone will go hungry or become homeless?
Collecting and centralizing a wide range of consistently reported data results in better investment and a healthier, more prosperous community.