It’s the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty!
October 17th is an important day that is recognized worldwide. It’s Eminem’s birthday. It’s also the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Eminem is taking the day off today, (presumably to eat his mom’s spaghetti) but I’m sure if he was around he would have asked me to write this blog post about the intersection of poverty reduction and policy solutions.
This year is the 25th anniversary of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Every year this day reminds us of the importance of the values of dignity, solidarity and voice emphasized in the UN’s Call to Action to fight to end poverty everywhere.
We wanted to take today to recognize this important day and take a moment to renew United Way of Peel Region’s commitment to support this Call for Action. A total of 16.4 per cent or people live in poverty in Peel, and 18 per cent of children live in poverty in Peel. Financial struggle is not always obvious in Peel and yet these rates are higher than provincial and national averages. We have a lot of work to do.
We are working towards creating long term, sustainable and lasting change in addressing the complex social issues that exist right here in our community. We do this, of course, through our investment in social supports within the community, but also through our public policy work.
Did you know that United Way is a national movement?!
It’s true! We have been working with United Ways across Canada in preparation for the federal government’s release of the National Housing Strategy and the National Poverty Reduction Strategy.
A National Housing Strategy and National Poverty Reduction Strategy are both important steps in the fight against poverty in Canada. Both strategies are currently being developed and are expected to be released next fall. We’re pretty stoked about it. In the meantime, we’ve collaborated with our partners in poverty fighting across Canada and come up with some recommendations. We’re pretty stoked about these recommendations too.
We would love to see these policy positions reflected in the new strategies. So just in case Minister Duclos is wondering what to get Eminem for his birthday next year- here are some suggestions:
- Portable Housing Benefit (or PHB as they call it in the biz). A portable housing benefit is a subsidy provided to a low-income household to help with housing costs. The subsidy gives a household the freedom to choose where to live, since it is not tied to a specific unit. We of course still require an increase in affordable housing stock, but all that planning, development, and construction takes time. And this is urgent! The PHB could initially target those paying more than 50 per cent of their income on rent and would provide timely and much needed relief.
Affordable housing is a pressing issue within Peel, and demand for affordable housing continues to increase.
- The average market rent increased by 3 per cent from $1,175 in 2015 to $1,211 in 2016
- The vacancy rate across all types of rental units decreased from 1.5 per cent in 2015 to 1.4 per cent in 2016.
- To compound this issue, Peel also has one of the longest subsidized housing wait lists in the country.
- As of December 2016, 12,958 households are on the Centralized Wait List with an average wait time of 6.4 years.
- Community Benefit Agreements (or CBAs – more lingo for you): CBAs are formal agreements between developers, community groups, and governments saying that large capital projects (such as the Hurontario LRT) will include training and employment opportunities for local, disadvantaged residents, and social procurement. Communities often lack the capacity to negotiate these agreements and the federal government could help level the playing field by designing an institution to support communities with these negotiations. We are also proposing that infrastructure initiatives include a poverty reduction lens.
- 211: We propose that the Government of Canada join the partnership of local United Ways and Centraides, Provincial and Municipal governments to expand the reach of 211 to all Canadians. 211 is free helpline that connects individuals to community and social services in their area 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in over 150 languages (plus the number is easy to remember!) In addition, we would like to see the federal government build on the success of 211 to improve services to help tackle poverty and homelessness. With federal funding, 211 specialists could adapt case management techniques to provide enhanced assistance (ex: develop action plans, coaching, follow-ups, assessments and next steps). The expansion of 211 to include case management techniques would bridge service gaps and increases access to services in communities like Caledon where isolation and transportation is a challenge.
- Canadian Council on Inclusion and Wellbeing. We recommend that the Canadian Council on Inclusion and Wellbeing be created. Tackling poverty is a process, not a one-time effort - so establishing a new, non-partisan institution to report on progress and serve as a source of innovation and new ideas would inform decision-making throughout the country. The Canadian Council on Inclusion and Wellbeing would provide a long-term commitment to poverty with ongoing assessment and innovation. That would be so cool – am I right?!
On October 17th, we come together to demonstrate our commitment to eradicating poverty. We look forward to the release of these important national strategies and hope that all of our shouting from the rooftops will have paid off and we see these recommendations reflected.
Photo courtesy of Eminem on Facebook