City of Toronto Budget Deputation: John Stapleton; Scarborough, January 13, 2016: 6:00 p.m.

I am a newly minted senior citizen. I have lived in Scarborough for the past 37 years. I am a proud resident of Scarborough but I see a problem. I see the problem of poverty in Toronto. I think that we can and should do more to eradicate poverty in our city Toronto is the largest and richest city in Canada Our economy comprises almost 11 per cent of Canada’s GDP,  And in recent years Toronto has been ranked: The world's most tax-competitive major city (KPMG Competitive Alternatives 2014: Focus on Tax) The 2014 Intelligent Community of the Year (Intelligent Community Forum) Fourth on Price Waterhouse Coopers’ Cities of Opportunity (PwC, 2014); and The world's most resilient city (Grosvenor Group, 2014)[1] But there is another side to Toronto. Toronto houses Canada’s highest…
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Social Assistance in Ontario: Periods of Tumult and Calm

For the first time in over a year and without much fanfare, the Ontario Government has begun to publish monthly social assistance caseload numbers. One guesses that the reason for the hiatus was the much-reported troubles with their new social assistance computer system called SAMS. The newest figures are for November 2015 and the new charts on the MCSS website include caseload figures going back two years including  the 13 months from November 2014 to November 2015 that were missing. They are here for Ontario Works: http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/documents/en/mcss/social/reports/OW_EN_2015-11.pdf and here for ODSP: http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/documents/en/mcss/social/reports/ODSP_EN_2015-11.pdf This has allowed me to update an excel file which many readers have seen in the past that includes reliable data for the last 35 years (since 1981) for caseloads (payments) , beneficiaries (men women and children receiving assistance), unemployment, and population. Some…
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Time to look at income security for low income older adults with disabilities

One of the long term goals I have for Open Policy is to cover all aspects of income security for all age groups for low income people with and without disabilities. This year, Open Policy managed to add a critical piece with the publication of Every Ninth Child in Ontario: A Cost-Benefit Analysis for Investing in the Care of Special Needs Children and Youth in Ontario with my colleagues Alexa Briggs, Celia Lee, Brendon Pooran and Rene Doucet. Children and youth with disabilities and their income security needs are extremely important and I hope there will be more contributions from my colleagues and I on this front in the future. The following is a chart that I have had in my head for years but I never sat down and…
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Hunter Gatherers in Toronto: “What a long strange trip it’s been”

 “As soon as the rent is paid, first thing I do is stock up on food, which generally means I've got three days’ worth of food. For the rest of the month I hit soup kitchens, food banks. And I'm allowed to hit the food bank four times a month.  The clothes exchanges provide the clothing, but the problem is, because I haven't been eating healthy for the last ten years, I'm pretty underweight. So finding clothes that fit, pants especially, I'm currently taking like a 26/30 which is almost impossible to find.” - 59 year old single male social assistance recipient in Toronto   A hunter-gatherer is defined as follows by dictionary.com: “A member of a group of people who subsist by hunting, fishing, or foraging in the wild.”[1]…
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The plight of low income hardworking seniors

This is the year that I become a senior citizen for the first and only time. I wrote a blog when I turned 60 for an online newspaper called ‘The Mark’ on what it means to turn age 60 when you are poor[1]. I spent the next four years on a self-motivated project called ‘Retiring on a low income’. I know from my ‘Google analytics’ that it is very popular as the material has been accessed about 45,000 times, mostly from new users. My blog on the subject, written in 2013, was the most popular blog on the Vibrant Communities website in 2014. I now want to set my sights on the issues that beset those who have already turned 65 but continue to live on a low income. Catherine…
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Much of my life I have been a struggling low income person: Guest blog by Pamela Chynn

I am talking today as  a struggling  university  and  journalism  student, as  a  person  who has  on and off  been on  social  assistance,  as a person who  has  been  on  unemployment insurance a  few times, as  a  person who  has  a  couple  of times  been technically homeless  and  has  been through the surreal  roller  coaster nightmare  of  couch  surfing, as  a  temp worker, as a minimum  wage  worker and  currently  after  having   endured several  years  of  bullying  that resulted in suffering  a  long  and  hard  battle with  depression  and anxiety - temporarily  on  ODSP. Because of this, I  know  all too  well the  struggles  of  being  in  poverty,  of having  had to live in   inadequate  housing  that was  detrimental  to  both  my  physical , mental and emotional  health, of  having  to…
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Guest Blog from Tess: When your child turns 18 on a low income: Three big changes for a lone parent

This guest blog from Tess underscores the problems faced by families living on a low income in subsidized housing. It goes back to an essay I wrote for Metcalf titled 'Why is it so tough to get ahead?' While today's parents know that their children may have to live with them long past the age of 18, our social welfare institutions continue to adhere to the Age of Majority Act that was passed into law 44 years ago, a time when many 18 year olds could realistically pursue independence.//js  This month my relationship with three policy programs is going to change.  I have not done anything myself to alter these relationships.  The lived circumstances of my life have not changed.  Rather, my son, Troy (pseudonym) celebrates his 18th birthday. These…
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“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” Upton Sinclair -Guest Blog from Pat Capponi

Those of us who make up the OW and ODSP rolls, who haven’t worked for years, who have struggled with homelessness, addictions, mental illness and abuse, are at a crossroads in this city. We need to understand that, unless we really start to confront the stark choices we’re facing, there will be no real opportunity to improve our lives through education, training and employment.  Why is this? There are limited resources available to us, and most of those dollars go to agencies, shelters, food banks, community kitchens and drop-ins, to maintain the status quo, to keep us from dying on city sidewalks and alleyways which would disturb public consciousness and elected officials.  At least two-thirds of funding given to agencies goes to rent, staff, and benefits. These places constitute a…
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Revealing power imbalances: What do cigarettes, casino card counters and Jian Ghomeshi have to do with financial literacy?

Preface On November 3, 2014, I drove a woman for whom I advocate named Linda Chamberlain to two payday lending outfits. She was taking cash advances from one to pay the other after maxing out a credit card which she used for cash advances to pay for food and non-insured medical supplies. She is 65 and suffers from a variety of mental and physical illnesses. In one month, she had racked up credit card and fees of $238, $93 for going over a credit limit, $105 in payday lender fees and the rest in interest at 19.7%. She needed $60 that morning for medical supplies and food. Inside the second of the two payday lenders, we carefully counted out the $605 she needed to pay off a debt of $500…
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Guest Blog from Tess: Without warning! How government can empty out a bank account and leave you with nothing

I’m a single mother of two boys.  One is living with me. We get help from Ontario Works and live in subsidized housing.  My son who lives with me is in high school full-time. He was born when I was his age and in high school. I finished high school. I finished two university degrees. I struggle with occasional bouts of depression, chronic fatigue, and pain. At the beginning of February this year I went to an ATM to make a withdrawal.  Instead of leaving with cash, I left with overwhelming distress.  There was no money for me to take out of my only bank account.  Had I been a victim of technological theft?   Being the beginning of the month, this was especially stressful as I would not receive my…
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