Archive for July, 2014

“Poor People Can’t Cook,” and Other Myths

July 22, 2014

In 2013, over 47 million Americans depended on food stamps to buy their groceries. Those food stamps turn out to be worth about $5 or $6 per day, per person.

Not a lot to live on—but better than nothing?

Canada does not have a food stamp program. Canada does not have a national school breakfast or lunch (or supper or brunch or snack) program. We are one of the few “First World” countries without a formal, national nutrition assistance program. Non-governmental strategic policy papers exist, but as such papers typically do, they promote particular interests and agendas.

Why not food stamps?

The view from Canada is that we don’t need specific nutritional programs because our social assistance programs are good enough. Instead of funding food stamps, or school lunches, we give families money–through Ontario Works (OW) or the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)—and let them make their own food and other choices. This could be a more dignified, less paternalistic way to support individuals real freedom—and opportunities—to choose how they want to live.

Now, if our social assistance programs were empowering, i.e. established some equality of opportunity, we wouldn’t see poor health outcomes clustering around particular demographics. It’s true that we start with different abilities and inclinations, and so even in a system of equal opportunities we wouldn’t see equal outcomes. But when certain groups consistently and predictably fall below average on basic measures like health, or food security, or educational attainment, we can and should conclude that those groups face additional obstacles, or less-than-equal opportunities.

And we should do something about it. (more…)

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Living Inside The Box: Menu Planning For Food Hampers

July 18, 2014
A House of Friendship Food Hamper Staple item - the banana box that we pack hampers in

One of the most common items in our warehouse are the banana boxes that we pack hampers in

Today, I would like to share something written by our two new summer students, who are with us, thanks to a grant from Service Canada.  Their first official day of work, I asked them to do a short exercise and share their thoughts in writing.  In a week or two, they will do the same exercise and they can compare and contrast their experiences.  I hope that in the process you will gain some insight into the difficult choices that our program participants face each day, and the hard decisions we have to make when deciding on how to distribute the many food items we receive as a donation.

Hello Sarah

Hi! My name is Sarah and I am currently studying Biochemistry at the University of Waterloo. For the past three years I have been volunteering with the House of Friendship Emergency Food Hamper Program as a food hamper packer as well as doing a variety of things in the warehouse. However, this summer I will be working as a summer student. With my prior volunteering experience I have regularly handed out food for many individuals; never to contemplate how they will be using and managing the perishable and canned goods they receive.

Hello Jessica

Hi my name is Jessica and I will be one of the Summer Special Project Assistants this year. I have recently graduated from the Social Service Worker Program at Sheridan College and have a passion for helping others. This fall I will be attending the University of Waterloo in the Therapeutic Recreation program. I look forward to my time at the Emergency Food Hamper Program this summer and being able to take part in this important and meaningful agency. (more…)

Follow Up: Vote For The Community You Want to See

July 17, 2014

House of Friendship encourages you to vote for a poverty free Ontario

The Ontario election occurred on June 12th.  As you may remember from that week, we made a post (here) about our efforts to collect input from the people who come to us each day about what they hoped for after the election ended, and what they thought the candidates should know about their experiences each day.

Elections are busy times, and we did our best to reach out to all the candidates.  Two of them go back to us close to the end of their campaigns and I would like to share their responses with you now.

First was Kitchener – Waterloo candidate Jamie Burton who wanted to share:

“Thank you for the inspiration to stay focused on what I know matters. Your words will be in a frame on my wall, wherever I go. They will encourage my commitment to honour my word, and to work towards a better community for everyone. Together with the strengths of our differences and unique perspectives, by inclusion and diversity, we will achieve a greater opportunity for all.”

Second was Daiene Vernile, wrote the following on the day before the election ended:

I appreciate you sharing with me the concerns expressed by individuals and families who rely on your services to supplement their dietary and other needs.

Please be assured that I have reviewed these materials and have taken note of the specific concerns raised by program participants.  […] I look forward to the opportunity for further collaboration on how the provincial government can best support your work in the community.

Our short survey of people provided a good range of input and highlighted some common problems and sentiments that reflected everyone’s experience with different government programs.  If we receive any further responses from candidates, we will provide further updates here on the blog.

 

Wonderfully Messy: The State of Our Housing Programs Today

July 11, 2014

 

House of Friendship's Awesome Wall

Deb poses with the part of the Awesome Wall that she helped create.  A public art feature that symbolizes a part of the new energy bubbling up in the Supportive Housing Program at House of Friendship

“Supportive housing combines bricks-and-mortar with special supports to meet the physical and mental health needs of tenants.” (Source here) Ensuring that residents have Housing First, and then also a comprehensive range of supports, supportive housing proposes to be more empowering, more likely to help people live happy, healthy and meaningful lives than shelters or other short term housing approaches.

Building bridges and supporting communities

But what does this look like in practice? A quick glance at downtown Kitchener shows how delightfully messy the process can be!

House of Friendship has created a unique space in downtown Kitchener. They have a series of adjoining properties on Charles Street and Eby Street in downtown Kitchener. Eby Village, Charles Village, the Men’s Hostel and Cramer House all serve a diverse set of needs and now, there is something happening here that ignores the walls and gates in between these House of Friendship buildings.

Residents from Eby Village show up at Cramer House to play pool with some new friends. A few men from the hostel plant flowers for the neighborhood on Eby Street that a few Supportive Housing tenants will hand out to bridge the gap between Supportive Housing and the greater community. Catherine the Community Garden Worker works with tenants to create green spaces around the buildings. “I think that community gardens and green spaces bring so much to all of those around them: connection, hard work, fresh air, the pleasure of green, vibrant spaces and the magic of watching something transform right in front of you. It is exciting to help to cultivate these spaces with all of the buildings and slowly watch them grow.” (more…)