Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Putting Hunger on The Map For The 2015 Federal Election

October 15, 2015

Jobs that involve working with people are interesting and challenging. Depending on the nature of your job, you might get to know some people enough to recognize them, or even remember their names outside of your workplace.  I’m sure teachers get this a lot the longer they teach.  You’ll be out running an errand and you’ll see all sorts of former students or their parents.  Some you’ll remember, but some, likely not.  It’s funny what sticks in your mind or doesn’t.

Jobs that require you to work with the public make you realize the truth in the phrase “it’s a small world.”

I remember when I first started working at the House of Friendship’s Men’s Hostel on Charles Street, that the down town core of Kitchener changed for me.  I was not born it Kitchener or Waterloo, so I didn’t know a lot of people here when I first started living here.  It didn’t take too long working at the Hostel before I could recognize a lot of the people I passed on the street down town as former or current residents.  It drove home the understanding that most of the poverty that exists in our community is largely invisible and everyone has a story.

Now that I have been working at the Food Hamper Program for more than a decade, it doesn’t matter where I go.  I will usually see at least one or more people that I have served at some point.  At the grocery store, library, my kids school or just walking through my neighbourhood.  It is a small city after all and as I am about to share, (and have in the past) there are very few neighbourhoods in the city that don’t have someone in them who has needed our help at one point or another in the course of any given year.

Who Needs A Food Bank?  Your Neighbour Does

In the previous post we shared what some of our community centre, food hamper and supportive housing participants had to say about the upcoming Federal election.

Today I would like to share some information specific to our Emergency Food Hamper Program, carrying on the work we did this summer, to determine what share each Federal and Provincial Electoral district had of the people we helped over a year.

For the Federal election, things are a little different, because of the additional of a new riding for this election and the modification of the remaining ones.

So, for the candidates striving for victory, once the votes are counted, and the winner announced, how many households that have needed a food bank will they represent? (more…)

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More Fantastic Reasons To Support a Basic Income in Canada

September 23, 2015

Part one of this series outlined the state of food security in Canada, explained that most Canadians are food insecure because they do not have enough money for food, and concluded with an idea: basic income programs, which guarantee a certain income to all adult residents of a specific territory, could be an effective policy tool to reduce poverty and so promote food security.

Part two of this series considered a range of practical and philosophical objections to basic income schemes, but as I further explained, no concern is insurmountable. In fact we–Canadians–have tried this before, more or less, and it worked!

I want to repeat that point, because I can: we implemented a kind of basic income in Canada, with positive recorded outcomes.

The MINCOME experiment in Manitoba

From 1974 to 1978, through the “MINCOME” project, the poorest residents of Dauphin Manitoba received monthly cheques whether or not they were working, or disabled, or whatever. The value of the cheques varied according to family income, and brought each family up to a living wage income. The payments were not universal, but like a basic income, they did establish a no-questions-asked income floor. Sadly, when a new government was elected in 1979 the project was scrapped without any analysis or final report.

However, the University of Manitoba professor Evelyn Forget revisited the project documents in the mid 2000s, and wrote a research paper titled “The Town With No Poverty: Using Health Administration Data to Revisit Outcomes of a Canadian Guaranteed Annual Income Field Experiment.” Among other conclusions, Forget found that

overall hospitalizations, and specifically hospitalizations for accidents and injuries and mental health diagnoses, declined for MINCOME subjects relative to the comparison group. Physician contacts for mental health diagnoses fell for subjects relative to comparators. Overall, the measured impact was larger than one might have expected since only about a third of families qualified for support at any one time and many of the supplements would have been quite small.

Forget additionally concluded that “these results would seem to suggest that a Guaranteed Annual Income, implemented broadly in society, may improve health and social outcomes at the community level.” Although she qualifies her conclusions, as a good academic ought to, Forget’s results are significant.

Basic income saves us all money? 

The results of her study are especially significant given what we do know about our current social assistance programs–how they work, or don’t. Don Drummond, the former Chief Economist of TD Bank, has described Canada’s welfare system as

a box with a tight lid. Those in need must essentially first become destitute before they qualify for temporary assistance. But the record shows once you become destitute you tend to stay in that state. You have no means to absorb setbacks in income or unexpected costs. You can’t afford to move to where jobs might be or upgrade your skills.

Drummond’s comments refer specifically to the consequences for individual recipients of social assistance, which I do not want to trivialize. I have never tried to survive on social assistance. The daily grinding poverty that Linda Tirado describes is foreign to me.

Implicit in Drummond’s comments is the point I’ve already made here, and elsewhere: poverty is expensive, and so are our social assistance programs. We all must pay, every time those programs fail to provide real opportunities to the people they purportedly serve.

Canadian seniors have a guaranteed income

So we had the Dauphin “experiment,” which was a relatively small and successful demonstration of the positive effects of a basic income. We should not forget that our Federal Government every day administers another kind of guaranteed income scheme, which most every Canadian who turns 65 benefits from: Old Age Security (OAS). According to Statistics Canada, “your employment history is not a factor in determining eligibility: you can receive the OAS pension even if you have never worked or are still working.” If you are quite rich, you do not get OAS. If you have no other income, you receive a top-up, called the Guaranteed Income Supplement.

So here is more good evidence that guaranteed incomes make people healthier. In her research about food security, the Nutritional Sciences professor Valerie Tarasuk highlights an important connection between a guaranteed income and food security. Her point is simple: Canadians over 65 are the only group in this country to have a guaranteed annual income indexed to inflation, and a basic ‘suite’ of in-kind benefits, like drug coverage, transit subsidies, and various kinds of ‘senior days’ at private businesses. With that in mind, consider the following graph, from Tarasuk:

 

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Of all the groups of Canadians receiving financial assistance from the Canadian government, seniors (65 years and older) are the most food secure. They are the only group whose income, meagre as it may be, rises with inflation; and they have the most comprehensive benefits package. (And still there are over 600,000 Canadians 65 or older living in poverty.)

Guaranteed incomes promote health and ensure wealth

In their paper “How a Guaranteed Annual Income Could Put Food Banks out of Business,” researchers from the University of Calgary enlarge upon this point. They start with the remarkable fact that “Canada can boast of having one of the lowest rates for poverty among seniors in the world, largely due to its guaranteed income programs for those 65 years and older.” What’s more, “when low-income Canadians turn 65 years old and leave behind low-paying, often unstable jobs, their poverty levels drop substantially.” They explain how seniors enjoy a unique protection from budget shocks, and how this “disaster insurance” translates into better health: “Self-reported rates of physical and mental health improve markedly as well after low-income Canadians move from low-wage, insecure employment to a guaranteed income at the age of 65.” So while it is true that Canadians in general are among some of the most well-off in the world, it is also true that many Canadians get healthier and wealthier when they turn 65. In other words, we can still do better, and especially for non-seniors living on a low income.

The Calgary researchers’s solution is also fairly simple, and probably not surprising: expand the basic income program that already positively serves so many Canadians, to the rest.

We cannot end poverty, we are told, for so many reasons. It’s complicated, it’s inevitable, it’s not our problem. And yet, a basic income scheme could address the root cause of poverty–not enough money–and free up funds to address what remains.

“Faaantastic!”

What Chickens And Bowling Balls Can Teach You About Food Drives

June 4, 2015

So you want to support your local food bank?

Great! We need your help. But first, a story.

Saturday Night Special

My grandfather was a preacher, usually at small rural churches in South Western Ontario. His “salary” was unpredictable, paid out of every fourth week’s offering–more like a stand-up comic’s than the wise and venerable shepherd of his flock. My grandparents were poor, and in obvious ways dependent on their congregation.

One Saturday night, as my grandma was finishing bathing her five children, a congregant arrived bearing gifts. More specifically, five old laying hens, no longer producing eggs but still, this congregant assured my grandmother, “good eating.” The hens were alive, and so my grandma had to kill them, unburden them of head and feathers, clean them, and bag them for the freezer.

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Gardens Grow Volunteer Engagement

April 24, 2015

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This is the last post in a our week long series on the many gardens that have sprouted up around House of Friendship.  Aside from plants, there is a common thread that connects all of our different green endeavours together, and that is volunteers!

What better way to celebrate and recognize that amazing contribution than by sharing the words of Marlene, an all around incredible volunteer who was a dynamic presence at Supportive Housing last summer and fall.

She spent quite a bit of time working with tenants in the garden beds and kitchen, and shares some of her thoughts about what being a volunteer was like for her:

“Digging in the dirt, planting seeds, and watching things grow is every gardener’s delight. Last year, while digging in the dirt with House of Friendship residents, I had the opportunity re-visit the awe and wonder that comes along with seeing those little seeds sprout. We shared many laughs and chats while nurturing seedlings, creating new gardens and caring for mature plants.” (more…)

Gardens Grow Inclusion and Community Connections

April 23, 2015

 

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Rewarding community connections are often growing side by side with tomatoes in the gardens at our supportive housing programs. “It’s nice to be in the garden with your friends, planting in the sun and talking to your seedlings.” A resident recently shared with us. Indeed, a lot is possible with a strong community, a generous spirit and some ingenuity. (more…)

Gardens Grow Green Communities

April 22, 2015

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It has been our experience that a garden always gives back more than it receives. At House of Friendship this becomes clearer each spring as different communities and people connected to us start coming together to plan, to plant, to work and to celebrate. So many things come sprouting up from the gardens beside the vegetables: friendships, inclusion, new skills, laughter, stronger neighbourhood connections, healthier minds and bodies.

Giving Back on Earth Day

Today is Earth Day, celebrated around the world as a time to give back to the natural world around us and to promote greater environmental protection. It is one small way to give back to the world around us and to start up conversations about how we can continue to work towards greater stewardship of the environment- not just on Earth Day, but all year long. (more…)

Who Represents Hunger, Part 2

March 26, 2015
Demand for help is all over the Map and the House of Friendship Food Hamper Program

Heat map of household demand for food from the House of Friendship Emergency Food Hamper Program.

 

Hunger is all over the map.

In every city in Canada, people talk about some neighbourhoods as ‘better off’ than others. Though it can be tricky to specify what exactly ‘better off’ means (higher incomes? more walkable? lower property taxes?), we do seem to share some unconscious understandings about ‘better’ and ‘worse’ off neighbourhoods. However, these unconscious understandings do not often reflect reality. For example, when we mapped the addresses of all the families using our service in 2014 a striking point became clear: hunger is everywhere.

In every urban area in Canada some areas are ‘better off’ than others.  When we look closer at our records, certain neighbourhoods stand out very clearly, but as you can see, every part of Kitchener and Waterloo had someone who received service from us, at least once.  The darker, and redder the colour on the map, the more people that lived in that area needed to turn to us.  In my previous post, I discussed what people have shared about themselves with us, here at the Food Hamper Program.

(more…)

Putting our values to work, pt. 2: Greg deGroot-Maggetti on living wages

January 21, 2015

“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

This Monday I shared the first half of my conversation about living wages with Greg deGroot-Maggetti. (Read it! First!) In that conversation Greg discussed the difference between a minimum and a living wage–the latter starts by asking what it actually costs to live in a community–and the ethical and financial reasons we should commit to a living wage. Today I’m sharing the second half of our conversation. In what follows Greg discusses living wages as a way to restore good jobs, support healthy local economies, and even save us all money in the long term. But first, he faces my HARD QUESTIONS.

[JB] Doesn’t living wage place an unfair burden on employers? Why should employers bear the duty of providing her workers with enough to lead a dignified life? Shouldn’t we all, as a community or province or country share this duty?

[GdM] Well, my most basic response might be that that’s the ethical foundation of a working relationship: a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. (more…)

In The Middle of Things: Reflections on Becoming a Social Worker

January 5, 2015

Today, I am pleased to share a guest blog from Michael Hackbusch, and two of the BSW students we have on placement at the Food Hamper Program, the Sunnydale Community Centre and the Courtland Shelley community Centre.

House of Friendship believes strongly in housing as a right

My name is Michael Hackbusch, and at House of Friendship (HOF) I have the task (privilege, really), of providing practicum supervision to burgeoning social work students. These students are in the Bachelor and Master of Social Work programs and come mostly from Renison University College at the University of Waterloo but also Wilfrid Laurier University, the University of Windsor and, this year, Carleton University.

We appreciate the partnership with the students on placement at HOF for causing us to reflect on our own practices, and to make explicit those things we assume are known. Further, by this act of mindfulness, we individually pay attention to our own reasons for serving through House of Friendship, how our service is needed, and why. They also give us cause to reflect on conversations we might have with our neighbours about systemic problems, which are often the reason for House of Friendship programs.

To that end, I posed a number of questions to two of our current practicum students, Lindsay and Dannika. Their answers reflect the students’ understanding of social work before and during their placement; how they have been challenged by both the program but also the people served; how they find a balance between classroom and practicum; and what advice they would offer to anyone considering a career in social work. Finally, I asked them what they know now, that they wish they had known months ago? (more…)

807 Recipes From Our Community

December 5, 2014

Emergency Food Hamper Program House of Friendship via Wordle

Today I am happy to share a collaborative project that the staff and volunteers of the Emergency Food Hamper Program put together to celebrate their work and their common interest in food.

It is a short cookbook of favourite recipes, and recipes from some of our friends.

We hope you enjoy it!

In the comments feel free to share some of your favourite recipes!  We are always looking for a new way to incorporate a new ingredient into our weekly menus at home or try something completely new!

To download the .pdf copy of the book, click on this link here: 807 Recipes from Community