HPAP Shares Concern Over Potential Bed Loss With George Street Revitalization

Seaton House on George Street is the City of Toronto’s largest men’s shelter. In 2013, over 3,000 men used one of the 540 beds there. The George Street Revitalization Project proposes to turn Seaton House into a long-term care home, emergency shelter, assisted living residence and service hub. While these services are important, Health Providers Against Poverty shares other community organizations’ concerns around potential loss of shelter beds and the Annex Harm Reduction Program. The loss of this managed alcohol program will force men who are alcohol dependent to sleep on the streets. In August 2015 the shelter system occupancy was at 93%, despite promises made by the City last year to not surpass 90% occupancy. We cannot afford the loss of any more shelter beds, until people who are homeless in Toronto have access to alternative, safer long term housing.

For more information, please see the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty statement.

Reducing Poverty with a Basic Income Guarantee (BIG)

Aug 28, 2015

Poverty is a leading cause of poor health in Ontario. People living with low income are more likely to suffer from a number of diseases and die earlier than people with higher income. Low social assistance rates, high levels of precarious employment, and declining social security nets have put a large percentage of our population at risk. In order to improve the health of people living in Ontario, we need to increase the incomes of those at the lower end of the income spectrum.

The idea of A Basic Income Guarantee is gaining momentum as a simple and streamlined approach to poverty reduction. Basic Income pilots have been tested internationally and in Canada with positive results. One example is the MINCOME project in Dauphin, Manitoba between 1974-1979, which found that a guaranteed annual income was associated with an 8.5% reduction  in hospitalization rates and higher levels of high school completion.

Earlier this month, 194 physicians in Ontario sent a letter to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, Honourable Dr. Eric Hoskins, calling for a basic income guarantee pilot program. Members of HPAP were signatories to this letter.

On Aug 25, the Canadian Medical Association passed a motion in support of basic income at their annual General Council meeting in Halifax.

On Sept 30, HPAP member Dr. Andrew Pinto and former Canadian senator Hugh Segal will discuss basic income in a webinar hosted by Community Food Centres Canada.

Check out these editorials for more on the BIG movement in Canada:

Reducing Poverty, Improving Health. By Andrew Pinto. Community Food Centres Canada. 25 Aug 2015.

Basic Income: Just What The Doctor Ordered. By Danielle Martin and Ryan Meili. The Toronto Star. 26 Aug 2015.

If you are interested in learning more or joining the movement for a Basic Income Guarantee, check out the Basic Income Canada Network.

HPAP Joins Changing Workplaces Review Consultation

The government is reviewing Ontario’s labour laws for the first time in over a decade.

The Changing Workplaces Review involves public consultations on how the Labour Relations Act, 1995 and Employment Standards Act, 2000 could be amended to best protect workers.

report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives demonstrates that there is a growing reliance on low wage, precarious employment in Ontario. The report suggests that the province should raise the minimum wage, require employers to schedule more predictable work hours, set a higher standard for paid leave, and make it easier for low wage workers to unionize.

Health Providers Against Poverty members will be joining the Worker’s Action Centre and other allies at these consultations in cities across the province.

Read the Workers’ Action Centre report, Still Working on the Edge: Building Decent Jobs from the Ground Up, for an analysis of the current issues with the ESA and a full set of recommendations for change.

Andrew Pinto Changing Workplaces Review June 24 2015

Dr. Andrew Pinto, Family Physician and Public Health Researcher, speaking on behalf of HPAP at the Changing Workplaces Review consultation in Mississauga in June.

Press Release: Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy

June 23, 2015

Health Providers Concerned That Toronto’s Twenty-Year Poverty Reduction Strategy Fails To Help Those In Immediate Need

TORONTO – Health Providers Against Poverty (HPAP) applauds the City of Toronto’s release of an Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy, however we remain apprehensive that this report will lead to real, measurable changes for our patients. While the Strategy identifies several immediate needs, it outlines a vague twenty-year vision. As front-line providers, we see daily the detrimental impact that poverty and income inequality has on our patients’ health and we strongly encourage the addition of bold timelines with measurable targets to the final Strategy.

We commend Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell for prioritizing inequality as one of the biggest threats to Torontonians. We concur with her statement that “systemic change will require embedding poverty reduction into the (entire) culture of the city’s DNA.” The 48-page Strategy, built with input from those impacted by poverty, identifies important values and directions. The report calls for an “inclusive strategy” and acknowledges that “policy choices have made Toronto the most unequal city in Canada”.

The Report cites Toronto’s 2014 success in the construction of 140 affordable rental-housing units, with 655 affordable homes built to date. But, as the report admits, 90,000 households are on the social housing waitlist and over 16,000 people used shelters last year. While Toronto was indeed a pioneer in adopting Housing First, to date only a few hundred individuals have received housing through this project. HPAP encourages the City to provide immediate concrete financial support to those who need affordable housing.

“I have encountered several individuals, this month alone, who are having to choose between buying food, paying for medications, and accessing other basic needs, because they are having to spend the majority of their income on substandard housing,” said Katie Dorman, a physician in Toronto. “Their health is deteriorating while they languish on a ten-year waiting list for subsidized housing in a city as prosperous as Toronto.”

The current degree of income inequality in Toronto represents a crisis that is harming the wellbeing of many members of our communities. HPAP supports the vision set forth in the Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy, but calls for inclusion of the following in the Final Strategy:

1. Timelines for each priority set out in the report with specific implementation plans and measurable targets for immediate, short- and long-term goals.

2. A cost analysis for each priority and a plan to ensure ongoing funding.

3. A review process to ensure progress monitoring and accountability where targets are not met.

Last night, the Councillors of the City of Toronto and East York proved that in a 3-hour session they could change the face of their part of the city by limiting residential street speed limits. It was incredible to see the city band together to tackle this safety issue. We aspire to all city councillors replicating that fervor and execution on the Poverty Reduction Strategy.