ST. CATHARINES, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 16, 2012) - With an all-party commission set to report on social assistance reform, community activists hosted a Town Hall today on how the Liberal government is making poverty worse in Ontario, most recently with plans to cut Community Start Up funds that help people move into better housing.
Town Hall organizer Sarah Mann spoke from experience.
"I grew up in poverty, in a family that was on Ontario Works, right here in St. Catharines," said Mann, community activist, graduate student and member of CUPE 4207. "When I had stable housing, money for food and school supplies, I did better in school. Because of that support, I have more opportunities as an adult."
Children and families in Niagara need safe, stable housing if they are going to break the cycle of poverty, Mann said. CUPE Local 4207 co-sponsored the event with Start Me Up Niagara, Niagara North Community Legal Assistance and the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.
"The Liberal government is facing a groundswell of opposition to their plans to cut these benefits," said Carrie Lynn Poole-Cotnam, Chair of CUPE Ontario's Social Services Workers Coordinating Committee. "Apparently, the Liberals are considering a new, long-term plan for social assistance. But people living in poverty need higher rates and other support today, not years down the road."
There's a growing consensus amongst anti-poverty groups, social workers and labour unions from the public and private sectors that the Liberals need to stop making poverty worse in Ontario.
"Across Ontario, communities are acting to challenge the Liberals' plan to eliminate the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit," said John Clarke of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. "At stake is the only foothold available to tens of thousands each month in their struggle to avoid homelessness."
About 16,000 people access the benefit every month in Ontario. It is one of the only ways that people on Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program can cover the costs of moving or obtain the basic items they need to maintain a home. It is a defence against homelessness and gives many women the resources they need to be able to leave situations of domestic violence.
The Liberal government's 2012 budget brought a number of regressive cuts to social assistance, including the Community Start Up, slated for elimination in 2013. The Town Hall is part of a provincial movement to stop the cut.