Photo by: Charlie Martin
The Niagara Region is currently developing a plan to aid over 66,000 residents living in poverty, with actionable recommendations to be proposed by the end of the year.
The Niagara Region hopes to lower and eventually eliminate poverty numbers, including those of low-wage employment and those of individuals that are reliant on fixed incomes.
The last 18 months of inflation have left many Niagara residents without resources, choices or the power to have a basic living standard.
According to Marc Todd, social assistance and employment opportunities manager, 14.5 per cent of Niagara’s population has an income below the poverty line of $22,170 a year for a single person and $44,340 a year for a family of four.
With the rise of inflation, such matters have only worsened, with food costs increasing by 9.9 per cent, the cost of housing by 7.1 per cent, and transportation by nine per cent.
Todd has also noted that over a third of those living in poverty either work low-income jobs or are seniors reliant on pension incomes.
“Just over 15,000 individuals are receiving Ontario Works and over 22,000 receiving Ontario Disciplinary Support Program,” said Todd.
Although the monthly rate for Ontario Works has remained the same since 2018, those living on ODSP have recently received a five per cent increase. Despite the increase, those reliant on ODSP are not doing much better, with incomes still significantly below the poverty line.
“When we think about homelessness, poor health, increased ER visits, increased crime, gender-based violence, addictions, mental health—all these social ills are linked to poverty and the effects of poverty,” said Todd.
In light of these potential outcomes and more, the region is in the process of developing a plan by reviewing poverty reduction strategies across Ontario, looking at provincial and federal plans, surveying more than 900 individuals with experiences related to poverty, as well as working with 43 focus groups and organizations, such as Niagara Poverty Reduction Network.
Niagara Poverty Reduction Network is committed to creating a poverty-free Niagara by working with residents, businesses and organizations to improve the quality of life for all residents.
In addition to the current plan under development, Niagara will also be analyzing data in order to create actionable recommendations to aid individuals living in poverty, such as expanding subsidized transit for those in poverty and more.
“What we heard is ‘poverty is complex.’ Income is the primary driver and there is significant stigma and a lack of understanding about poverty and there’s a need for governments to act,” said social assistance and employment opportunities director Lori Watson.
A poverty reduction strategy for the region is expected to be finalized by the end of 2023.
For more information on how you can get involved in stopping and preventing poverty in Niagara, be sure to visit Niagara Poverty Reduction Network’s official website.