Efforts underway to reduce poverty in Dufferin County

October 21, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By James Matthews

Service agencies and stakeholder groups have come together to work toward alleviating poverty in Dufferin County.

Anna McGregor, the county’s director of community services, condensed more than two years of work into a handful of presentation slides during council’s Oct. 10 meeting. Her presentation detailed work done by the Dufferin County Equity Collaborative (DCEC) to alleviate factors that contribute to poverty in the county.

DCEC members spoke to a number of service agencies and discussed poverty’s prevalence in Dufferin County and possible means of addressing it. That discussion at various summits with varied local level discussion groups illustrated that collaboration is key, she said.

And Dufferin County Equity Collaborative was borne through merging a number of entities that shared a common goal.

Simply put, no single agency can solve poverty, she said. And collaboration among service groups has brought a change of perspective on the issue.

“We changed the word Poverty to Equity,” said Ms. McGregor. “Changing to Equity recognizes that one size does not fit all. By changing to Equity, we were also able to bring more partners to the table because Equity is far more encompassing.”

In talking about poverty, people perceived the problem being solely about money.

Addressing poverty requires attention to three immediate community priorities: Housing and Homelessness; Employment; and Health Equity.

Ms. McGregor said 45 per cent of tenant households in Dufferin County spend more than 30 per cent of their income on shelter costs.

“We don’t have a position where the rental market is actually freeing up because people are moving from renting to buying (houses),” she said. “People can’t afford to buy.”

She said the goal for DCEC regarding housing and homelessness is to ensure community members have equitable opportunity to find and maintain housing and that homelessness will be prevented.

“It’s quite a lofty goal,” she said.

Employment provides income, a sense of identity, and gives structure to an individual’s day, she said. The employment issue is multi-faceted as it includes education and training, levels of income, and many job types.

“It’s difficult to participate in employment without adequate housing,” said Ms. McGregor.

Eleven per cent of 32,935 people in private households aged 25 to 64 lack a trade certificate, diploma, or degree. And, according to Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, six per cent of people 15 years old and older are unemployed.

In light of that, Ms. McGregor said, the DCEC is working to ensure equitable access to employment opportunities.

“We’ve connected with many people and started some wonderful conversations,” she said. “There’s a far better collective understanding on the employment piece. And we rejuvenated discussions around employment.”

Economic factors deeply impact people’s health and about 14 per cent of Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph households experience food insecurity.

“That’s quite high,” said Ms. McGregor.

Food and health care costs are very closely linked, she said.

“We have increased our community engagement,” she said. “A lot of people are doing a lot more talking and actually recognizing the links between health, poverty, housing, homelessness.”

County Warden Darren White said hardship has many forms.

“I … agree that poverty should be reframed as equity because it is different for everybody,” said Warden White, who is also Melancthon’s mayor. “What one person sees as poverty is just not what another sees it to be. And that’s certainly true.”

Coun. Bob Currie, Amaranth’s mayor, said many advertised jobs that offer minimum wage fall short of meeting today’s living requirements. And that exacerbates people’s difficulty in being able to get a mortgage.

Ms. McGregor said it’s well recognized that the minimum wage isn’t an adequate living wage.

“There’s no way those poor souls can ever generate enough money to put a downpayment together, let alone be able to afford a mortgage,” said Coun. Currie. “It’s an unfortunate situation.”

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