The Ontario Liberal government’s ended the Community Start Up and Maintenance Budget (CSUMB) as of Jan. 1, 2013. A portion of the money previously going towards CSUMB was put into municipally run programs, including a one time payment of $42 million, spread across the province to help during the ‘transition year’. The Sudbury Coalition Against Povery is fighting as strongly as we can to get the replacement program, known as the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative or CHPI (pronounced “chippy”), to fund the same things and at the same levels as the CSUMB did. We had some issues with information between Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and Ontario Works (OW) being mishandled.
In early May we had someone in need of the exceptional circumstances clause. That clause, under CSUMB, allowed a person to apply for funding a second $799 in a 24 month period. The city didn’t want to have an exceptional circumstances clause for CHPI but after meeting with the coalition they decided a person’s second request would receive only $200 ($300 for families, down from the $1500 that families used to get). They said they would not discuss the issue further with us until a consultation with the social agencies was held.
We took the issue to city council, getting two councilors to support putting a motion forward to put exceptional circumstances funding back to what it was under CSUMB as a temporary motion until the results of the consultation. We requested local people phone in and had great luck with that. The city administration changed put the exceptional circumstances funding up three days before the motion was going to be voted on. We held a “pizza and politics” event in the park offering free pizza and the chance for people to speak out against the cuts. The event was attended by about two hundred people, many of whom had personal stories to share.
Then on June 17th came the community consultation. S-CAP members stood outside the door with signs while people walked in, and then did a short presentation before walking out. The discussion session with social agencies is supposed to be followed up by a survey-monkey survey, for participants to rank their priorities. The administration will present a number of options to city council, supposedly based on the results of the survey, but during the meeting one city official said they should expect cuts to exceptional circumstance funding, and attendants were told there wouldn’t be time for them to see the results of the survey before the options are submitted to the city. The process definately sounds like it is lacking in transparency.
June 18th was the community input session for the municipal budget for 2014 and two of us from S-CAP presented asking that the city increase funding for CHPI next year. The transition money will be gone by next year. I groan at the thought of having to go through this whole struggle next year. Last year we fought for CSUMB to be saved. This year we fought for the exceptional circumstances clause to be a part of CHPI. What will next year’s struggle look like?
It angers me to no end that this money is being saved by cutting funding to people who receive just over $500 a month to live on. The city goes over budget on snow removal, and that’s considered fine, but go over budget on helping women set up their homes after escaping domestic violence? On helping pay first and last months rent for homeless people to find homes? Buying furniture for someone who has none? That money has to be carefully rationed so it doesn’t go over budget.
One of the main lessons coming out of this is the dangers of downloading responsibilities to municipalities. Municipalities have less ability to raise funds. We know the 87% of the provinces deficit is due to corporate tax cuts, so there’s room there that if they had the political will they could have put a small part of that towards properly funding the CSUMB. The city doesn’t have as much flexibility in funding sources.
The second main lesson is that bad policies have to be fought city by city. We’re putting incredible effort into this and yet even if we win, it doesn’t help the people in the next cities over, at least not directly. Hopefully we can help indirectly.