Recession sends Ontarians to food banks in record numbers: report

December 1, 2009

By Mark Brownlee


Oasis of food. Photo: Britt Harvey

The economic downturn has forced Ontario residents to use food banks more than ever before.

According to a report issued Tuesday by the Ontario Association of Food Banks, over 375,000 Ontarians use food banks each month, a 19 per cent rise since the fall of 2008.

Ottawa posted one of the largest provincial increases in food bank use, jumping two per cent in 2008 and about ten per cent in 2009.

“There is little doubt that it has been our most difficult year in a generation,” wrote Adam Spence, the report’s author and the association’s executive director.

The report comes just one day after Statistics Canada reported that the Canadian economy posted a 0.1 per cent gain in the third quarter of this year, which technically means the recession is over.

But the food bank report says that Ontario residents are still feeling the effects of the recession. Only one-third of people using food banks in the province are either currently employed in full- or part-time jobs or were employed in the last six months.

“The shocking numbers offer a front line reality that is a counterpoint to the green shoots and leading economic indicators that point to a ‘technical’ end to the recession,” wrote Spence.


Pilot project highlights homelessness, more needed

November 24, 2009

By Chris Ferguson

A couple supported by the Ottawa mission in the ByWard Market. Photo provided courtesy of the Ottawa Mission.

Advocates for Ottawa’s homeless hope a new nationwide research project will help people get off the city’s streets.

The $110 million pilot project, led by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, will study the relationship between mental illness and homelessness.

“We’re hopeful that their research will demonstrate what those of us who work in the field already know,” said Marion Wright, chair of Ottawa’s local Alliance to End Homelessness.

The project will provide 1,325 homeless Canadians with supportive housing to determine how best to help people who are homeless and suffering from mental illness. The participants will live on their own but receive regular visits from counsellors and maintain contact with support services.

The cities of Moncton, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver will take part, and the project will run until 2013.

Wright said although the study doesn’t include Ottawa, the need for supportive housing is dire in the city. She says Ottawa’s waiting list for this type of housing has 2,600 names on it, but there are currently only 915 spaces. The pilot project is a great thing, she said, but it just scratches the surface of the need. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Hartwells Body Smart on Winter Running

November 24, 2009

Chris Ferguson and Britt Harvey ask Running Room’s Jeff Dodds about
running in the winter

Sexual assault defence class not a knock-out punch: Carleton student groups

November 24, 2009

By Meghan Potkins

Posters like this one are in Carleton University bathrooms. They advertise classes that teach women to defend against attacks. Photo: Paul Moore

Aim for the eyes, throat, nose or groin. Const. Alicia Poole with Carleton’s department of university safety demonstrates how to throw a punch.

“You’ve got to keep your arm straight out. Punch straight through and make sure everything stays solid because you don’t want your wrist to be floppy… keep your thumb out [of your fist]. You don’t want to break your thumb.”

Poole spent Saturday demonstrating physical defense techniques to female staff, students and members of the public as part of the Rape Aggression Defense Systems program on the Carleton University campus. The program uses a combination of classroom instruction and simulations of real-life attacks.

Known by practitioners as RAD, the workshops saw a record number of participants this fall. The Carleton University has hosted two workshops so far this year and is planning three more.

But the program has not been well received by everyone in the university community. Some student groups are calling on the university to do more than train students in self-defense. Read the rest of this entry »

Joania Burnett: blogging for weight loss

November 24, 2009

By Britt Harvey

Joania Burnett before beginning her weight loss program. Photo: Joania Burnett

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – except for your waistline.

As the holiday season approaches it can be difficult to keep fit, what with the seemingly endless array of parties, cheese balls, chocolate fondues, and hot toddies that tempt us to forgo our regular eating habits with hedonistic abandon.

But, it’s not impossible. Just ask Joania Burnett.

Last December, the 35-year-old Ottawa mother set a personal goal to lose 101 pounds by Dec. 10, 2009.
Read the rest of this entry »

Women’s rooming house in repair after blaze

November 17, 2009

By Adam Hooper

A fire ravaged this women's rooming house on Nepean Street. Photo: Adam Hooper

Construction workers were busily repairing a women’s rooming house on

Nepean Street Tuesday morning. A fire gutted the building Saturday night, which police deemed “suspicious.”

Police spokesperson, Const. Jean Paul Vincelette, dismissed rumours that the fire was started by a Molotov cocktail, a type of homemade bomb. “It doesn’t appear like anything was thrown in the window,” he said.

No one was hurt, but the blaze caused an estimated $100,000 in damage.

Some women in the community expressed concern that this disaster came only a week after a fire killed 61-year-old Judith Werner at
a women’s shelter on MacLaren Street, Vincelette is confident
“these fires have no link.” The MacLaren Street fire is not being investigated as suspicious.

Lula Adam, the executive director of Interval House Ottawa, which shelters abused women and children, sees a silver lining: these recent fires encourage staff and residents to pay more attention to fire drills and emergency exits.

“We keep emphasizing the importance of how to get out,” she said.
“This brings (the issue) to the foreground.”

For additional photos of the damage, click here.