Recession sends Ontarians to food banks in record numbers: report

December 1, 2009

By Mark Brownlee

Food

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.

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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 »