April 8, 2014 Facebook Twitter Linkedin

April 8, 2014

London, ON - A new collaborative initiative, the London Poverty Research Centre, has opened as a virtual hub to deal with local level poverty in London, Ontario.

Partners in this new initiative are the Sisters of St. Joseph, the London Food Bank, volunteer members of the Centre’s Task Force along with funders and partners including the London Community Foundation and King’s University College. King’s faculty and students will be major academic partners providing research and data from the School of Social Work (undergraduate and graduate programs), Economics, Social Justice & Peace Studies, Religious Studies and Sociology.  

On December 2nd, 2013, the London Community Foundation announced funding in the amount of $250,355 to support the creation of The Poverty Research Centre. The Centre is a joint venture of the Sisters of St. Joseph and the London Food Bank and is guided by a volunteer Task Force. Its bold vision is to see an end to poverty in London. 

“Poverty is human made. If it is done, it can be undone,” says Sister Sue Wilson of the Sisters of St. Joseph. "Of course, the Centre cannot achieve this vision on its own. However, we believe the centre can play a key role by providing all Londoners with an accessible pool of relevant research, analysis and promising practices that can create real change in our city." 

"It will take all of us to make a collective impact on the issues associated with poverty in London," says Jane Roy, Co-Executive Director of the London Food Bank. 

Also attending the launch were faculty, students and staff from King’s.  Dr. Sauro Camiletti, Academic Dean, says the creation of the Centre aligns perfectly with King’s vision which includes improving the vitality of London.  “Our mission compels us to foster an environment based on open inquiry, Christian values and service to the larger community,” says Dr. Camiletti.

As well, secondary school students from John Paul II Social Justice Club were on hand. Food Bank Co-Executive Director, Glen Pearson pledged to them that poverty would not flow through to their generation. “We need to combine all our efforts,” Pearson urged the assembly. 

 

Poverty Research Centre Media Backgrounder

Given the complexity of the issues associated with poverty the Centre will focus its research, knowledge management and communications efforts on three areas:  precarious employment, food security and mental health and homelessness.

“If we are successful, our three target audiences will have a different and more sophisticated language to use in public debates about poverty. Citizens will be more articulate in voicing their concerns to elected officials; agencies will have deeper data sets in assessing program priorities and funders will be better able to set priorities to assign scarce resources” said Ross Fair, a volunteer member of the Centre’s Task Force.

Michelle Hurtubise and Sean Quigley are both Executive Directors of influential London community agencies and are also volunteers on the Centre’s Task Force. They state: “We believe the Centre can be a game changer for London. The approach is unique, the Sisters and the Food Bank have tremendous credibility and so will be heard by the community. Finally, this will not be a short term effort as we have a sustainability plan that takes us out to 2022.”

Task Force members are in discussions with King’s University College that could lead to a strategic partnership that would accelerate the development of the Centre and increase its impact on changing the conversation about poverty in London.

“We have been committed to helping improve the vitality of London through research on poverty and related areas for decades,” says King’s Principal, Dr. David Sylvester. Dr. Sylvester is also a member of the Centre’s Task Force. “The research at King’s is a perfect fit to further the goals of the Poverty Research Centre. Our faculty and students are engaged in research – especially in the areas of Social Work, Social Justice & Peace Studies, Economics and Sociology which we look forward to sharing with the wider community through this Centre,” says Dr. Sylvester.

The Joint Venturers are pleased to have been funded by the London Community Foundation and are also contributing financial and in-kind resources to the Centre.

A website has been established for the London Poverty Research Centre at www.povertyresearch.ca. It is anticipated the website will go live by the fall of 2014.


MORE ABOUT THE THREE FOCUS AREAS:

PRECARIOUS WORK:

The concept of non-standard work is not new. For many, taking a part-time job or contracted employment is a choice. In 2002 42% of men and 25% of women worked part-time while attending school, while another 15% of women and 1% of men cited child care responsibilities as a reason for non-full time employment.

Over the past twenty years London and southwestern Ontario has seen a massive shift in labour market conditions: decline of manufacturing and accompanying loss of good paying full-time jobs, offset to some degree by creation of part-time and time limited work.

For the Poverty Research Centre, serious questions arise for London:

  1. Is this the new reality or is it a temporary arrangement as the economy “recovers?”
  2. What are the community, social and family impacts of income-earning adults working multiple part-time jobs, with few benefits and little job security.
  3. If we, as a City, are committed to retaining our young people when much of what we have to offer in terms of work is precarious?
  4. What are the solutions?


FOOD SECURITY:

In the past several days, we have seen the price of beef and chicken skyrocket. The price of fresh vegetables is rising with the price of fuel. The price of energy, electricity, natural gas and propane are rising by up to 30% in 2014.

For the Poverty Research Centre, serious questions arise for London:

  1. How does a family living on precarious work income, EI or social assistance put wholesome food on the table in the face of these enormous cost pressures?
  2. What do these families do in the face of government retreat from the social policy space in the face of tax fatigue from citizens?
  3. Are we content, as citizens of London, to let our neighbours go hungry or have to rely on increasing numbers on the charity of others?
  4. What are the solutions?


MENTAL HEALTH AND HOMELESSNESS:

That great Canadian and Olympian, Clara Hughes, is currently on a bicycle ride across Canada with a goal to reducing stigma associated with mental illness and yet in 2012 the cost to the London Police Service to “triage” mentally ill citizens was $12M according to Chief Brad Duncan.

In 2010-11 the former London Community Services Department began working with officials at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre on a plan to ensure that all exiting inmates left to housing. During this work Ontario Works staff noted that half the inmates were “our people.”

During the same period, London’s emergency shelter service providers reported that up to 50% of their clients were presenting with both mental health and drug use issues.

Incarceration is the most expensive “housing” program. Many inmates are there because of crimes associated with living in poverty: thefts for money; violence emanating from the mental stress of hopelessness.

For the Poverty Research Centre, serious questions arise for London:

  1. Are we content with these current patterns of dealing with our mentally ill fellow citizens?
  2. Many promising solutions have been identified, including investments in supportive and social housing but why is taking so long?
  3. Why can’t more marginally housed and homeless citizens not get access to a mental health diagnosis and treatment?
  4. What more needs to be done?


Media Contacts:

Poverty Research Centre Task Force
Ross Fair
rfair9@rogers.com      
Cell: 519-495-9614                                                                                 

King’s University College
Jane Antoniak
jane.antoniak@kings.uwo.ca
ph: 519-433-3491 x4384
Cell: 519-719-9366