It’s been almost a decade since the Liberal government of Shawn Graham introduced New Brunswick’s poverty reduction plan titled “Overcoming Poverty Together” in Nov. 2009.

But when it comes to rural poverty, not much has changed, according to a former Canada research chair in rural social justice.

Susan Machum, the dean of social sciences at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, said the view on the ground is similar to the way it was before the strategy was introduced.

The three-year pilot project, which began last summer, is testing whether no-strings-attached cash support can boost health, education and housing for people living in poverty.

Margie Goold, who suffers debilitating arthritis, bought a new walker.

Lance Dingman, who lost his right leg to a chronic bone disease, is no longer running out of groceries by the middle of the month.

Wendy Moore, who has been homeless for almost two years, is looking for an apartment.

The three Hamilton residents are part of the first wave of participants in Ontario’’s experiment with basic income, a monthly, no-strings-attached payment of up to $1,400 for people living in poverty. Those with disabilities receive an additional $500 a month.

Around 10 pm last night, we secured a significant victory in the fight for shelters. Council voted 34-8 in favour of a motion to make the necessary funds to build 1,000 shelter beds available this year.

Mobilizations of homeless people and their allies, like the one we had yesterday, have forced the City and the Mayor to dramatically shift positions. In a span of a few months, they went from downplaying the seriousness of the crisis, to acknowledging there was one; from refusing to open necessary respite sites, to opening 8 this winter; from planning to shut down the respite sites in April to budgeting money to keep them open until the end of the year; and finally, from refusing to budget money for 1,000 beds this year to doing so last night. It’s a testament to the power of fighting back.

Mayor John Tory’s “just right” budget will guarantee continued misery for the homeless

Budget day rally and action at City Hall on Monday, February 12, starting at 9am, to demand that council approve 1500 new shelter beds, and add at-least 1000 this year, to alleviate the deadly crisis plaguing homeless people in Toronto.

Toronto: The preliminary budget championed by Mayor John Tory adds a maximum of 361 new shelter beds this year. That’s less than a quarter of the 1500 that are necessary to guarantee a bed for everyone in need. The 361 number also includes 81 transitional housing beds, which won’t be available on an emergency basis, reducing the tally of new shelter beds to 280. With the shelter system packed to capacity, over 700 people are currently forced to stay the back-up system of sub-standard respite centres.

The future of Toronto’s shelter system is set to be decided next week at a special budget meeting and CityNews has obtained exclusive footage from inside some of these shelters, which some say are often cold, overcrowded and unsanitary.

“You’re surrounded by a sea of people suffering, who are sick, some people sound like they are dying,” said Paul Salvatori, a photojournalist who provided CityNews with the exclusive video.

Solutions to Toronto’s housing crisis need to address and include the homeless and lower income population. For too long housing has been spoken about in terms of private developments and homebuyers rather than addressing the needs of individuals who are most affected by unaffordable housing. The city needs to invest in more shelters and subsidized government housing to create lasting solutions that make the city inclusive and diverse. Conversations about the housing crisis need to start addressing those whose lives are most affected and at risk by Toronto’s unaffordable housing.

The City of Toronto recently approved a motion to introduce 1,000 shelter beds over the next three years. An amendment was added by Coun. Kristen Wong-Tam to expedite the process if suitable shelter sites are identified sooner. This vote was bitter-sweet for many folks, as we finally had city councillors recognize what front line staff, advocates and service users have been voicing for several years: that we are in the midst of a critical shelter crisis.

Unfortunately, this motion and recognition does not go far enough to address the dire circumstances we are in both in the short-term and the long-term.