As Toronto’s homeless population swells, other jurisdictions are pioneering solutions.

In Wales, a “duty to assist” law passed in 2015 requires local governments to provide rental debt relief and access to housing for everyone who seeks assistance.

Peter Mackie, a leading expert in the field of housing and homelessness at Cardiff University, says that the law “has massively reduced” the numbers of people in temporary accommodation and living on the streets. According to his research, some 67 per cent of individuals at risk of going homeless have been helped by the law. Another 47 per cent of individuals on the street have been able to find accommodation.

When, in November of 2018, Ford’s then social services minister. Lisa MacLeod, announced the findings of a hundred day review of the province’s system of social assistance, she set out a broad outline for her government’s plans to remodel things. As I wrote at the time, the Tories were focused on two main objectives. They wanted to drastically limit access to disability benefits and, secondly, to craft a system of income support that would serve as a far more effective means of driving people into the worst and most exploitative jobs on offer. In the latter area, McLeod’s review pointed to the setting up of “locally responsive outcome driven service delivery models.” This is, of course, exactly what their new initiative is designed to achieve. People on social assistance are to be handed over to those who have a financial interest in using a lot more stick than carrot to get them into the low wage, precarious and highly exploited workforce.

The idea of a welfare system in Ontario run by multinational, for-profit corporations strikes Dr. Gary Bloch as a bit odd.

“Where I get worried about it, is thinking around, really, what are the goals? What are the incentive structures put in place and who will be administering this?” asked the researcher and family physician with St. Michael’s Hospital’s City Health Associates. “We know there will be private companies bidding to help administer this system. That, to me, is extremely concerning.”

Last month, the Ontario government quietly launched a three-year pilot program in for-profit welfare, in particular how employment and training supports are delivered in Hamilton-Niagara, Peel and Muskoka-Kawartha.

Local groups believe tiny homes may be part of the solution to housing struggles in Thunder Bay. Two non-profit organizations are pursuing funding for a pilot project to examine whether the small units are an effective way to provide lodging to those with low income or at risk of homelessness.

The Lakehead Social Planning Council (LSPC) and Habitat for Humanity plan to apply for provincial funding for the project through the Trillium Foundation. Bonnie Krysowaty, a researcher at the LSPC, says the funding would support a feasibility study to determine costs and identify barriers such as city zoning by-laws that may need to be addressed.

The concept is still new, but Krysowaty points to initiatives in other Canadian cities, such as Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, and Sherbrooke, Quebec.

The P.E.I. Legislature’s special committee on poverty heard testimony Wednesday on whether it is feasible to create a basic income guarantee for Prince Edward Islanders.

The idea behind a basic income guarantee is to make sure everyone has enough money to live on. Rather than calculating assistance based on ability to work or find a job, people would be guaranteed a certain income under any circumstances.

The committee is working on how the province could afford such a system.

Despite a rise in median household income, more and more people are relying on food banks in major Canadian cities, including Ottawa.

“Food insecurity is an indicator of poverty,” said Kitchissippi Counc. Jeff Leiper. “Ottawa is doing very well, but there’s a part of the population that’s being left behind.”

In Leiper’s ward, the Parkdale Food Centre is experiencing a steady increase in people coming to pick up food.

Karen Secord, the center’s director, said economic inequality is the reason so many people are food insecure.

“When people say there’s low unemployment, what the government isn’t telling you about many of those jobs that are being created is that they are part-time and they are low-wage jobs,” she said.

Cynthia Breadner knows how hard it can be to find affordable housing.

The Bradford resident was a single mother to two young children, who are now in their 30s, and saw firsthand the struggle for housing.

“I saw what it was like to try to manage as a single mother on a limited income,” she said.

Breadner, 60, said she looks around and sees seniors and single mothers who are going to be in trouble due to limited affordable housing.