The number of Londoners on social assistance dipped slightly last year to the lowest level in the last five years. But people are staying on welfare longer than ever. A look into the numbers:

Last year there was an average of 11,418 people on social assistance, called Ontario Works, which is down 2.4 per cent from 2018. It’s also the lowest average London has seen since 2015. But overall that number has been pretty stable, hovering between 11,000 and 12,000. And people are staying on assistance longer than ever, an average of 3.13 years in 2019. That’s up from about three years in 2018, and 2.88 years, on average, in 2017.

“We see what we called the ‘revolving door’ from Ontario Works into employment and back because of the part-time and unstable hours in the work,” Michael Courey, director of the London Poverty Research Centre, said. “That can play a large role in some of these numbers.”

A newly-released report says it’s believed “the worst is yet to come” as Ontario’s food banks recorded seeing an overall 26.5 per cent increase in first-time users within the first four months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The same report found nearly half of food bank visitors said they’re worried about getting evicted or defaulting on mortgage payments in the coming months, while more than 93 per cent reported borrowing money, accessing a payday loan or using credit to help pay for monthly necessities.

A new temporary quarantine shelter for homeless people who are vulnerable to COVID-19 and those who may contract the virus is being opened in the city on Monday.

Preparations are underway at Lucy Marco Place on Queen Street for a shelter that can house up to 60 people.

Space in the building, normally used as a student residence, is vacant due to the pandemic.

A group of men experiencing homelessness in Brampton say they’re being evicted from their shelter and will have no place to go as of Monday as cases of COVID-19 spike in Peel Region.

Edward Grdic, 55, has been living at the Park Inn by Radisson since May of this year, but he will soon be out on the street after receiving an eviction letter earlier this month.

He and several others have been living at the hotel due to the shelter system in Brampton being full. The city has been using hotels across the city to accommodate and allow for proper social distancing.

On Nov. 3, he and a select few received a discharge letter stating they would have to leave by Nov. 30.

“Living in the rough” as it’s called, has been the harsh reality for hundreds of people living in tents and informal settlements scattered across the city. What was once hidden, out of sight and out of mind has been brought to light through this COVID pandemic and is causing a lot of deep emotions from previously unattuned residents in Hamilton. For some, when faced with the growing poverty in plain sight, there is a sense of displaced anger at those experiencing poverty and not at the actual injustice of the deep suffering caused by poverty itself.

Perhaps it’s simply just deep seated guilt? For most of us lucky enough to have housing, we are granted the basic dignity of a warm bed and safe place to sleep. But far too many people in our city — and their numbers are growing — will not have same basic dignity of safe and stable housing granted to them at all this winter.

While Toronto has been identified as a COVID hot spot, the reality is that low-income neighbourhoods make up the majority of outbreaks. Toronto publishes data on the concentration of infections in the city, and areas such as Glenfield-Jane Heights tend to represent a significant percentage of case numbers on a consistent basis. In Rosedale, outbreaks are not a common occurrence. A curtain has been lifted on the pre-existing inequalities associated with well-being and illness.

Danielle Froh knows the feeling of being unable to afford food.

While attending nursing school in Halifax, Froh needed to use her local food bank.

“So I’ve been there, and I understand kind of the shame that lies around food insecurity, and also some of the accessibility issues with food. So it’s important to me to help out any way I can now,” said Froh.

Inspired by a community fridge project in Calgary that allowed people to drop off fresh food or take what they need, Froh decided to start one up in Regina