The Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty has sent out the following questions to the candidates for the 2014 election. We will post responses once as they come in and we encourage others to echo these concerns in discussion with local candidates.
1) At the end of 2012 the Liberal Government eliminated the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB), a mandatory benefit available for people on social assistance to access funds in order to pay for moving costs, furniture, and other things associated with maintaining a residence, or to escape violence and in emergency situations. As mayor or councilor will you call for the province to reinstate this vital provincial program? The replacement program is called the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative, (CHPI) a program that the municipalities are in charge of running with a more limited amount of money from the province. Some municipalities are defining the criteria of CHPI very narrowly, while others are topping up the amount of money available for CHPI so that they can provide the same level of assistance as used to be provided under the CSUMB. In Sudbury there have been problems with people on OW and ODSP accessing adequate funds for household necessities that would have been covered under the CSUMB. As mayor or councilor will you commit to seeing that the city of Sudbury puts in the funds necessary so that CHPI policies and funding are at least the same as what used to be met under the CSUMB?
2) The homeless or near homeless population of Sudbury is estimated in studies to be at least 600 people. Many people are unwilling or unable to stay at the Salvation Army run shelter, because of addiction problems, because they are uncomfortable with the religious aspect of the institution or because they have had bad experiences there in the past. In 2014 the city tried a six-week pilot project: Out of the Cold, an emergency shelter where people were not required to show any identification and where those who had consumed alcohol were not automatically rejected. The project will be continued into next winter but is only one step in helping to reduce the number of homeless living and dying on the streets. This shelter still needs to be made fully accessible and to have staff who are not associated with the Salvation Army. Will you commit to learning about the shelters, to listening to the experiences of those on the street and providing options that provide dignity for them?
3). Homeless people living on the streets in Sudbury continue to die but they are quickly forgotten and are not remembered in dignity. Will you as mayor or councilor support the establishment of a Homeless Memorial for all those who have died on the streets through which homeless people who die will be remembered in dignity? For indigenous homeless people this Memorial must respect the traditions of indigenous peoples.
4). Much of the existing housing stock available for people living in poverty in Sudbury is unsafe and unhealthy and there is often a long wait for public housing. What would you do to increase the amount of quality affordable housing available in Sudbury? Would you consider putting forward motions such as use-it-or-lose-it bylaw allowing the city to reclaim and put to use buildings that have been abandoned or are being left unused for speculative purposes? Would you support zoning rules that require low income housing be made available within new subdivisions?
5) As mayor or councilor would you ensure that services such as the Handi-Transit are available and easily accessible? This entails ending the current review process which has led to people who require Handi-Transit being denied their right to public transportation. All people using Handi-Trans already have medical authorization for this service and it does not need to be reviewed again. Paperwork and assessments are a barrier for many with emotional or intellectual disabilities.
6) Currently tickets are being issued by Sudbury police to people panhandling in Sudbury. Will you speak out against this and defend panhandling as a basic survival strategy for some people living in poverty? Would you help to reverse the stigmatizing of those who have no feasible options but to ask others for assistance? Would you work against stigmatizing people living in poverty?
7) Would you ensure that decisions regarding programs and services directed towards those living in poverty are done with the full consultation and participation of those who live in poverty? Consultation cannot just be with social agencies that work with those in poverty, but must be with those in poverty themselves, in ways that are fully accessible and understandable for the participants.
8) There are also many low-wage workers in Sudbury who are living in poverty. As mayor or councilor will you call on the province to raise the minimum wage to $14 an hour and index it to the costs of inflation? This is what low-income workers in this city need.