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MEDIA RELEASE: S-CAP requests emergency meetings of Operations & Community Services Committees

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.

Dec. 12, 2014

Dear members of the Community Services Committee:  

This is a follow up to our Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty (S-CAP) letter to the Mayor and City Council of Dec. 8th. Since none of our concerns relating to the Community Services Committee were addressed at the City Council meeting on the 9th we are calling for an emergency meeting of the Community Services Committee to discuss these urgent matters. These matters cannot wait until January, especially given the cold is here and the holidays are fast approaching with government offices being closed down for periods of time. We also ask to address the Community Services Committee on these matters at this emergency meeting.    

1). Homelessness and the Out of the Cold Shelter

As we have mentioned we are very glad that the Out of the Cold Shelter was finally opened on Dec. 1st. We are also glad that the hours of operation are now noted on a sheet beside the front door at 200 Larch Street. Unfortunately given the Salvation Army logo on this sheet many may think this is simply a Salvation Army Shelter and some homeless people in need may therefore avoid it given their bad experiences with the Salvation Army.   

We continue to raise the concerns and needs of the homeless people we have talked to about their experiences with the pilot project last winter and since that have still not been addressed by the City. Their two major concerns are: 

1) that the shelter needs to be open for more extended hours (preferably on a 24 hour basis) since it is very cold during the day in the winter and shelter and warmth are required at these times as well. Is the City going to leave the homeless out in the cold from 7am to 8pm every day?

2). that there needs to be staff that is not from the Salvation Army given that as mentioned many homeless people in this city – including many indigenous homeless people -- have had problems with the Salvation Army, and their staff. Salvation Army staffing means that some homeless people will not feel comfortable going to the Out of the Cold Shelter. That the Red Cross provided staff for the first three nights for the shelter this year opens up other possibilities and in many centres like Toronto it is City workers who staff most of the shelters.

S-CAP is monitoring the situation with the Shelter and if other problems arise we will be raising them directly with City staff.

2). The need for Adequate Exceptional Circumstances Funding

 

S-CAP affirms, and this was backed up by the focus group we held in the fall of   2013 with people on OW and ODSP, that the City must maintain the policies and rates of the former provincial Community Start –Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB), which was abolished by the Liberal government, for the down-loaded to municipalities Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI) funding which the City now administers. Right now under City policies a person who needs a new bed (mattress and box spring) because of a bed bug infestation -- but who does not need to move -- is only allocated a maximum of $400 (under the City discretionary benefits policy) rather than the $799 they would have received under the CSUMB. They are therefore only getting half the amount of funding support that they would have received under the CSUMB and we challenge you to find an adequate bed and box spring for this amount in Sudbury. This must be changed to allow people in poverty in exceptional circumstances the funding that they require. We are asking for an immediate change in the present City of Greater Sudbury CHPI Guidelines (June 2013) to remove the criteria of “necessity to relocate” from the “catastrophic event” (flood, fire, bed-bug infestation) section so that the full funding of $800 could be available for the applicant.     

 

3). SAMS (the new computer system) is not working for people on social assistance.

 

S-CAP is very concerned about the ways that the new provincial Social Assistance Management System (SAMS) has created major problems in the lives of people on social assistance (both OW and ODSP) and also for workers in OW and ODSP. We are aware of people not getting cheques or other necessary benefits, people experiencing delays in getting badly needed support, or receiving the wrong amount on cheques.  People are also reporting long delays in their workers getting back to them. This has dramatically added to the problems many people on social assistance face at what is a difficult time of the year with winter and with the holidays approaching fast.

 

We also know from talking to OW and ODSP workers that with SAMS it now takes much, much longer to do their work and this means that they have far less time to meet the needs of the people on social assistance that they work with, especially given their very high case-loads. We fully support the issues and grievances raised by both the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union (OPSEU) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) regarding SAMS. SAMS is not working and this problem needs to be resolved immediately.  The needs of social assistance recipients demand immediate action to end these problems! One solution would be to revert to the pre-existing system while the SAMS system is fixed and perfected and adequate training can be provided. The Community Services Committee must act quickly to ensure that people on social assistance in Sudbury get what they need during this difficult period.

Please let us know as soon as possible when this emergency committee meeting will be held.    

 

Yours sincerely,

Anna Harbulik, Gary Kinsman, Christy Knockleby, Clarissa Lassaline

For the Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty.

For more information contact S-CAP at 249-878-7227

###

December 12, 2014 

Dear Operations Committee Councillors:

This is a follow-up to the Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty (S-CAP) letter which was sent to all Council members and to the media just prior to to the first Council meeting held on Tuesday.

Many people with disabilities are people living in poverty. As an anti-poverty group we are deeply concerned that the policies of Handi-transit are discriminating against people with non-physical disabilities. The City of Sudbury is currently denying Handi-transit service to people who need it.  Both the information booklet for users of Handi-transit and the city web site specify that ‘the goal of Handi-Transit is to provide transportation to persons who have physical disabilities and are unable to use the regular transit system’. The new eligibility application and evaluation process are established to effectively deny people who have non-physical disabilities to use the specialised service. Not only is this policy discriminatory but it contravenes the intent of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) which is to remove barriers for all people with disabilities.

 

The City policy for eligibility for handi-transit users must be changed. This means that the motion passed by the Operations Committee in September 2013 and by Council as a whole in October 2013 must be rescinded and a new motion passed clearly specifying that all people with disabilities who are unable to use conventional transit are eligible for Handi-transit service. It means also that there must be  professionally competent people to make an eligibility assessment for people having disabilities that are non-physical. Basing eligibility entirely on a person’s physical mobility needs is completely inappropriate when these are not the basis of the disability.

The need to change Handi-transit policy is pressing.  Right now the City of Sudbury is causing undo anxiety and hardship to people who are being denied access to Handi-transit because their disability is a non-physical one. An appeals process is a legislated requirement but it is not sufficient.  The Handi-Transit policy itself must be changed so that people do not continue to be unfairly cut off or denied access.

It is also important to understand that refusing rides to Handi-transit users on the excuse of being ‘at capacity’ is denying people with disabilities the accommodations the provincial legislation provides for. S-CAP is aware that users who need this service are recently being told it is ‘at capacity’ and so being refused rides for classes, medical appointments and to do necessary shopping. These are people who do meet the present eligibility requirements but this argument is being used to deny service.

People with disabilities have the same right as other people in Sudbury to access public transit. These issues must be resolved without delay. This cannot wait until January. An emergency meeting of the Operations Committee needs to be convened as soon as possible to address this matter. We request the right to address this meeting on this issue.

sincerely,

Clarissa Lassaline and Gary Kinsman

for the Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty 

For more information contact S-CAP at 249-878-7227

###

le vendredi 12 décembre

A l’intention des conseillères/conseillers membres du comité des opérations :

Bonjour,

Cette lettre fait suite à celle que la Coalition anti-pauvreté de Sudbury a fait parvenir à tous les membres du conseil municipal ainsi qu’au média quelques heures avant la tenue de la réunion du Conseil de mardi dernier.

Grand nombre de personnes handicapées vivent dans la pauvreté. En étant un groupe anti-pauvreté la Coalition est très préoccupée par la discrimination de la politique municipale sur l’accès au transport adapté Handi-Transit à l’égard des personnes ayant des handicaps non physiques.  A l’heure actuelle la Ville de Sudbury refuse l’accès à ce service à des gens qui en ont besoin. Cette politique discriminatoire est énoncée et dans le guide des usagers et à la rubrique consacrée à Handi-transit du site web municipal. On dit qu’‘Il s’agit d’un service spécialisé de transport en commun pour les personnes physiquement handicapées et qui sont incapables d’utiliser le service habituel de transport en commun pour se déplacer.’ La nouvelle demande d’admissibilité au service Handi-transit et le processus d’évaluation sont conçus pour écarter les personnes dont le handicap est autre que physique. Il s’agit d’une politique discriminatoire qui va à l’encontre de l’esprit de la Loi sur l’accessibilité pour les personnes handicapées de l’Ontario (LAPHO) qui prescrit l’élimination de tous les types d’obstacles, non seulement les obstacles physiques.

La politique municipale sur l’admissibilité au service Handi-transit doit être changée. Cela veut dire que la motion adoptée à la réunion du comité des opérations en septembre 2013 et entérinée par la suite à la réunion du Conseil municipal d’octobre 2013 doit être annulée.  Il faut adopter une nouvelle motion et celle-ci doit préciser clairement que le transport adapté Handi-transit est un service en commun pour toutes les personnes handicapées qui ne sont pas capables d’utiliser le service habituel.  Il en découle également que toute évaluation pour détermination de l’admissibilité doit être faite par rapport au handicap du demandeur.  Il est tout à fait illogique de baser une évaluation sur des capacités physiques quand les besoins n’ont rien à faire avec des handicaps physiques.

L’établissement de la nouvelle politique urge.  Les gens qui sont jugées inadmissibles à ce service en ce moment parce que leur handicap n’est pas physique passent à travers une période très éprouvante.  La Ville de Sudbury provoque beaucoup d’anxiété et de difficultés par la pratique de sa politique discriminatoire en matière de transport adapté publique.  La possibilité d’interjeter appel d’une décision défavorable est une prescription prévue par la législation ontarienne mais il ne suffit pas en soi.  C’est la politique municipale qui doit être changée pour mettre fin aux refus injustes et discriminatoires.

Il est important de comprendre de plus que le refus d’un déplacement à un usager pour la raison donnée de ‘at capacity’ est lui aussi une forme de discrimination.  La coalition contre la pauvreté de Sudbury  a été mise au courant des situations récentes de refus basé sur cette raison.  Il s’agit de besoins de déplacements pour rendez-vous médicaux,  pour classes et sorties nécessaires pour faire les provisions.  Les usagers répondent aux critères d’admissibilité au service de Handi-transit mais se voient refuser tout-de-même des déplacements nécessaires.

Les personnes handicapées ont droit au service de transport en commun tout comme les autres gens de Sudbury. Il faut solutionner ce problème sans plus de délai.  La question ne peut attendre le nouvel an. Nous demandons que le comité des opérations convoque une réunion le plus tôt possible à cette fin.  Et nous demandons le droit de faire une présentation sur ce problème à ce moment-là.

cordialement,

Gary Kinsman, Clarissa Lassaline

Pour la coalition anti-pauvreté de Sudbury.


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