Community Counselling & Resource Centre

Premier Kathleen Wynne tours Mount Community Centre in Peterborough and says housing, mental health, education are all key factors in Ontario poverty

August 2nd, 2017

Premier Kathleen Wynne attended a round-table discussion on poverty reduction in Peterborough on Wednesday afternoon, where she talked about how a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour will help many Ontario families manage.

Many people are working for minimum wage at service jobs, she said at the discussion in the chapel at The Mount Community Centre on Monaghan Road.

These working people struggle to put food on the table, Wynne said.

"They should be able to feed themselves and their families," she said. "That's why we're raising the minimum wage."

 About 30 people were invited to the discussion about poverty reduction at The Mount. Mayor Daryl Bennett was there, as well as people who work for the city's housing and social services departments.

There were also representatives from many local agencies such as the United Way, the YWCA and the emergency shelters in Peterborough.

Part of The Mount - a former convent - is being converted into affordable apartments. There are 43 apartments already built and occupied, with more to come.

Linda Mitchelson, the city's social services manager, told Wynne that apartments are in low supply in Peterborough at the moment: the vacancy rate this summer is around one per cent.

So perhaps people have rent supplements and other provincial funding available to them, but there's no vacancy in the city.

"Our local housing market is being impacted by the Toronto market," she said.

 Casey Watson, the operations co-ordinator for the Warming Room, told Wynne that the city has resorted to renting camping spots at Beavermead Park for people who are homeless because emergency shelters are full.

He said funding to keep the warming room open year-round would be ideal.

"Either that or we'll have to accept the idea there will be some who will have no place to go - and that's a terrible thing to accept," he said.

Meagan La Plante, executive director of the YES Shelter for youth and families, said money to alleviate youth homelessness should be a priority - particularly to help support teens who live on their own.

Teens forced to live on their own have often suffered trauma, she noted - which makes it even harder for them to cope.

"Even the most well-equipped 16-year-old couldn't be expected to live on their own," she said.

Wynne said the province is anticipating a new national housing strategy that could come with funding attached - and that the province is eager to work with the feds on that.

She also said the province can't build affordable and emergency housing fast enough to keep up with demand, so they've approached the problem by funding various social programs: mental health initiatives, for example.

"Poverty is about housing - but it's also about health and about mental health. And about income and education"¦ it's about all of those things overlapping," Wynne said.

Mayor Daryl Bennett told Wynne that city council voted this week to build a number of new apartments to be run by Peterborough Housing Corporation. That should help, he said.

"But it's a long way to solving it all."