Niagara Prosperity Initiative Funding Areas for 2022
Project 1: Additional support for the Urban Indigenous Homeward Bound program
The Urban Indigenous Homeward Bound program is a four-phase program model that aims to systematically address the barriers that sole-parenting Indigenous women face when trying to find meaningful employment, enhanced wellbeing, and prosperity for themselves and their children.
This project will provide more support for participants of the Homeward Bound program in maintaining their home, parenting while working through the program, and extra supports such as access to transportation and rent subsidy.
Project 2: Early childhood development program
Evidence-based early childhood development programs have been shown to reduce childhood conduct problems and strengthen social emotional learning, self-regulation and problem solving skills. They have also been identified as an evidence-based approach to reducing the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences, which have undoubtedly increased as a result of the pandemic. These programs reduce the contextual risks associated with poverty, which have exacerbated as a result of continued lockdowns, social isolation and job loss for parents.
This program is for parents with children aged zero to six. It would be run in the community and target high risk populations. This includes populations that are socioeconomically disadvantaged and highly stressed due to increased risk factors such as parental unemployment, low education, housing difficulties, single parenthood, poor nutrition, maternal depression, drug or alcohol addiction, child deprivation, new immigrant status, or lack of academic preparedness for school.
Facilitators of the program will need a background in social work, psychology, education, early childhood education, nursing or psychiatry, and have experience working with families and children.
The chosen program would need to show a strong evidence base and focus on the social and emotional development of children. Social / emotional development has not only been affected by the pandemic but at baseline was of concern in Niagara according to Early Development Instrument scores. A program example would be the Incredible Years.
Project 3: Pop-up food markets
Pop-up food markets increase access to high quality, culturally appropriate, affordable produce in neighbourhoods where it might not otherwise be available. Introducing a pop-up food market brings seasonal, local produce plus imported favourites to the neighbourhoods they serve.
Markets have community benefit by acting as a place-making tool to bring residents together, often evolving into informal community hubs with engaging activities, information booths, freshly prepared foods, artisanal vendors and harvest celebrations. They also support volunteerism and involvement of community members in helping to organize and run markets in their neighbourhood.
Pop-up food markets help to bridge the gap between farmers and low-income communities by purchasing directly from farmers and distributing their bounty to low income produce stands. The program is designed to be an inexpensive and easy to run alternative to organizing a full farmers market.
The markets would be located in diverse neighbourhoods across the region that don't have easy access to good quality, affordable, culturally appropriate food. They would also be strategically placed in neighbourhoods that have limitations with transportation or have senior populations.
Proponents would rely on best practice in facilitating pop-up markets. This program would increase capacity and reach in Niagara, and remove barriers to transporting produce across the region.
Project 4: Community integration
This project will provide support to newly housed individuals by helping them maintain their housing and integrate into their community.
The impacts of homelessness do not end when a person is housed. Traumas experienced during and before homelessness remain, and often come to the forefront.
Community integration is the meaningful psychological, social and physical integration of newly housed individuals and is an important part of the Housing First model. Housing stabilization usually needs a broader range of supports beyond housing and clinical supports. Such supports are intended to help individuals and families improve their quality of life and engage meaningfully with their community.
Project 5: After-care for domestic violence survivors
Emergency shelters and transitional housing provide a necessary place for individuals (and their children) to go when escaping gender-based violence.
In Niagara, there is a service gap in after-care for survivors who transition out of shelter. Statistics Canada determines that about one in five individuals who transition out of service will return to live with their abuser.
Home visiting and community-based advocacy interventions have been found to be successful in reducing intimate partner violence and helping children cope adequately with the negative effects of witnessing intimate partner violence. This project would focus on providing ongoing community-based advocacy for individuals (and their children) who have transitioned out of shelter by meeting them where they're at.
Project 6: Living wage program
A living wage is the hourly wage a worker needs to earn to cover their basic expenses and take part in their community.
More and more people are working for low wages. They are facing impossible choices - buy food or heat the house, feed the children or pay the rent. The result can be spiralling debt, constant anxiety and long-term health problems. Often, it means that the adults in a household are working long hours, often at two or three jobs, just to pay for basic necessities.
Employees that earn a living wage can face fewer of these stressors. Employers that pay a living wage show the importance of supporting workers and to reduce poverty in our communities. Seventy-eight businesses and organizations in Niagara have been living wage-certified through the Ontario Living Wage Network.
There is significant opportunity to increase awareness, support for, and adoption of living wage in Niagara as a poverty reduction effort, especially given the research linking corporate social responsibility with improved financial performance and positive affective, cognitive and behavioural responses by consumers.
This project would support full coordination of the living wage program, including social marketing, liaising with the Ontario Living Wage Network to conduct annual cost of living and living wage calculations, report writing, increasing outreach to businesses, and aiding employers in becoming certified living wage employers.