#CRPSummit 2017 3 great days of learning!

This week marks the third annual Cities Reducing Poverty Summit. This year's summit focuses on the theme of business engagement and how that engagement drives broader community understanding and transformation.

The Prosperity Roundtable was proud to be a part of a panel presentation on Living Wage. The presentation provided background on the growth of precarious work in Canada, shared examples of what’s happening in communities, what’s happening provincially and nationally, and an inspiring business shared their reasons for a why a Living Wage is so important to their organization. Thank you Muskoka Brewery for your inspiring leadership as a Canadian Living Wage employer.

Mayors from around Canada spoke about the need to work differently and to spend money differently; procurement processes are being upended around Canada to ensure that municipal money is spent in a way that benefits community.

We were reminded by Municipal leaders that always putting people at the centre of the equation is paramount, that communities must revisit rules and find ways to include everyone in the circle of prosperity. Hamilton’s Mayor Fred Eisenberger shared with the crowd gathered that investment in people is just as important as investing in bricks and mortar (and low and behold, Hamilton’s City Council approved TODAY a $50 Million investment in affordable housing and poverty reduction).

Business leaders talked about how they are shifting the conversation from simply donating money to changing the way business is done; for example, having inclusive hiring practices, joining Living Wage campaigns, and simply by revisiting benefits packages and providing employees with more trust and flexibility.

David Alston, New Brunswick’s first ever Chief Entrepreneur in Residence encouraged us to seek out the people who use the words, “I”, “we” and “will”.  This work is hard, and sometimes challenging to see progress, but as Alan Broadbent of Maytree rightfully pointed out, progress sometimes is slow, but that progress can still be transformational. He drew the analogy of early explorers circumnavigating the world and how different our reality would be if those explorers chose to throw in towel and settle because the process was just taking too long.

This work is tough, but it’s meaningful and unpacking the issues, asking the tough questions and getting to the heart of the systems change that needs to happen is work we can do together. A speaker at the conference shared a quote, “prosperity in a society is the accumulation of solutions to human problems”. Together we can build greater prosperity.

Help Shape Canada's Anti-Poverty Plan

Dignity for All, a multi-partner, non-partisan campaign co-organized by Citizens for Public Justice and Canada Without Poverty has created a place where Canadians can easily share their input on Canada's Poverty Reduction Strategy.

In order to help people with this part of the consultation, Dignity for All has developed materials that outline the framework and policies that could make up a comprehensive national strategy. This can be used as a guide or simply be a starting off point in understanding the complexities of poverty eradication.

For more information and to fill our their simple web form visit Dignity for All

If you're interested in learning more about the consultation the Canadian government launched this February visit their website for the variety of ways every day Canadians can be engaged in the process including discussion forums, a place to share your personal stories and surveys designed to get to the heart of the Canadian experience of poverty.

Join the conversation but don't just stop there, share this information far and wide, Canadian voices deserve to be heard. Together we can ensure that the National Poverty Reduction Strategy is shaped in such a way that all people have the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families. 

Giving Back a Life, Model for Dental Clinic

Post from the Chatham Voice:

Modeling her life by the philosophy that you live not by income, but outcome, Christine Fairbairn is using her education and career choice to give back to the community.

A registered dental hygienist, Fairbairn officially opened the doors to her new clinic, Bright Smiles Community Dental Hygiene, in July of this year and started Give Where You Live. The program is designed to provide dental hygiene services to people in the community who may not have the resources to get proper dental care.

Fairbairn said the first free clinic this week for the Chatham-Kent Women’s Centre went very well. People referred came to her clinic to receive a check up and if needed, referral to a dentist.

“I think the first Give Where You Live clinic went extremely well. All the women left with smiles on their faces and my heart is full,” Fairbairn said. “Just over $1,289 worth of treatment was provided, five new patient exams were performed, scaling, polishing, fluoride treatments, countless dental supplies were handed out and seven oral hygiene instructions given.”

She is also in contact with a dentist who has been a mentor to her, Dr. Mark Luvisotto of Windsor, who has offered to provide free fillings to two women who need them and two others who need further review and treatment.

Sitting in a comfy waiting room that Fairbairn designed herself to be welcoming new patients, the Chatham native talks about being born and raised here and wanting to give back, and to make basic dental care available to as many people as possible.

“I keep costs low because I want to make access to dental care more affordable,” Fairbairn explained. “My fees are 30 to 40 percent less than traditional offices. If you have no insurance, it can get very expensive and that important for even people with co-pay.”

Giving people a less expensive alternative to care is a big part of her business plan and she does a PowerPoint presentation for the group on proper oral hygiene to help with prevention of bigger dental issues down the road.

Doing all the jobs in the clinic makes for a long day for Fairbairn, from reception to patient care to cleaning, but for her it’s a labour of love as she slowly builds up her practice. Once she is more established, her next steps are to hire another hygienist and a receptionist.

Moving back to Chatham from out west, Fairbairn said she spent the last seven years in Calgary in a job she loved.

“All my family is here and it was a tough decision. I worked for a not-for-profit in Calgary doing free dental care,” she noted.

As a dental hygienist, she knows the importance of having regular dental checkups.

“Oral health is a huge part of overall health with diseases like Alzheimer’s and diabetes, and it’s more necessary in communities like this one with an aging population,” Fairbairn said. “I am a huge proponent of prevention. I have found two cases of oral cancer in my career and I was able to catch it early on because they came to the dentist regularly.”

She said on average people come for a check up between six to nine months, depending on their overall oral health.

Access to care here is something people don’t always take advantage of or appreciate, but going on a dental mission to Ethiopia through Kindness in Action and Hope Ethiopia this past spring showed Fairbairn people who are desperate for help.

“I was there with four dentists and one hygienist for two weeks and it was very eye opening,” she said. “We were in one location and people came from all over. Once man walked for three days to be there and because he missed the day’s clinic, he slept in the doorway overnight.

“That hit me really hard. When you are born in Canada, you are already better off than people born anywhere else in the world. There was poverty like I have never seen before. It’s not just no money for grocery stores, there are no grocery stores. If you don’t grow it, you don’t eat.”

Fairbairn said they saw a lot of villagers and soldiers and had to rely on interpreters to communicate. Some of the work involved being a detective and figuring out what the stains were on the teeth of some of the villagers, including children. It turned out it was a leaf they chewed called khat that was a stimulant and it would stain their teeth.

At her clinic, Fairbairn offers all the services a hygienist provides, including a head and neck exam, cavity screening, cleanings, polishing, three types of whitening, fluoride treatments and custom mouth guards. Sports such as football and hockey require mouth guards and soccer may be next to require them.

An important piece of news is that Fairbairn also accepts Healthy Smiles and ODSP patients, something not all clinics are doing.

Anyone interested in speaking with Fairbairn about her about her clinic or her Give Where You Live program can contact her at her Forsyth St. offices in Chatham via info@BrightSmilesCDH.ca or call 519-351-0711.

The Prosperity Roundtable Honours Poverty Awareness Week

CHATHAM, ON – October 17th marks the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Learn more about poverty in Chatham-Kent by attending one of the many events the Prosperity Roundtable has planned that week.

On Monday October 17th the Prosperity Roundtable will kick off the week with a flag-raising at the Chatham-Kent Civic Centre at 11:00 am. Additionally, the organization will be presenting to Municipal Council that evening at 7:00 pm.

On Tuesday October 18th, join a community conversation on a Living Wage. The Social Inclusion Action Team of the Prosperity Roundtable will be releasing the local number and celebrating local businesses that support the movement.

Saturday October 22nd boasts a wide variety of community events. The Prosperity Roundtable is excited to partner and support the Chatham-Kent Public Library’s Human Library. Come to the library and check out a local “book” to learn more about individual experiences. That evening, celebrate at the Diverse City Party at The Kent 1874. This event which highlights our local cultural communities is a chance to mix and mingle, learn a few dance steps and enjoy diverse cuisine. Tickets can be purchased at www.cktickets.com.

Lastly, on Monday October 24th, consider attending a workshop on Poverty Reduction as a Social Justice Imperative. Listen as Deirdre Pike, a notable social activist encourages us to take a “rights” based approach to poverty reduction.

To register or learn more about any of these events contact Kate do Forno, at
prosperity@uwock.ca or at 519-354-0430.

Operation Backpacks

At the end of August, as our community prepares our kids to return to school, many families struggle to find the extra dollars needed to fill those backpacks. And every year our United Way works to ensure every child returns to school on track for success. 

You're curious about what supplies are needed? Here's a list!

I was lucky enough to chat with the committed project coordinator of Operation Backpacks and Mary informed me that the supplies that are the hardest to come by are:

  • Graph paper
  • Scientific calculators
  • Math sets
  • Backpacks
  • Markers

Think you can help? Donations can dropped off by August 24th at any United Way office location in Chatham, Tilbury or Wallaceburg. Curious to find out more? Call 519-354-0430 for more information. 


Supply List for Operation BackPacks 2016


1” Binders

Lined Paper (pkgs)

Dividers (5/10 tab)

Graph Paper (pkgs)

Duotangs (red, green, yellow, blue, orange)

Glue Sticks



Pencil Crayons



Math Sets

Eraser (white/pink)

Sharpeners (with shaving trap)

Pens (blue & black)

Ruler (12”)


Calculators (scientific)

Lets Talk Housing: A National Consultation

Over the next year, the Canadian government will be conducting consultations to develop Canada's first-ever National Housing Strategy.

Canadians are invited to share their views on the National Housing Strategy through an online survey and through written submissions until October 21, 2016.

You can also join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn using the hashtag #LetsTalkHousing.

The Canadian Government has proposed that the vision for Canada’s National Housing Strategy could be:

All Canadians have access to housing that meets their needs and they can afford. Housing is the cornerstone of building sustainable, inclusive communities and a strong Canadian economy where we can prosper and thrive.

Is this vision a step in the right direction? Does it achieve our community goals? Does it make sense for you and your family?

For more information or to submit your ideas visit: www.letstalkhousing.ca

Canada Learning Bond Initiative in Chatham-Kent

Chatham-Kent is working hard to make the Canada Learning Bond a household name. Our vision is to be “... a community that values learning: where everyone has the opportunity for postsecondary education”, and we have set a target of achieving 70% enrollment by 2020. 

In order to get there, we need everyone’s help. We have engaged our financial institutions and the Chatham-Kent Community Leaders Cabinet, as well as have initiated a CLB Community Committee comprised of members from organizations that work with children, providing an opportunity for collaboration on promotions.  

The committee recently held an RESP sign-up clinic hosted by Best Start, Employment and Social Services and RBC. We were able to connect with many families and even had an on-site visit from RBC’s Leo the Lion! We continue to use social media, using the hashtags: #canadalearningbond and #learnck. Our local Ontario Works social assistance office has built promotions into their Intake Process and they talk to every family with qualifying children about the benefits of the program and is very simple to build into the process. We continue to promote the use of the online Smart Saver RESP application as an easy and accessible way to sign up. 

We are gearing up for Education Savings Week, November 20 to 26, 2016. We will have a free Movie Night kick off at our local Capitol Theatre and plan a targeted effort in promotions through events and social media campaigns within our community. We will end the year with our homegrown CLB video playing as a trailer at Galaxy Cineplex over the Christmas holidays. We look forward to a time when every child has an RESP for their future.

Education is essential to health of our community, and the CLB is an important piece to ensuring all children know that Post-Secondary Education is not just a possibility but an expectation. There is such great work being done across Canada for the Canada Learning Bond and we are excited to be a part of it.


Written by:

Mary Alice Searles, Program Manager Municipality of Chatham-Kent and               
Lydia Sanderson, Community Promotions Worker Municipality of Chatham-Kent                    

Chatham-Kent Affordable Transit Pass

New and Exciting for Chatham-Kent! 

As of July 2016, low-cost option for Chatham-Kent transit users now exists! 

The Affordable Pass is a monthly pass that is available only to those residents of Chatham-Kent that have an annual combined family income at or below the Statistics Canada before-tax low income measures (LIM) table (as shown on the application form) for their family size. In order to be eligible for the Affordable Pass, a completed application form along with supporting documentation will need to be submitted to the Civic Centre. Applications will be accepted on a "first come, first served basis", limited to the first 200 applicants.

The monthly pass provides unlimited rides, is non-transferable and expires every 30 days. The Affordable pass can be purchased for 1-3 months at a time.

The cost for this pass is:

  • $40 / month

Required Documentation:

  • Signed and completed application;

  • Current copy of your Canada Revenue Agency Personal Tax Notice of Assessment for all members with an income;

  • Supporting Identification Documents for applicant and each family member (birth certificate, driver's license, baptismal certificate, passport, Ontario Health Card).

Click here for the Affordable Bus Pass Policy and here for the Application Form.

For more information visit the Urban Transit Page of the Municipal Website or contact a municipal customer service representative at 519-360-1998.

Chatham-Kent Housing and Homelessness Plan

Check out our communities 2015 Housing and Homelessness Progress Report.

The Homelessness Steering Committees vision that "every person has an affordable, suitable and adequate home to provide the foundation to secure employment, raise a family, and build communities," is an important touch-point for our community and on we should all rally behind. 

Community partners do this by supporting the "Housing First" philosophy. At it's core "Housing First" says that a safe, affordable and appropriate home is the first step in ensuring that people are taken care of; then community supports can be wrapped around an individual so that they can stay housed - and able to raise a family, beat an addiction, work on upgrading their skills, get to their job on time.

Some highlights from this years progress report are:

  • Throughout Chatham-Kent, 1618 households were assisted through the shelter solutions team, supporting those households in their desire to maintain or retain housing. The dollar investment was $794,490.
  • $577,300 was invested through the Ontario Renovates program to help 34 families stay in their homes and create three units with accessibility improvements. 
  • 40 low-income households were assisted with rent payments towards an affordable and sustainable home.
  • 30 Short-Term Housing Allowances were issued, that enabled families to maintain and stabilize affordable housing during a temporary crisis period.
  • 28 community agencies received funding totaling $861,377 through the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative to promote the development an maintenance of housing security programs and services.

If you're interested in learning more visit: http://www.chatham-kent.ca/incomeandemploymentsupport/ck-housing-homeless-plan

My Time in Edmonton - Cities Reducing Poverty: When Mayors Lead

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of attending the 2nd Annual National Poverty Reduction Summit. This year’s conference was hosted by the city of Edmonton and entitled “Cities Reducing Poverty: When Mayors Lead”. Mayors, municipal representatives, nonprofit leaders and the first voice of lived experience came together in an unprecedented way to talk openly and honestly about the challenges cities face when tackling the complex nature of community poverty.

I was lifted by the clear voices rallying for change. Mayors from all across Canada are leading the charge in ensuring that poverty is on the national agenda. And for the first time in over a decade, the winds seem to be that national partners and all levels of government are listening. Alan Broadbent, Chairman and Founder of Maytree challenged the Federal government to find and reallocate the dollars needed to well fund poverty reduction across the country. Once decision maker can liken poverty reduction investment (the housing stability of our neighbours, the education of their children and the inherent human rights of the individual) to infrastructure investment (roads & bridges, community hubs, arenas and libraries) real change can start to happen.

It’s heartening that the necessary shift from the charity model to a human rights model is happening within the poverty reduction movement. We all deserve a safe and secure home, enough money to feed our children and the ability to get to our place of work easily and affordably and when we strip individuals of this basic human justice we strip away pieces of our own humanity. Andrea Barrack-Cohen of the Ontario Trillium Foundation reminded those in attendance that it is our responsibility to challenge the systems and institutions that create poverty.

I am in awe of Dr. Cindy Blackstock – and this conference was the first time I had ever watched her speak live. Her passion and advocacy is a force to be reckoned with and I was especially struck when she highlighted a quote from one of the students she’s met – the student noted “discrimination is when the government doesn’t think you’re worth the money”. Dr. Blackstock’s keynote was a chilling reminder that we have broken our promises to our First Nation communities and there is exceptional work to be done with the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as our guide.

There were so many shining examples of communities leading the charge on poverty reduction. We heard from Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman and many others about the projects, the plans and initiatives being undertaken in their communities to change systems and lift people out of poverty.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman officially challenged all Mayors across Canada to zealously promote and encourage participation in the Canada Learning Bond (CLB), a federal program that provides up to $2,000 toward postsecondary education for children from low-income families. This drove home that Chatham-Kent, as a community, is heading in the right direction – working hard to change our local participation rates (currently 23%) to one of 70% of qualified families registered within five years.

As a nice change of pace, the organizers of the conference took the opportunity to highlight the great work happening in Edmonton by sending attendees out in the community on school busses to see examples of community projects that are working. I was really touched by the tour I was on.

Our first stop was at the Bissell Centre, a spot where homeless men and women can find support and fellowship in their community. The Bissell Centre was opened in 1910 and has a storied history of supporting Edmontonians living with low-income. In the 60’s and 70’s the Bissell Centre expanded their programming to include supports for families and opened a daycare. The daycare model employed at the Bissell Centre is an exceptionally interesting one based on respite care; families can sign up their child a few times as a week as needed so Mom and Dad can go to appointments, have a few hours off, tend to other tasks while their child is cared for.

We then walked around the corner to the Boyle Street Community League, located in the heart of Edmonton, in what used to be a lonesome and unsafe neighbourhood. The centre which is an amazing community collaboration of multiple partners houses a community kitchen, a day care, an art gallery, meeting space and a gym has revitalized a tough neighbourhood. When you peer out the large windows at the front you see a beautiful apartment building across the park. The apartment building houses approximately 300 affordable apartment units. People used to walk this corner with their heads down, not wanting to catch their neighbour’s eyes. Now families play in the park in the centre, have picnics on the community art installation (that is a GIANT picnic bench) and support one another in meaningful ways such as trading babysitting services and sharing a meal.

Our tour ended at the Edmonton City Hall where we had the opportunity to learn about two exceptionally cool municipal projects. We were led to a café, given a few appetizers and asked to sit. I munched on the delicious food, wondered about my ability to go back for seconds while I waited for the presentation to start. We soon learned we were in the Kids in the Hall Bistro.  The Kids in the Hall Bistro is a catering company that offers at risk youth (16 – 24) opportunities to earn high school credits, learn life and employment skills while working in a bistro. We heard moving testimonials from students whose lives were utterly changed by participating in this program.

We ended our tour in City Hall School, an actual classroom in City Hall that employs an Edmonton teacher. City Hall School is a week long, inquiry based, hands on learning experience for Grade 1 – 12 students. Students gain an understanding of municipal government through simulated City Council sessions, a visit to the Mayor’s office and by working with Councillors, social workers, Edmonton Police Service, historians and other City employees. Citizenship, the environment and social responsibility are topics which are an integral part of City Hall School. The teacher presenting shared with us notebooks where kids, parents and their teachers shared their thoughts on the experience. All were positive and talked about the life-changing nature of this program. One of the students after seeing homelessness for the first time spent her entire March Break knitting hats and scarves – she was able to knit over 30 and donated them out in the community.

In coming back to Chatham-Kent, I spent time reflecting on what needs to happen next, and what needs to happen next is that this conversation continues. We must use these winds of change to our advantage; continue to have this conversation with our community members, our politicians, and our provincial and national partners.  Dr. Blackstock urged us to become more “aligned with our national values.” And Mayor Don Iveson urgently encouraged those in attendance to work hard to “build a national consensus to end poverty in Canada.” We need change now. I’m committed, are you?

- Kate do Forno