More sensitivity and less stunt when reaching out to the homeless


city_scope_logo-cmykThe promotion was called Sleepless In Our City, a well-intentioned fundraiser for the United Way of Elgin-St. Thomas. In capsule form, former MP Joe Preston and Tim Smart, the regional sales manager for a couple of local radio stations, were going to bundle up and spend the night sleeping – if possible – in the back seat of their respective cars. In the case of Tim, a Honda Civic.
(Full disclosure here, I spent several years as a volunteer on the United Way campaign cabinet and the entire team is to be applauded for raising in excess of $485,000 in this year’s campaign, as announced Friday evening.)
The media release from the United Way noted, “In Elgin St. Thomas, 20% of home owners and 42% of renters were spending more than 30% of their household income on shelter costs.”

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That was the year that was, in words


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After an enjoyable Christmas and New Year’s hiatus, City Scope returns with a tradition dating back to 2005, when we welcomed the incoming year by casting a final glance back to focus on the wit and wisdom served up by some of those individuals who graced this corner over the previous 365 days.

Since that debut, we have broadened our horizon to include quotes from a variety of sources, including Times-Journal readers.

As an unabashed collector of quotes, this flashback is an enviable task that neatly ties the preceding 12 months into a compact package to open and savor at the demise of another year.

And, as American writer and editor Daniel Okrent deftly observed, “I’m afraid we’ll see reporters stop chasing quotes around the same time dogs stop chasing cars.”
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Always room for one more in this club


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The city’s most exclusive club saw its membership increase by four in 2013. We’re talking about the Sunshine Club at city hall — those employees who earned $100,000 or more under public sector salary disclosure.
Mind you, it was a modest increase from 58 select members in 2012 to 62 this past year.
A far cry from the door-crashing rush in 2012 when the rolls swelled to 58 from 39 in 2011.
Breaking the numbers down, in 2013 city administration counted 14 in the Sunshine Club, up from 13 the year previous.
The police department enrolment actually declined by one — from 17 to 16.
At the fire halls, the ranks increased to 32 in 2013 from 28 in 2012. That means the fire department membership is greater than the police and city administration combined.
Concentrating on administration salaries only, the top wage-earner last year was CAO Wendell Graves at $165,900, which is actually down from a year ago at $166,315. Continue reading

Caring Cupboard executive director removed from post by board of directors


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Exactly one week after an emotionally charged meeting at The Caring Cupboard, the board of the Talbot St. foodbank has released its executive director from her contract.

Board chairman Ward Houghton told the Times-Journal the board of directors did not feel Janice Kinnaird “was the right fit for the role” and she was advised of the decision Monday.

“She was still in her probationary period and the board thought it was prudent to exercise its discretion to implement that section of her contract,” advised Houghton.
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How much can you milk out of nickels and dimes?


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After documenting the plight of a desperate young mother and her plea for milk and bread to tide her over until the end of the month, we talked to her this week on the heels of Monday’s annual general meeting at The Caring Cupboard.
The ten or so board members, concerned clients of the food bank and representatives from several community agencies who attended the session agreed on one thing: there are issues at the Talbot St. operation in the manner in which data is collected and the perceived humiliating fashion in which some individuals are treated.
One user went so far as to warn The Caring Cupboard “has lost its credibility.”
One positive recommendation – it’s time for the food bank and the various community organizations to build partnerships to deal with individuals whose daily needs require the expertise available through a cross-section of service providers.
The mother, whose plea sparked an outpouring of emotion from readers and individuals facing an all-too-similar future, vented her frustration with the process she believed had been followed to the letter. Continue reading

Random notes from the Caring Cupboard Annual General Meeting


It was standing room only at Caring Cupboard’s Talbot St. storefront Monday, Feb. 24 for their annual general meeting . . . an AGM board chairman Ward Houghton and several board members in attendance have not experienced in the past.

Uncomfortable would best describe the reaction of the board during the one-hour session terminated by Houghton with members of the general public – clients of the food bank and representatives of several community organizations including the YWCA and the Central Community Health Centre – still eager to vent their frustration and offer suggestions.

We’ll deal at length with the AGM later this week but here are a few random quotes:

“No one chooses to use a food bank.” – food bank client

“The way people are treated (at Caring Cupboard) is demoralizing . . . They are losing people, they are scared, they are terrorized.” – food bank client

“I want this noted. There is a problem here with the way people are treated.” – food bank client

“We have clients come in who are in tears. They are devastated. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.” – Judith Willey, CCHC

“As a board member I feel horrible. To hear your stories is horrible.”

With no formal complaint process, Houghton suggested clients or those denied food can contact him. His phone number is: 519-631-2212.

Since they are not listed on the Caring Cupboard website, here are the other members of the Caring Cupboard board: Marilynn Andrews, Anne Ashfield, Susan Cole, Rev. Mavis Currie, Maureen Ferguson, Jim Miller, Ken Money, Joyce Shippling, Ted Sturk, Tammy Tolman, Suzanne Van Bommel and Esther Wendel-Caraher.

Food for thought over at the food bank


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A young mother this week posted on the Times-Journal Facebook page her desperate plea for assistance. “I needed bread and milk. Quite desperately. I have a week left until I get CCTB (Canada child tax benefit) and I am almost out of both.”
She did what many in St. Thomas would do, she gathered up spare change and headed to the Caring Cupboard food bank.
On her arrival, she discovered numerous changes, including a new executive director, Janice Kinnaird.
The young mother had previously complied with the need to show personal ID, proof of income and rental information so she could receive much-needed food assistance in the future simply by arriving with an item of identification.
She was denied assistance this time out because she could not comply with the new policy of presenting full ID.
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