The following observations of this workshop in Ottawa on May 10, 2008 are offered by Jacquie Maund.

Campaign 2000 & the Income Security Advocacy Centre partnered with local Ottawa partners and held a lively, high energy workshop with 30 participants at the Bronson Centre to get input on what they would like to see in the Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy.

Many of the issues raised focused on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). Not everyone can be in the workforce. People talked about the difficulty of getting onto ODSP, even though they have a disability that limits their ability to work. They expressed frustration about restricting rules: you lose 50% of any earnings if you’re able to take on some work; you get cut off if you become homeless and have no address; you lose ODSP when you turn 65. They talked about the desperate need for more affordable housing – the letter one woman received indicated there are spaces only for people who have terminal diseases. People spoke with passion and anger about the stereotypes the government, media and the public have of low income people – we all deserve to live in dignity and be treated with respect.

The group was keen to meet again and begin planning some next steps to ensure their voices and their expertise is echoed in Ontario government consultations on poverty. Dominique Paris Mckay, working out of the Overbrook Forbes Community Resource Center, is the lead contact.