This challenge is asking families to attempt to stay within a social assistance budget for five days. Ontario Works benefits provide a maximum basic needs for a couple with any amount of children is $458.00; this sets the challenge budget at $75.00 per family, or $15 per day. A single parent would receive $344.00 per month, therefore, their challenge budget will be $60.00 or $12.00 per day.

The budget includes all food and drink, entertainment, some personal supplies and transportation costs. Each family will be given daily challenge cards which will reveal additional challenges to be completed before the end of each day. As the family completes the challenge, they will blog about their experience.

Griffiths Family

Griffiths Family

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Challenge is coming to an end

Tomorrow is the last day of the challenge and I feel like I have barely touched the surface of challenges I would face if on OW for a period of time, the kids are anticipating getting their electronics back but I am proud of them at sticking it out.  Anaiya said she's getting tired of rice but could keep it up if she had soy sauce.  I went out and got some pudding that was on sale before swimming as a snack for the kiddos and have a total of $7 left after travel.  I wore my glasses all week and only wore eyeliner so I guess that $7 would have paid for that.  I got my free coffees today too and was given a Tim Horton's coffee at swimming...I really miss coffee and think I would just spend the money next time.

The kids school have been amazing this week with getting the word out, I haven't been able to get there but the information sheet went around to all of the classrooms and Anaiya had a chance to present it to a few of the classrooms.  One of the children asked her about the days challenge and she kinda fibbed and said it was taking something off of the budget, the reality is that it was Lice.  Lice is such a taboo thing and she was embarrassed to talk about it.  SMB has sent out information to parents about raising awareness of poverty this week and are doing a fundraiser for the Fellowship this Friday along with a wear red day.  I am happy the school has gone out of their way to help children understand the challenges people face every day and hope that it helps them look at people in this situation with more compassion.

Another thing I'd like to say before the challenge is over, I filled out the health units food cost calculator which is based on the nutritious food basket 2013 results.  Our monthly food cost is estimated to be $737.44 which would be $121.65 over 5 days...more than double the OW PNA amount.  Now one thing I didn't look into until now is that OW and ODSB recently went through a bit of a rate restructure when it comes to the amount for children.  What they did was separate the childrens portion out into the OCB (Ontario Child Benefit) which is now $101 per child, they increased adult portions but not equally. On OW Single adults received an additional $20 per month which is a $14 top up plus a 3% increase.  Single parents and couples got a 1% increase which is not even a significant dollar amount to mention in their report.   The reason I mentioned this is I would qualify to receive the additional $101 per child per month which would equal $33.32 more to my budget for 5 days which still doesn't bring me close to the food baskets estimated amount.

I am grateful for the opportunity to do this challenge with my family and hope that we have helped our community in some way understand what is out there.  I hope to see you at the Health Unit's city view location tomorrow at noon to finish the challenge and cant wait to hear the other families experience and read the their blog when I get Wifi back.

Pictures from the week

Final challenge card

Today's Challenge is 'A bake sale at school, make something yummy', I picked up sugar and cinnamon and used the rest of my eggs, bread, and a banana and 2 apples to make a bread pudding.  I know this is probably not my ideal treat but it will have to do and the kids thought it was yummy!~

I had a chance to source out a few more resources today and spoke to the womens house at work in regards to the Challenge.  Their main concern in Kenora is the busing system and that there are resources such as meals, crafting, kids sports and groups, AA and educational classes available in the evening and no way to get home afterwards.  From my understanding the buses stop at 6PM, then they would have to walk or catch a cab home.  One woman mentioned having reduces cab fare or later bus times. So my comment the other day about waiting for the bus after sports in the evening wouldn't fly...I would have to come up with the cash to get home by cab.

I also stopped by Ne Chee on my way to work and found out they do have a food program for their clients, the woman I spoke to was very helpful and provided me with some reading material on the services they provide which include parenting classes and support, child minding while receiving support, a variety of legal progams, and a variety of children's programs and classes.  

Of all the resources I have come across over the past week, I believe that the Minto Resource Centre is in the top 3. The center's building is provided through the Kenora District Service Board, the staff are funding through Firefly/Best start Hub, they operate on donations from the community and are supported by the Legal Clinic, the Sexual Assault Centre and the Health Unit who help to provide programming.  

The Centre does one thing that I thought was needed and I think I blogged about...buying in bulk and selling things in smaller rations.  They buy things such as sugar on sale and in bulk and then sell them in more affordable quantities to people.  This is called the 'Food buying club'.  For 25 cents you can get oatmeal, a granola bar or even a pudding.  They had laundry soap there and even some personal need supplies.  They also have Laundry machines for $1 to wash, $1 to dry, a fax maching, access to a computer, telephone, parenting classes, baby food making classes, a woman's kitchen, Lunches on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays with Snacks available anytime as well as toys or a safe environment to go to to get out of the house.  I was impressed with their Breakfast coupon program that provides a voucher for loaf and Jug to get Milk, bread, and either eggs or apple juice for $1.50.  This would be a way to stretch your dollar!

I could see this is a resource that is being used, there were a few women there for coffee (I was informed they always have tea and coffee brewing) who were quite interested in the challenge and graciously offered up their opinions of challenges they have faced in our community.  The woman I spoke to was going to try and get her word to the city that there should be a newsletter or site where all of the resources for low income residents of Kenora could be available and updated.  She had moved from out of town and found it difficult to source out resources on a low income.

I also want to note that every Wednesday at the centre they have Baking-in-a-Bag where you can pick up everything that is needed to bake something at home...tomorrow is brownies so I guess I found another way to do the baking for a bake sale for nothing but if I was living on OW I probably would not send anything to school and be able to have a treat at home with the kiddos.

Monday, February 10, 2014

There are resources available in Kenora you just have to look

We were all a little tired this morning around my house and the kids missed the bus so I have to take another $1 off of the budget to 'pay a friend to drive them'.  I had a chance to speak to the residents at my work about some of their challenges while on assistance.  A few of their concerns were;
     Lack of suitable housing in the area is a huge concern, living in sub-par housing conditions and not knowing or feeling confident enough to follow through with getting their landlords to bring them up to par.
     They thought that windows that leaked air were a concern because if their heating cost brings them over their housing amount then PNA would have to be used and they would have less for food and other needs.
     I told the clients that I have not allowed friends and family to help me during the challenge and most of the residents felt like family and friends were the biggest resource they had.  They ate together and helped take care of one another. One resident noted that they have never starved or worried about food while on assistance.
     They felt the bussing system in Kenora is not always a resource when they have to stand outside in the cold to wait for the bus.
-Addictions while on OW -
     A few residents wanted me to share how hard it is for people with Addictions to stay on OW, and to budget over the month.  This program is what is offered for them to reintegrate into working society but sometimes the pressure of having to get back to work is too much for them when thinking about recovery. They may benefit from a program that is designed to help them recover from their addictions and the underlying factors without the pressure of work.  To me it makes more sense to give them the time they need and then when they are ready they could move to a program like OW.

I didn't get a chance to make it to the fellowship to volunteer today because my board meeting ran over but I did get a chance to talk to people about resources that are available.  I brought 2 bananas with me and was going to eat at the fellowship so I didn't have a lunch.  We had lunch at our board meeting but I wasn't going to touch it so I had a few cinnamon hearts that the health unit had at their front desk.  Leftovers for supper were great!! and much needed.

I spoke to the health unit first and got a fact sheet about lice and 'What Parents Need to Know'  This is a great resource which includes information about the Nits, Head lice, how it can and cannot be spread, how to prevent lice, how to check your child, what to do when you find out someone has it, Treatment and Cleaning.  The health unit unfortunately does not provide shampoos but sometimes has samples for people.  They referred me to look further into Triple play about paying for swimsuits and costs related to sports for yesterdays challenge.

I then went to WNHAC downtown because I am a Metis and fit within their mandate, they provide health services to Aboriginal, Inuit and Metis people on and off reserve.  They were an amazing resource and very helpful, they may be able to provide the treatment needed or they will work the the various band councils through their outreach program to treat and do the preventative measures needed to get rid of lice.  The woman I spoke to was very helpful, they do not have a clothing program but work with and refer people to the Ne Chee center for food and clothing.  She informed me about the food hamper program that they run as well as a soup kitchen from 11-3 on Monday and Wednesdays.  I will try to contact Ne-Chee tomorrow to find out what other services they may offer.  It sounds like the Minto resource centre is another place I should check out for clothing and other resources, I heard good things about them from the health unit and WNHAC.

After I left there I only had another half hour before getting the kids off the bus so I thought I'd go to the source...Ontario Works, I hadn't spoken to them yet and this should have been my first stop.  The case managers they have are amazing, the woman I spoke to has a huge heart and belongs in her position.  She has even gone out of her way to drive a client out of town to a treatment center that they couldn't afford to get to by themselves.  They provide vouchers for lice shampoo as well as spray to treat furniture.  She also addressed a concern that one of the residents had in the morning...heat going out the window, they can provide heat shields for the windows and sliding doors through the winter.  They have access to computers, employment resources and other information that their clients could be interested in posted on the walls.  There is a monthly newsletter that lets their clients know of the current resources.

Long winded I know but all in all it was a successful day, it took some time but my Treatment was paid for 2 times...

Lice...pricey little things

I am all too familiar with today's challenge, 'Lice is not nice. But your family has it'.  I think nearly every family with young girls in Kenora knows the struggles related with your having lice.  I am going to price out and deduct the amount needed for travel to get the supplies needed to get rid of lice, I find it expensive and usually do the preventative measure of having my daughter bathe in Tea tree oil as well.  I will have to wash her hair with the shampoo and brush it out with conditioner and the lice brush every 2nd day and follow up with the treatment again after a week.  I also strip the beds, wash it all throughout the night to save on hydro, bag all of her stuffed and soft toys for a month, wipe down the couches and headboards, clean and boil her hair pieces and brushes and also vacuum.  This is a very time consuming and can be very expensive if you had to run to a laundromat, it would be nice to have a program to help with these costs, I have to run to the health unit for work today so I will ask if they have any resources available. I believe that some schools have resources available for families as well.

I hope my last $18 will pay for the trip there, treatment as well as a bit more pudding for the kiddos.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Homemade bathing suit and how to pay for swimming lessons?

I decided to remake last years bathing suit, I took an old gymnastics out fits elastic and made last years one piece into a bikini.  I didn't want to spend my last $18 on two bathing suits so I borrowed a needle and thread to remake my daughters and am going to use some of the bigger shorts from last summer with underwear for my sons suit.  I am quite good at sewing thanks to my mother, this is a skill that doesn't make me money but can save me from spending the funds I do have.

For women who do not have funds for sewing equipment but would like to learn or need a space to fix up some older clothing I believe they can use Women's places sewing/craft room which is another amazing resource we have for people to take advantage of.  Sometimes the resources that are available are hard for me to use because I don't live in town and it would cost me more to go access them then to hand stitch or save up to purchase something for my house.  If I was on a low income for an extended amount of time I would live in town so that resources and services would be easier for me to access and I know it would be nearly impossible to drive.

Swimming lessons made me think about having to pay for them, I have accessed funds through Triple Play in the past and am so blessed to have been approved.  I find it difficult to pay for sports, even though there are funds available for children to take part in sports, people on low income would have trouble getting the children there during the winter.  Packing meals, standing out in the cold waiting for a bus with two children and then the delay in getting back home for bedtime would be difficult.  We have cold weather 8 months of the year...It might be nice to have heated bus shelters.  My children are in swimming lessons and I pack a meal the day before, pick the kids up from school and go to the pool from 4:30-7:30 two times a week and if I had to cab or bus there they would not be in it.

Until tomorrow...

New Challenge Card...Swimming lessons

Today’s challenge card is ‘Children’s swimming lessons are starting. Get new swimsuits.’.  I would have gone online to see if I could get them cheap from kenora’s buy and sell or the other local facebook pages but I don’t have Wifi so I am going to call Wal-Mart to see if they have any on sale so I don’t waste money on a trip to town.  I think I will need a little more pudding by the end of the week so I could grab that at the same time.

I operate on a very tight clothing budget myself and usually get clothing given to me, I pick it up at garage sales and remake clothing.  I very rarely get to buy new clothing and don’t really need to, The one thing I usually splurge on is shoes because I believe that is investing in my future.  When we are done with clothing we donate or remake. I have tried to sell it but find it a lot of work for $1 here or there and usually spend more by driving to drop it off.  

Women’s place has a clothing drop-of for children and adults, I am going to call them to see if they have any bathing suits. 468-9095. I go to their Wee-use Wee-cycle event every year around August at the Baptist church and get a large bag of clothing for the kids for $5.  They have everything for kids including clothes, socks, underwear and outdoor wear and gear.  This is the place to donate clothing in good shape because it has the potential to clothe so many people in our community.  Think about how much clothing gets sold every day, we as a society tend to ‘need’ too much and end up with 10 or more pairs of pants, shirts, sweaters etc..  I don’t imagine people on OW have that luxury or need it, it takes time and energy to manage clothing.
I am not sure if the Fellowship has a clothing program, I have purchased the Salvation Army’s clothing and they can be a good resource but I know when my money was tight it was more than I could spend.  I would look to see if they had any other services but don’t have Wifi so I will call them next week.

I am sure the Fellowship has connections as well so I will ask them when I go there Monday. I have volunteered to serve lunch on Monday.  They are a vital part of our community and provide a service that is invaluable their mission is;
To clothe the naked
To help the helpless
To feed the hungry
To love the unloved
To guide the lost
They work with other providers in the community such as the Knox church to provide a meal program.  They are going to email me the schedule but I believe the Fellowships soup program is Monday, Wednesday and Saturday and the Knox’s is Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday…I’ll post if the information is different.

Off to find a bathing suit..