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Potential Research Opportunities

Research Projects on Poverty in Hamilton

The following projects are based on a discussion with researchers at the Social Planning and Research Council on 13 December 2007. Sheila Sammon, Jane Aronson and Don Wells, met with SPRC researchers and planners: Deirdre Pike, Jeff Wingard, Don Jaffray and Jennie Vengris. They gave us a rich glimpse at potential research opportunities that they see in the various orbits, roles and communities in which they work.

The following research projects appear to be the most suitable for consideration at this point:

  1. Impact on the Poor of the Provincial Government Cut to the Special Diet Benefit.
    Research question: What has been the impact on poor people in Hamilton as a result of the loss of this benefit?
    Potential policy implication of this research: Improved access to this benefit.
    Advocacy group: Hamilton Health Providers Against Poverty. This organization includes, among others, medical students from McMaster

    The Special Diet Benefit is available to people on welfare or disability allowance, to those who need special diets due, for example, to lactose intolerance, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc. People are eligible for this benefit if it is recommended for them by a physician or nurse. In Nov. 2006 the Ontario government made access to this benefit more difficult. Thousands lost all or part of this benefit. SPRC has access to some 300 people in the Hamilton area who have lost this benefit. Further information about this issue is available from the website of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (www.ocap.ca).

  2. Impact of Barriers to Access for Guaranteed Income Supplement for Seniors
    Research Questions: What are the barriers to access to this income supplement? What has been the impact on seniors living in poverty who have not been able to surmount these barriers?
    Potential policy implication of research: Improved access to benefit.
    Advocacy Groups: Seniors in Poverty Working Group (organized through the Hamilton SPRC); Hamilton Council on Aging (now working to contact isolated seniors who do not receive this benefit); St Christopher’s House in Toronto; Opportunities Waterloo (?).

  3. Temporary Workers and Denial Paid Holiday Pay
    Research Questions: How many and what kinds of temporary workers in Hamilton are being deprived of their legal entitlement under the Employment Standards Act to holiday pay? Who is denying them this entitlement? Why are employers denying this entitlement? Why is this legal entitlement not enforced? What needs to be done to ensure that this entitlement is made effectively available to those who are entitled to it?

    Potential policy Implication: Better enforcement of legal entitlement to holiday pay for temporary workers.

    Advocacy Group: There is a small group in Hamilton affiliated with the SPRC, and other groups linked to United Steelworkers Worker Action Centres in Toronto, Brantford, Windsor, Oshawa. Local contact: Peter Liebovitch of the Steel Workers union.

    There are several other ideas for projects that were discussed. These include:
  1. A study of the effectiveness of “neighbourhood interventions” to reduce poverty in high need neighbourhoods or “neighbourhood hubs.” Under this model, committees comprised of selected local residents, church officials etc. play a role in designating priorities for funding. One such neighbourhood is Oriole Crescent in east Hamilton. The researcher could live in the neighbourhood in a housing unit that is available. Does this shift from more centralized service delivery to neighbourhoods improve services? Reduce poverty? What happens to neighbourhood groups that were organized before these interventions took place? The Keith neighbourhood in Hamilton (where former Robert Land School located) is another area where such a neighbourhood hub committee has been set up. This could be used for comparison.

  2. A study of the impact on organizations of the shift away from funding organizations to funding projects. See report by Katherine Scott, Funding Matters What is the impact of having funders play a larger role in deciding objectives, and local organizations playing less of a role? For example, what happens to the advocacy role of organizations?

  3. A study of the Ontario Anti Poverty Strategy. This strategy may become national if Liberals win next federal election. A key issue is the debate around defining the national poverty line. This is a research project that would be especially relevant over the next three years.

  4. A study of data on homelessness in Hamilton. Data is being gathered on users of homeless shelters but no analysis of the data is being done. What could be learned from these data that would support policy improvements eg regarding affordable housing? Funding of shelters for homeless?

  5. A study related to the living wage campaign in Hamilton

  6. A study of the impact of Pay Day Loan on poor people in Hamilton. This study has potential policy implications for banking policy because banks create barriers to poor opening bank accounts, which then pushes poor to deal with loan sharks such as Pay Day Loan. Former Hamilton MP Stan Keyes is President of Canadian Pay Day Loan Association.

  7. A study of “street involved” youth and poverty issues prior to their becoming street involved. There is evidence that about 70% of street involved youth were victims of abuse in the home before they became street involved. What relation is there between family violence leading to street involved youth and poverty issues?

    Note: Policy makers generally tend to see cost benefit analysis as a particularly persuasive as a research approach.