The Faces of Poverty in Ontario

Tomorrow I will be attending a meeting at the invitation of the Ministry of Community and Social Services in North Bay, Ontario.  I was only informed of this on Monday.  The purpose of it is part of a province-wide review of the Ontario Disability Support Program. I just have the energy to get to writing this article today as I am still recovering from having a flu. It has been a difficult meeting to prepare for as my Lord had me revisit many of the times in my own life when I knew the pains of hunger and the slow and crushing death of hope’s dreams. Even as I still have my own struggles on ODSP, I consider myself one of the blessed ones. I thank God for friends who have  been there for me and my wife with their prayers and support. I offer this piece to them, those on social assistance and all of you.

The Faces of Poverty in Ontario

Some startling statistics hit me hard as I was having my breakfast. According to an article in the Toronto Star, which I have included the link for below, 1.7 million people in Ontario are poor,including 400,000 children. Let these two statistics sink into your mind and heart. Every day 1.7 million of the citizens of this province live trying to stretch their very limited dollars for the essentials of food, shelter, clothing and transportation.

 Is it any wonder that food banks can’t meet the need. A pastor wrote to me saying that he is trying to get the food banks to improve the quality of the food being offered. Food banks do their level best to help with the growing need . They really do try to offer the best quality of food. The fact remains that most of the food donated is high in salt. So, while the food feeds the gnawing and agonizing pain of hunger, it causes an increase in the number of people who will get high blood pressure, and worsen the health of those who already have it.

 Bonnie Visser at a North Bay Do The Math event  in, Ontario, puts a human face on the need for a food supplement of $100 a month to be added to the cheques of those receiving social assistance through Ontario Works and Ontario Disability. In the video below it is plain to see Bonnie struggling as she talks about the indignity of going to a food bank. She feels guilty having that apple or sandwich, knowing her own children are hungry. But she must have something, anything to feed the pain that eats away at her body and her spirit.

 Dr. Chris Mackey of the Hamilton Public Health Office in the video below states that there is a clear link between the diet of those receiving social assistance and them getting heart disease and cancer.

 My heart goes out to Darren Nesbit at the Do the Math Event in Sarnia as he shares his story. He has a rare genetic disease that prevents him from working. Tears come to my eyes as he talks about how there isn’t even enough money left to buy his mom a birthday gift. For those who have never been poor it’s a hard thing to get your head around. Yet, this is an every day struggle for those living on social assistance.

Take six minutes of your time to watch his story. Hear his heart cry out as he talks about the reducing healthiness of his diet as the month goes by. Then, ask yourself why in a province that has more than enough to feed all of its citizens  well, why such a thing should be happening to Darren and Bonnie, and people like them.

 It’s easy to cite this statistics. But when you see the faces of poverty, they become hard to ignore.

 I have seen poverty on the front lines of social services giving out food to family services clients. It is gut-wrenching looking into the eyes of despair and the death of hope. I struggle to fight back the tears. I want to imagine this is some surreal nightmare I will wake up from. I feel like I’m going to vomit as I have to tell a family they can’t receive any further help that month ,as I look into the faces of hunger, the darkness and the human misery of poverty. They are there for my help, so I hide my anger and  sadness from them..

 Bonnie and Darren are just two of the 1.7 million faces of poverty in Ontario. What do you have to say to them?

I have heard many say that those on welfare are bums, a waste of flesh and better off dead. Yes, there are those who will always cheat the system. I had to blacklist one of them in family services, who took his food voucher and bought booze with it. Yet, I and so many social workers can tell you who work on the front lines, that most on welfare are honest; but when hunger’s pain is unrelenting it becomes more difficult to stay true to your core values.

True to yourself. True to your conscience. The faces of poverty want us not to ignore them.

 There are no easy solutions. What each of us can do is offer our prayers and our practical support. A cup of coffee and a listening heart can go a long way with a poor person. The gift of groceries not asked for can make the last half of the month for a social assistance recipient go a little smoother.

Please also prayerfully consider that many of those on ODSP are on it because of medical conditions beyond their control. Many of them don’t get a lot of their medications covered because they aren’t on the Ontario Drug Formulary. The Exceptional Access Committee of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term care for drugs not covered under the Ontario Drug Formulary often denies them help, because they state that the drug manufacturer has not submitted a peer review of the medications. They are not likely to because such reviews for medications to treat rare illnesses receive little if any government subsidy. This means the drug manufacturer will need to spend millions of dollars to go through all the federal government hoops to get the medication to pass the peer review. So, the person on ODSP or Ontario Works and the working poor are left with the bitter reality, that they can’t afford the medications.

 The poor person’s health suffers. They die a little more each day first in body and then in spirit. Death becomes a greater mercy as the pain of living becomes intolerable.

 You can be their hope. Through acts of kindness you can bring back hope’s dream again. A dream for a life free from poverty , free from the humiliation of going to a food bank, free to get the job and the education those who can strive for and accomplish such things can achieve.

 This is our opportunity to show our heart and to join in doing the hard work that will be needed, so food banks will no longer be needed. It will take the efforts of community and government working together.

 Every Ontarian should have a voice in how can we improve the lives of those on Ontario Works and ODSP.. Please email me at with your responses. I will take your thoughts into a meeting I’m going to tomorrow at the invitation of the Ministry of Community and Social Services in North Bay. Please also tell me your story of how life has been difficult for you on social assistance. I will let them know that too.

 Let us work together, so we can have an Ontario where all of its citizens can escape poverty and have all of their dreams realized.

 If the UK can reduce child poverty by 23% in five years, how much more can we do working together, so the faces of poverty can tell a different story, one of hope. Hope that has not been extinguished and lives to fight another day.


About osborne2029

I enjoy spending time with people just having a coffee or talking about life, philosophy, religion, politics or sharing a favorite joke or story. We learn from one another as we interact and share our joys, challenges and even our times of sadness. I enjoy reading, writing, singing and sharing in the blessing of community whether that is one on one or in groups. I'm married and am powned by two kitties named Sir William of Lounge a.k.a. Sir Lounge a Lot and Princess Catherine of Chaos a.k.a. Her Royal Highness Catherine of Englehart. I m in an M.A.-Ph.D program with St. James the Elder Theological Seminary to train to become a psychotherapist and priest. Let us pray for and reach out to each other with kindness, love and an embracing compassion. We can working together be servants with two open hands to those in need so that hate, indifference and inequality would lose and love will win. The peace and abounding joy of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Posted on September 20, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. It sad this is happening. I’m very much interested in migrating to Canada in the future, I know it’s hard, but I never knew it was this bad. I was doing a tax review course on Revenue Department website over the weekend and I realized that some company allows for deductions for persons who are on disability as well as those who didn’t have a job temporarily, so it resonated with me when u explained that most of the poor people were those with cronic illnesses.

    Today when I was doing my usual walk to work, I thought about what could I do to help. I’m always interested in counseling as well as psychology, I’m not 100% sure of my purpose yet, but I know my heart cry out for those who cannot help themselves.

    I hope this get the attention of those who can contribute to the cause.

    • Dr. Albert Schweitzer wrote,”I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.” That cry that comes from your heart may well be your answer as to what God wants you to do with your life. Career counselors say that we are happiest doing that which we feel we would glady do if we received no pay for it. The fact that we then are paid for the career that gives us a personal fulfillment then becomes an added blessing.

      Submit the matter to God in prayer. He’ll show you the way. While critics say the thoughts in Proverbs 3:5-6 are simplistic the advice stands the test of time and life experience. ” Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him,And He will make your paths straight”(NASB).

      The key thought: The decision for the way you go with your career is one in which if you believe in God, He should be a part of. My personal opinion is that that tug at your heart that says this is the way you should go is the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart.

      Ask others what they think. Ask them to be frank. Do you see me being happy in the fields of counseling or psychology? Your pastor, friends and colleagues may know you better than you know yourself.

      However, in the final analysis the decision then becomes yours.

      I pray what I’ve shared has helped you in what I know from my own personal experience can be a difficult decision-making process.

      God’s peace be with you.


  2. Reblogged this on Randomly Speaking Unorthodoxly and commented:
    A sad situation that needs attention

    • Thanks most kindly for the reblog. Indeed, it is a sad situation requiring attention. Take heart that you are doing something very important by spreading the word. In journalism when a story goes more than two news cycles, meaning it is displayed more than twice, it becomes difficult for the public to ignore. Let’s keep this story going several news cycles.

      Hard-nosed journalists can decry that I am being a bleeding heart. But far better I think to have a heart for those who suffer than no heart at all.

      It would have been far easier for me to write a piece like all journalists burying you in evidence, in facts that quite frankly the public is going to ignore. Those who accept the status quo are delighted when journalists tell stories filled with facts and no heart message, because the talk I hear in the coffee shops is that such pieces aren’t worth the paper they are written on, because they easily divorce themselves from reporting the heart story behind the news.

      God called me to be a different kind of journalist. My mentor and journalism professor, Will Rooen, at Canada Christian College & Graduate School, said that as Christian journalists we are called to be truth tellers. So, as I prayed about the way I should write this piece my Lord said to put the heart message into the story. Tell the story of how poverty kills the body and the spirit.

      If the hard-nosed journalists say I’m a bleeding heart, then maybe the Lord is challenging them to get a heart and stop dwelling in the land of cynicism.

      Yes, there is a place for a factual reporting of the news. But if we throw out the heart message all together when we face our Lord to give an account of our life, will we say we had to always go the way of the world. I hope not.

      So, thanks for spreading the message with your heart that poverty not just in Ontario but in our world is an injustice that needs to be corrected, praying and working together.

      God bless you richly for your faithfulness!


  3. We have this same problem here in the States. And today, our magnificent Congress passed a bill to cut our food assistance program by 50%. Despair is not even strong enough for this terrible situation.

    • I couldn’t agree more with your comments. It is one thing to be fiscally responsible, but to cut food aid by one half, that goes beyond the pale.

      A quote that these politicians should read is from Charles Darwin. While I don’t agree with his humanist philosophy on evolution, I do wholeheartedly support this thought he has about the poor.

      “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.”
      ― Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle

    • I know the Lord will hear your prayers as He hears all of our prayers. Yesterday, I was among a group of people who were selected to put forward our ideas on how to improve the social assistance system. We were the 10th of 11 sessions held across the province of Ontario. People collectively spoke with passion and openness about their struggles. Yet, as I listened to their stories, I saw that all were there because hope has not yet died within them.

      Please pray that many of the ideas we shared on improving the social assistance system in Ontario will be implemented. As one who has over seven years experience in writing policy, I know this will be a long journey to achieve our mutual objectives.

      Yet, I know the Christ who saved me over 30 years ago is with me.

      I will enjoy following your blog. I encouarge others to follow it as well. You write with a passion about your Lord. You tell the journey of the heart–your heart with God’s heart.

      You are a community changer. You do this by sharing your faith,hopes and dreams. Let us pray and dream together as we share the thoughts God gives us to write.

      As a trained writer and journalist I encourage you to keep writing. As I read the way you communicate, you have a writing style that draws me in to find out much more about you and your journey.

      I prayerfully ask you to think about becoming a member of the Christian Writer’s Guild. You would network with other Christian writers. There are also courses you can take to hone the gift of writing that God has given you.

      I’m prayerfully considering becoming a member myself in God’s time. I’m already a member of a Canadian Christian writer’s group called The Word Guild. I will give you links for both groups.

      I also in surfing the net as I was sipping my favourite honeybush,mandarin and orange tea came upon a school called Full Sail University that offers a number of online creative writing degree programs.

      After paying a membership fee as low as $30 for 60 days, $99 for one year, you can get all the writing courses even at the M.F.A. level free at Writer’s Village University.

      You may also want to prayerfully conider the M. Litt. that you can even take online through the University of Glasgow. I am prayerfully considering it after I finish my M.Th in Missions from a well-known and highly accredited distance school called South African Theological Seminary

      I believe at some point in time my Lord wants me to pursue a doctoral degree in theology. Dr. Johannes Malherbe, who is the Head of Postgraduate Studies, is mentoring me how theology can be wedded with social justice.

      I also love studying the classics. I think it would be totally awesome to become a classics teacher in England. I’ve always wanted to see England with my beautiful and loving wife, Karen. I love teaching, inspiring young minds. I have a connection on Linkedin, who is guiding me as to what I would need to study to become a classics teacher.

      Please pray for me as I discern God’s will for my life.

      I hope what I’ve shared has brought you encouragement today.

      Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

      God’s richest blessings!


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