Sleep Out for the homeless a big eye-opener for Loyalist students

Social service student's home for the Sleep Out 2014  Photo courtesy of the SSW program at Loyalist College.

Social service student’s home for the Sleep Out 2014 Photo courtesy of the SSW program at Loyalist College.

By Suzanne Coolen

BELLEVILLE – Students in the social service worker program at Loyalist College are gearing up for another year of participating in the Sleep Out So Others Can Sleep In fundraiser for the homeless.

The event is aimed at raising awareness about poverty and funds for transitional housing for those without shelter in our community. This is the eighth year the sleep out has been held.

Social service worker student, Natasha Roth said the experience for her last year was a real eye opener.

“You always know about homeless people and how bad it is for them but I think until you actually experience what it’s like to be in their shoes we cannot really say much,” she said. “Sleeping out there was a big eye opener for me. It gave me better appreciation for what I have and more of a appreciation for what I can do for others who have less than I do.”

Alicia Pinelli is another student in the social worker program returning to the event.  She says the sleep out was unlike any experience she ever had.

“Once the music stopped and it was time to head to sleep is when it became an eye opening experience,” she said. “I remember shivering, lying in a box, listening to my friends mention just how close our houses were and that we could walk home in a matter of minutes and be back in our beds. That is when I made a vow to myself to stay outside for the entire night, not going to the warm room, and completing the entire sleep out.”

Pinelli  said the sleep out made the cause of homelessness a reality.

“Until that night I had educated myself through every means possible on homelessness, but the sleep out made it truly real,” she said. ” I believe that this is an experience unlike any other that truly changes your outlook on life. It not only causes you to appreciate the things you have in life, but it educates you and makes you understand that homelessness is an issue that needs to be focused on and addressed in Canada, as well as around the globe.”

She added that after sharing her experience with family and friends that many of them will be joining her for this years event.

Student Kristin Casey said the sleep out was about more then just sleeping outside.

“For me the sleep out was about experiencing what is was like for people who don’t have a safe and warm place to sleep. It made me appreciate everything that I previous took for granted, such as, a roof over my head, a comfortable bed to sleep in with blankets and pillows, and warm clothes,” she said. “The sleep out had a powerful effect on me. Its an experience I’ll never forget and that I’ll always be grateful for.”

Sandie Sidsworth, executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association Hastings and Prince Edward Counties
said the event this year will have speakers from the community who are poverty advocates.

“Sandy Watson-Moyles from Three Oaks shelter and Ruth Ingersoll from Community Development Council Quinte will be speaking to the crowd,” she said. “From Loyalist, Lisa Shunock and Rose Marie Reid who are professors in the Child and Youth worker program will be on hand to discuss the poverty challenge they do each year with their students.”

The event runs from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. on January 30, in Belleville’s Market Square behind city hall.

If you’d like to take part in this year’s event you can call the CMHA at 613-969-8874 or email ssidsworth@hastings-cmha.org for a pledge and safety sheet.

Wage increase is great news for early child educators

ECE

 

By Suzanne Coolen

BELLEVILLE – Local early childhood educators are very happy with Monday’s announcement of a wage increase for Ontario’s licensed child care workers.

“We are very excited about the increase,” said Kelly Allen, executive director of Family Space Quinte. “This is very welcoming news.”

Debbie Milne, executive director of First Adventure Child Development Centres on Bridge Street, says it is great, great news.

“Its nice that the Liberals are investing in workers in what has traditionally been an underpaid job for the amount of work they do,” she said.
“It has been very difficult for child care workers to compete with the school board,who’s workers are paid much more for the same job.”

For daycare workers employed in full-day kindergarten classrooms it is between $20 and $26 per hour before the announcement. For all other daycare workers the average hourly wage is about $16 per hour.

Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne announced Monday the government will increase the wage by $1 per hour with another wage increase, starting this month and an additional $1 increase next year. Only workers making less than $26.27 an hour will be eligible for the raise.

The increase will be available to eligible child care program staff working in all licensed child care centres employed as of January 1, 2015, as well as licensed private home day care providers.

This new wage is aimed at closing the pay gap. The last significant wage increase was in 2007, when the province spent about $25 million to give the low paid daycare workers a 3-per-cent raise.

“Parents deserve the peace of mind of knowing their children are in good hands,” said Wynne in a press release. “By investing in early childhood educators, we are supporting nurturing child care environments where children can thrive.”

In the May 1 budget in 2014, the Liberals proposed to  spend $269 million over two years to raise the wages of daycare workers in licensed settings by $2 an hour and this past December, the government passed the Child Care Modernization Act to strengthen oversight of the province’s unlicensed child care sector and increase access to licensed child care options.

Jennifer deGroot, professor of Early Childhood Education at Loyalist College, applauds the Ontario government for following through on a promise made in last year’s budget to increase wages for child care workers.

“This increase is a positive step toward closing the gap between wages,” she said. “Wages and working conditions often affect the ability to recruit and retain employees.”

deGroot says this is the first step but more can be done.

“We need a provincially established salary grid for early childhood educators to ensure a standardized rate for all early childhood educators regardless of where they work.” she said.

Lack of places to sleep for Belleville’s homeless

 

photo by Suzanne Coolen

photo by Suzanne Coolen

By Suzanne Coolen

BELLEVILLE – There have been three deaths in Toronto in the past month attributed to homelessness. There have been no deaths from lack of shelter in Belleville.

According to www.homelesshub.ca, a web-based research library for Canadian homeless resources, 511 people were living on the streets in Belleville as of 2010, while 955 were at risk of becoming homeless. Currently there are approximately 30 beds available in transitional and supportive housing with three homes run by the Hastings and Prince Edward County CMHA.

With Belleville’s high homeless population and the lack of places for people to go when the temperatures drop to dangerous levels, some feel a death from the elements is just a matter of time.

“We haven’t had a death….yet,” said former mayoral candidate Bill Glisky, who focused on poverty issues during his campaign. Also, as the former managing editor of the Intelligencer, he wrote many stories on poverty and homelessness.

“As a community, we need to recognize that this is something that could happen here and we need to put some better things in place,” he said.

“The city needs to come up with the next step. They now keep city buildings open until midnight. The next step would be to keep these places open all night long in emergency cases like extreme cold,” he said.

“This could be something as simple as the city reaching out to partner organizations like churches and telling them, ‘You open your doors we will help with things like blankets, funding and security.’ Those kind of initiatives are ones that other cities have taken on and that many charitable organizations are already doing on their own,” he said.

Last week when Belleville was issued an extreme cold weather alert, the city extended hours at the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre on Cannifton Road and suggested people use public facilities such as the Belleville Public Library on Pinnacle Street as a warming centre.

The Salvation Army has a warm room on Pinnacle Street offering a hot meal and winter clothing. Bridge Street United Church’s program, Inn From The Cold, which opens on January 18, offers a similar program but these places are not open late into the night.

Executive Director of Hastings Canadian Mental Health Association Sandi Sidsworth says after these places close, many of the homeless move from place to place throughout the night.

“Many people couch-surf and stay with friends, hang out in warm spaces such as bank lobbies and stairwells in public buildings. A big majority of them go to coffee shops that are open 24 hours,” she said.

Sidsworth said a phone number for the Red Cross is given out at warming centres for housing emergencies when the Salvation Army and CMHA close.

“The Red Cross provides a one night stay, sometimes it is a in local shelter, and often they are given a voucher for a motel. CMHA will work with them to initiate a housing plan so that stay can be extended,” said Sidsworth. “We try to provide shelter locally because ideally plans work better if the client has a local support network but sometimes they are sent to a shelter in Kingston.”

Sidsworth agrees that this is not enough.

“I would love to see more transitional housing,” she said. “None of us are doing enough but it is unfair to point fingers. We all need to work together; there needs to be a collective voice.”

 Warming Centres in Belleville

The emergency number for the Red Cross is 1-866-317-6544

The Belleville Public Library at 223 Pinnacle St. is open as a warming centre until 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 5 p.m. on Friday.

The Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre on Cannifton Road is open from 6 a.m. to midnight.

The Warm Room at the Salvation Army on Pinnacle street is open from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. seven days a week and provides a hot meal and a place to warm up for a few hours. Blankets and winter clothing are available.

Hastings County branch of Ontario Works will also help with emergency shelter as well as provide hotel accommodations due to homelessness. These emergencies considered on case-by-case basis. Anyone who is in a homeless situation between 8:30 am – 4:30 pm should call 613-771-9630 or 1-866-414-0300 or report directly to the nearest Ontario Works office.

 

Infographics and data visualization – Online storytelling tools

Have you ever read on online story where the information was presented in an such an innovative way that you just stare at the screen in awe?

Here is a list of my favourite sites and tools for making digital storytelling awesome!

  • How they did it – Part one – Spotting storytelling tools in the wild – Great piece on using interactive maps from medium.com
  • Easel.ly – Love this site! Easily create infographics using templates and icons. The free version has enough backgrounds and graphics to get you started and you can upload your own pics too. This is a basic graphic I made this week.blue
  • Infogr.am is a great tool for incorporating data into graphics.More than 30 charts types to choose from.
  • Picktochart is a site that is similar to Easel.ly – Free and tons of templates to choose from.

 

Happy 25th birthday to Quinte’s blue box program

By Suzanne Coolen

BELLEVILLE – Close to 276,000 metric tonnes of recyclable material has been kept out of the landfills since the blue box program started in the Quinte region, 25 years ago.

According to Quinte Waste Solutions, that amount is the equivalent of over 15 million full 40 lb. garbage bags, weighing the same as 46,000 full-grown elephants.

Read the full story at QNet News

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Twitter tips for journalists

Breaking the big stories

On November 27th, I attended The Canadian Journalism Foundation’s #CJFjtalk on investigative journalism.

Kevin Donovan, investigative reporter and editor with the Toronto Star, and Diana Swain, senior investigative journalist with CBC News, took us behind the scenes on some of their most recent investigative stories, ( Ghomeshi , Ford, Scout’s Canada). Paula Todd was the moderator for the evening and shared her process on finding Karla Holmolka.

This is worth a watch if you have any interest at all in doing investigative type stories. Great tips on digging deeper and on how to deal with anonymous sources.