Job Opening: Crime Fighter, No Cape Required.

By Ann McRae

 

Today’s crime fighters wear jeans and sweaters, carry a cell phone and work for a vast network of modestly funded agencies.

Furthering Our Communities: Uniting Services (FOCUS) Rexdale is the City of Toronto’s first foray into a model of crime prevention that was first developed in Glasgow and later tested in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

 A familiar scenario

Picture this:

A young man with low education and a low-paying part-time job is stressed out over his limited chance to improve his financial situation, and by his six year old child’s untreated autism. He snaps over one more degrading remark at work, and quits. He goes home angry, damages his own door when he kicks it open, not knowing his autistic son was holding it shut. He rages at the child, gets in a scuffle with his girlfriend who calls the police.

The police order him to leave for the night. He gets stoned and comes back. Mother and children flee.

A police officer takes them to a shelter, arresting him the next morning. A shelter worker sees signs, which obliges her to contact Children’s Aid Society. The children are placed in foster care.

The landlord sees police cars and upset neighbours. The landlord begins an application to terminate tenancy due to the illegal act of damages to his property.

The social assistance worker is asked to re-direct the assistance cheque to the mother, but doesn’t know the young man had been working.

Social assistance levies a large debt against the family, and reduces assistance because the children are in foster care.

Rent falls behind while eviction proceeds.

 

What if…

…all the agencies that know about this family’s troubles could sit together?

…the child’s school referred the parents to some support?

…support or hope or counselling could help the father keep things in control?

…the police, crown attorney and duty counsel could divert the man from conviction to community service for the housing provider?

…the housing provider could hire him as a painter, after his community service?

…he could avoid a conviction and be so proud of his success that he opened a painting business?

 So, where do we start?

Community initiatives are always hard work. Justifying every nickel of funding is also hard work, because the results are very difficult to measure. How does one put a price tag on changing lives and changing communities?

In Rexdale, groups including the City of Toronto, youth crisis agencies, public housing providers, Toronto social services, Toronto Police Services and Rexdale Community Legal Clinic gather at the table. In this context, “coming to the table” is not just jargon. It is a weekly meeting!

Following the Saskatchewan model, the purpose of FOCUS Rexdale is first, to identify a person or family at high risk of:

  • gang activity
  • violent incident
  • criminal involvement
  • homelessness
  • suicide.

Often, there is a complex web of issues or a snowballing of events that create the high risk situation.

 

What’s on the table at FOCUS Rexdale?

When all the partner agencies gather behind locked doors, then what? Who will be the one to mention this family?

Maybe it will be someone from social services or a police officer who flags what has happened.  Or perhaps it will be the Youth Justice Worker at Rexdale Community Legal Clinic. She got a call from the father on the morning of his release. Duty counsel at the courthouse, after a short conversation with his wife, identified him as a person at extreme risk. The entire family unit fits this red-flagging measure when immediate intervention is needed.

Too often, the legal clinic gets called only when an eviction is looming, or a suspension from social assistance has caused enormous rent arrears to pile up, or when an eviction has already happened, or when a jail term has just ended. At Rexdale, special project funding allows us to be “at the table” and to be part of the change that is needed.

If all legal clinics could partner with all service agencies in this way, it would be the legal equivalent of distributing flu shots for free. It would stop the spread of the diseases of despair and crime and the cycle of poverty.

Ann McRae is the Director of Legal Services at Rexdale Community Legal Clinic.

 

Be the Change: the First Hurdle is the Hardest

Sam, a high school athlete, faces discouraging barriers until one person, then another, then another, decides to make a difference....

Sam, a high school athlete, faces discouraging barriers until one person, then another, then another, decides to make a difference….Read about it in our story!

 

Before he crouches in the starting blocks, Sam can see the university track team coach, standing at the finish line, holding up a university team uniform. Between Sam and that uniform are several hurdles with the first in letters so large that they make the first hurdle taller than all the rest. He reads, “Fee to apply: $95.”

If Sam can’t raise $95, it doesn’t matter that he can easily clear the academic and Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) application hurdles.

“Sam” is not his real name, but his university application dilemma is a real life story currently unfolding in Etobicoke.

A year ago, Sam didn’t dream about track or about university. He had money from odd jobs for drug dealers and gang members. So, how did he change direction?

If you care about the answers, you can be part of the change.

The Youth Justice Initiative

Rexdale Community Legal Clinic’s new Youth Justice Initiative was the catalyst.

When Sam had trouble with the law, a duty counsel lawyer put him in touch with Camieka Woodhouse, our Youth Justice Initiative worker.

She discovered that he had the potential to continue onto university and that his athletic prowess would probably assure him of a scholarship. Suddenly, Sam could see horizons that had previously been completely blocked by the ugly brick buildings encircling his neighbourhood. Once he could “see” the university, he began to work and dream and train.

Sensing a change in him, Camieka asked some probing questions. She was familiar with the barrier posed by the Ontario Universities Application Centre process.

Moneyed families, preparing to fork out large amounts for their children to succeed, barely notice the registration fee.  On the other hand, young people without family supports or money are completely stymied. They’re only eligible for OSAP if they are accepted into university, and they cannot be accepted because they cannot afford to apply.

Because of this fairly modest barrier, budding opportunities die.

Where legal clinics can step in to help

Legal clinics are funded by Legal Aid Ontario to provide access to justice for low income residents in their communities.

Most clinic workers understand this can go beyond legal remedies and could include reducing poverty, increasing access to education and generally making a difference in any way that they can. And so, Camieka began searching for the non-legal remedy. Without it, she worried that Sam would return to his previous career options, mostly involving various forms of crime and ultimately, violence and incarceration.

Camieka believes that Sam has the ability to cross the other hurdles without her, but she was very concerned that he would turn to his former criminal associates to get the registration fee, and that this would amount to “falling off the wagon.”

Unknown to Sam, several conversations cascaded into a happy ending. A conversation at the clinic led to a request to a service club, and within 24 hours, the Knights of Columbus had come up with more than enough for Sam to launch his career plan.

Being the Change

At the clinic, we puzzle over how to create a pool of funds for cases like Sam’s and how to make guidance counsellors, youth counsellors and students aware of it.

Too many in our community face these hurdles:

  • growing up in poverty
  • bad role models for future paths
  • lack of opportunities for youth

Camieka sees her clients strolling around the starting line, studying the hurdles. On either side of the hurdles, there are “run off” lanes where the finish line is much closer. At the end of that line, a corrections officer is holding not a lycra tracksuit, but a cotton prison uniform.

Finding another path is about Being the Change: partnering and networking in our community and reducing poverty by addressing the causes.

Camieka is one of many people at our clinic and in our community who is part of the change. Now, so is Sam.

 

Footnote: Sam is a real person. For purposes of this article, Sam has been given a fictitious name.  Camieka Woodhouse is a real person, who has moved on to a different job, as real people do. Her work with young people at Rexdale Community Legal Clinic is being carried on by Tameka Francis.

 

Ann McRae is the Director of Legal Services at Rexdale Community Legal Clinic. 

GTA CLINIC TRANSFORMATION PROJECT: Monthly Newsletter September 2013

GTA CLINIC TRANSFORMATION PROJECT

Monthly Newsletter September 2013

Call for research on best practices

The GTA Transformation Project will be looking at international research and best practices for poverty law services to build on our existing literature review. Our current bibliography of research already reviewed is posted on our website – www.GTAclinics.ca. We would love to hear from you about any literature and articles that you know of that will help with this project. Email us or give us a call with anything you think is missing or to let us know of any information you’d like us to focus on.

Data Gathering Begins

Data gathering for the GTA Transformation is underway.

Since the Government changed the form for the 2011 Census, the data collected is not as helpful as the previous Census. A combination of 2011 Census data and 2010 Tax filer data will be used for most of the analysis as it will provide a fairly strong picture about where new immigrants are settling. When it is helpful, we will use the 2006 Census data to augment the other data we have.

Data will explore issues like low incomes, immigration rates and find the areas in the GTA that have the highest concentration of those circumstances.

The project will map the data and will overlay geographic data like the location of social housing and transit.

Additional data to be explored for their potential inclusion will include data on refugees, mental health survivors, Ontario Works and ODSP recipients.

A data subcommittee of the Steering Committee has been struck, with representatives from across the GTA. The subcommittee will discuss what data will be included in the data analysis of the project.

Project Workplan

The GTA Transformation Project will be working hard over the next several months to meet our project deliverables. In order to make sure that we respect the time needed to get this right, our project timelines may shift. Here’s a breakdown of our current workplan.

Deliverable

Steering Committee meeting

Data gathering of Clinics

October

Key informant interviews

Staff and client focus groups

November

Key informant interviews

Data analysis of Clinics

Literature review

December

Review of existing models

Model development

January

Key informant interviews

Infrastructure review, including IT, HR

February

Transition planning

March

Introduction to Low Income Population Data

Low income population statistics will be referred to in various contexts as we go through the GTA Legal Clinics Transformation Project. This article is an introduction to the concept, as requested by the Steering Committee.

LICO

The statistic generally used to represent the low income population in an area is Statistics Canada’s “low income cut off” statistic or LICO. Statistics Canada defines LICO as “the income below which a family is likely to spend 20 percentage points more of its income on food, shelter and clothing than the average family.” If the average family spends 43% of its before tax income on food, shelter and clothing, then the low income cut off will be families spending 63% or more of income on those necessities. That is the basic definition – the actual calculation is fairly complex and includes regression analysis. Fortunately, the data is not complex to use.

There are separate LICO’s for seven family sizes (from single persons to families of seven or more) and five community sizes (from rural areas to urban areas of 500,000 or more). This results in 35 LICO figures which are actual dollar figures. An individual or family which is below the LICO figure for the particular family size in the particular community size is considered “low income”. As Toronto, York and Peel are all communities of over 500,000, we are only concerned with the seven family size LICOs for that size of community: $23,298 for a single person.

LICO is a measure of the population which is significantly less well off than the average population – it is not intended to be a measure of “poverty”. While this may not be a perfect definition of poverty, it is the best available and the most statistically reliable. In the absence of any accepted definition of poverty, the LICO figures are regularly used by analysts as a shorthand for “low income population” and are used by the Transformation Project.

Other Measures

Other poverty measures include the Low Income Measure (LIM) which is 50% of the median household income and the Market Based Measure (MBM) which is intended to measure the minimum you need to buy food, shelter and clothing. LIM is just a measure of median incomes with no relation to what is needed to survive. MBM is a measure of absolute abject poverty. LICO is a relative measure of poverty – indicating those who are significantly worse off than the average. So far, it has been the preferred measure.

Currency of Data

All figures in this article are from the 2006 census and are thus out of date. During that time we have been through a recession. As well, there has been significant population growth in some areas of the GTA. Between the 2006 census and the 2011 census, the population of York Region has grown 16%, the Region of Peel has grown 12% and the City of Toronto has grown 4.5%. The LICO percentages may have also changed, so the change in the low income population needs to be calculated.

The GTA Transformation Project will use updated 2010 and some 2011 data, which has become available just recently.

How do I have a say?

If you are involved with a Clinic, talk to your Clinic’s Steering Committee representative about what’s happening. If you work at a Clinic you’ll be asked to have direct input. If you live in an affected community, we’ll be seeking people to participate in interviews and focus groups to give us their guidance, let us know you’d like to participate. And if you just have a really great idea, send us an email at info@gtaclinics.ca

You can stay on top of all the progress by visiting our website ww w. GT Acl i nics. ca , and have input through there as well. In the meantime, we will be putting out this newsletter once a month to let you know what’s been happening.

Thanks for taking an interest in the GTA Clinic Transformation Project.

 

GTA Clinic Transformation Project
http://www.GTAclinics.ca

LAO newsroom: LAO invests an additional $3 million in community and legal clinics

LAO newsroom

News archives

LAO Newsroom

LAO invests an additional $3 million in community and legal clinics

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

 

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is investing additional provincial funding of $3 million in 2013/14 to create two new funds that support Ontario’s community and legal aid clinics. This support includes:

LAO’s budget commitment

“…additional funding of $30 million over three years [$10 million annually, beginning in 2013/14] will be provided to Legal Aid Ontario. This funding will improve access to justice and enhance outcomes for low-income families, victims of domestic violence and other vulnerable groups by strengthening the capacity of Family Law Service Centres and other community and legal clinics across Ontario to respond to evolving needs, and ensure services are sustainable.”
— Government of Ontario Budget, May 3, 2013

  • $2 million to create a Fund to Strengthen the Capacity of Community and Legal Clinics, which will achieve the objectives of Ontario’s 2013 budget and

  • $1 million to create a Clinic Transformation Fund that will advance LAO’s clinic modernization program through clinic transformation and future savings.

This $3 million is 30 per cent of the $10 million in additional funding LAO is receiving from the government for 2013/14, as announced in the May 2013 budget. LAO will invest the remaining 70 per cent of the new funding in family law initiatives.

In addition to this $3 million, for 2013/14, LAO is also providing Ontario’s clinics with:

  • $67.8 million in core funding and

  • $4.15 million in special project funding to upgrade aging information technology infrastructure including desktops, laptops, monitors, and Microsoft Office Exchange. This support comes from a $3.25 million grant from the Law Foundation of Ontario, plus $900,000 from LAO’s own funding allocation.

 

Questions

For questions or further information, please contact:

Kristian Justesen
Director, Communications and Stakeholder Relations Group
Phone: 416-979-2352, ext.4782
Email: justesk@lao.on.ca and/or media@lao.on.ca

HALCO Annual General Meeting – Monday September 23, 2013

HALCO Annual General Meeting – Monday September 23, 2013

halco

Everyone is welcome to attend HALCO’s 2013 Annual General Meeting:

Monday September 23, 2013, at 7:00 p.m. (light refreshments at 6:30 p.m.), First Floor Meeting Room at 490 Sherbourne Street, Toronto, Ontario.

Our guest speaker Paul Lewin will talk about Reforming Canada’s Marijuana Laws. Paul Lewin is the Ontario Regional Director for NORML Canada and a criminal lawyer with a focus on cannabis offences.  The Meeting Agenda will include the presentation of our Kreppner Awards.

In addition, the Agenda will include: Minutes of our 2012 Annual General Meeting, Election of Board of Directors, Annual Report, Treasurer/Auditor’s Report, and Appointment of Auditors.

For more information, or if you require disability accommodation, please contact us. Please avoid wearing chemical-based scented products.

You can find all of the information in the HALCO Annual General Meeting 2013 invitation (pdf).

We hope to see you at the meeting!

 

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RCLC – ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

REXDALE CLC - AGM

GTA LEGAL CLINIC TRANSFORMATION PROJECT

GTA Legal Clinics

Transformation Project

PUBLIC

INFORMATION MEETING

June 10, 2013 at 6:00pm
Council Chamber: North York Civic Centre

Everyone in the community legal clinic community (Board
members, staff members and interested community members are
invited to attend this public meeting to discuss the Transformation
Project.

If you are:
• interested in knowing how this Project got started
• wanting to know what are the objectives of the Project
• curious about who is doing it and why
• concerned about how this will affect access to justice
• wondering: isn’t this just another government cutback

Please come to the meeting!

GTA LEGAL CLINIC

TRANSFORMATION PROJECT

What is this?

The GTA Clinic Transformation Project is about planning to replace the existing GTA community legal clinics with fewer, larger, clinics. The reason for this is to deliver
more and better services to our clients. If clinics are to develop new programs for service, if clinics want to enlist more pro bono, volunteer or student help, if clinics want
to use technology more effectively, if clinic staff members want to work in teams, all for the purpose of improving our services then clinics need to be larger organizations.

These observations were put forward in the report of Public Interest called “Refining the delivery of client-centred poverty law”. The consultants were retained by the 6
East Toronto clinics to assist them in improving collaboration amongst the clinics. The principles in this report were thought to have application beyond the context of East
Toronto and those clinics proposed to the Toronto Legal Clinics Management Group that this should be a GTA-wide project. The Managers Group agreed and the GTA
Transformation Project began.

The first step taken was the establishment of the “Working Group”, eight clinic EDs who volunteered to head up the Project, essentially acting as an executive for a Steering Committee to be comprised of representatives of all participating clinics. The Working Group applied to the LAO Innovations Fund and has been given funding for this project. We expect to retain consultants to assist with the process, including analysis of demographic data and doing some community needs assessment.

This is an opportunity for a completely fresh approach. If there were no existing community legal clinics, what would be the best way to deliver clinic law services in the
GTA? What is the optimum size for a community legal clinic? Based on where clients are located, where should catchment area boundaries be? Together we will build a
new and better system for delivering a full range of poverty law services in the GTA, one which meets client and community needs and which seeks the best (the most
effective and efficient) means of delivering clinic law services. All clinics will be taking an equal risk of change. The more clinics participating the better will be our final report.

Meeting Agenda

1. Introductions and Welcome

2. The broader context of clinic transformation, Legal Aid and the clinic system
Lenny Abramowitz – Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario

3. Brief history of the GTA Clinic Transformation Project

4. The changing demographic of the GTA

5. The Public Interest Report – “Refining the delivery of client-centred poverty law”

6. The GTA wide Project

7. next steps and beyond

8. adjournment