Most recipients of Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) are aware that the provincial government ended the CSUMB benefit as of January 1, 2013. What many people don’t know however is that municipalities were instructed by the province to create new Community Homelessness Prevention Initiatives (CHPI), including the Housing Stabilization Fund (HSF). Toronto Employment and Social Services (TESS) did so, but officials have advised Toronto legal clinics that the requests for Housing Stabilization Fund assistance are quite low. NLS wants to help get the word out that some additional forms of assistance are still possible.
While the benefits provided through HSF are not contained in law (& hence not enforceable / appealable the way CSUMB was), Toronto’s benefits are comparable in other ways. Some of the old criteria to qualify still apply. That is, you must provide proof of your need up to the maximum allowed, demonstrate financial sustainability (eg. if rental arrears are paid off, can you afford the monthly rent). But the previous requirement that someone must not have received CSUMB in the last 24 months has been dropped. In the case of ODSP recipients, total income and assets will also be taken into account when assessing eligibility.
Toronto’s HSF is available to those on OW and ODSP to assist with:
Someone on ODSP must be referred by their ODSP worker to OW for assistance from the HSF, while a person on OW simply needs to raise the issue with their worker.
TESS has also set up an internal appeal procedure regarding denials of the Housing Stabilization Fund. While a negative decision can’t be appealed to the Social Benefits Tribunal, if someone disagrees with a negative decision, they can express this disagreement to their worker and the case will be reviewed by the supervisor. A negative decision by the supervisor will be reviewed by the local office manager, but the decision of the manager is final. The final decision will not be provided in writing only communicated verbally.
TESS is also in the process of setting up a community consultation process to be carried out in this transition year. They are hiring outside consultants to assist in canvassing the views of recipients, agencies, etc. as to what this program should look like down the road. Look for more details in the months ahead about how to participate.
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