Knowledge Exchange Blog

Celebrating Urban Indigenous Housing Solutions as part of National Truth and Reconciliation Day

October 2023

Ontario is estimated to have a shortage of approximately 22,000 deeply affordable urban and rural Indigenous community housing units. The Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) is dedicated to working with partners to deliver housing solutions in communities across Ontario that close that deficit and deliver tangible reconciliation commitments. But often, these innovative housing solutions face pushback and are labeled as controversial, often because of stereotypes and subconscious bias against Indigenous people that exist in many communities. Suze Morrison for OFIFC discusses how achieving true Reconciliation requires a joint effort from stakeholders, community members, and government at all levels.

Previous Posts

How Can the Social Services Sector Help End Hunger?

September 2023

Food banks and municipal social services share the same goal: supporting vulnerable Ontarians to live a life of dignity. Each September, Feed Ontario and their network of food banks take part in Hunger Action Month, encouraging everyone in the province to do their part to end food insecurity in Ontario. With the dramatic rise in food bank use over the last few years, the need for action on hunger and poverty is more urgent than ever. Ashley Quan for Feed Ontario explains how OMSSA Members have a vital role to play in this fight.

Building Partnerships and Innovative Programs to Expand EarlyON Child and Family Programs

August 2023

Before the pandemic, York Region organized a "Think Tank session" with EarlyON agencies to evaluate current outdoor programming. They also recognized that their EarlyON educators, who were trained in Early Childhood Education (ECE), often did not have outdoor education or Indigenous cultural training to make the necessary changes to the curriculum development for outdoor program delivery. To address these concerns, the Region sought the advice of outdoor education and Indigenous worldview experts to help develop a new four-season outdoor program. Then, they partnered with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority to support training and curriculum development, leading to the creation of the Walking Together Through the Four Seasons collaborative initiative. Kathy Lucky, the Manager of EarlyON Programs with York Region, explains how this program was developed to benefit the community.

Urban Indigenous Children Deserve Equal Access to Child Care

August 2023

Indigenous children thrive when they are proud of who they are and have access to their culture. But Indigenous children living in cities don’t currently have equal access to child care that meets those important cultural needs. Of the approximately 473,000 child care spaces currently in Ontario, 12,000 of those would need to be dedicated to urban Indigenous children to equitably match the population need. Currently, only about 2,000 spaces are in urban Indigenous child care sites – representing a staggering shortfall of nearly 10,000 spaces. With unprecedented federal investments being made through the Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care (CWELCC) funding, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to right these inequities and invest in Indigenous children. Suze Morrison, Chief Engagement Officer for the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) explains how OMSSA Members can assist. 

Pickering Shares Casino Revenue with Durham Region to Address Shared Goals

August 2023

The City of Pickering is the host community (those with gaming facilities located in their communities) for their new casino and is a municipality located within the Region of Durham. As the upper-tier municipal government, Durham is responsible for providing social housing, transit, policing, and other services to residents across the Region. Pickering is the first and only host community in Ontario to voluntarily share its revenues with another municipality and/or regional government. Together, the City and Region hope this revenue will help to meaningfully address their shared goals including more affordable housing and enhanced social services in the community.

The United Counties of Leeds and Grenville's Collaborative EarlyON-Social Housing Summer Pop-Up Program

July 2023

Leeds and Grenville’s EarlyON programs are delivered as a branch of the Children’s Services Department within the greater Community and Social Services Division, the same division that delivers the Social Housing program and Ontario Works. Years ago, the idea came about for a Pop-up Play program dedicated to the families that were living in some of the Social Housing units. Mattea Steacy, the EarlyON Supervisor with the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville explains how this program works and the benefits to service users in the community.

Bridging the Digital Divide in Northern and Southern Ontario: How Wellington and Thunder Bay are Helping Clients Connect

July 2023

Thunder Bay and Wellington County came together with shared goals and similar ideas about how to support their communities during COVID. The rapid shift revealed the existence of a digital divide – the gap between those who can access and use information and communication technologies in their daily lives and people who cannot. With essential supports such as medical appointments, court hearings, and training programmes shifting to hybrid or virtual delivery, the need to address digital equity in our communities quickly became a clear imperative.

An Interview with Dan McCormick

July 2023

Dan McCormick has been employed as the CAO of the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board (RRDSSAB) since February 2011. The RRDSSAB delivers Social Housing, Children’s Services, Ontario Works and Land Ambulance across the Rainy River District. Dan has always been very involved in the community on local, district, and provincial levels, serving on several boards and committees. He is the Past President of OMSSA having served in various roles since 2017. OMSSA sat down with Dan to discuss human services, his career, and involvement with the Association.

From Struggle to Stability: Creating a Tailored Management Course for those Living with Low Income

June 2023

Now more than ever Canadians are recognizing the importance of financial well-being – achieving peace of mind about our financial situation, feeling secure in our ability to absorb a money setback, and having the freedom to make choices that allow us to enjoy life. Financial stress is compounded when people feel a loss of control and lack the appropriate knowledge and information to make decisions in their best interests. Carrie Wong and Nandita Bijur from Prosper Canada talk about the work they are doing in this area. 

An Interview with Sutha Balasingham

June 2023

Sutha Balasingham has over 20 years of experience in the human services sector working with municipal governments and NGOs and extensive experience in policy, program, and strategy development through research and analysis. Sutha led the development of an Integrated Human Services Plan for Community and Health Services at York Region, which has 2,500+ staff delivering programs such as Housing, Homelessness, Paramedics Services, Long-Term Care, Social Assistance, and Public Health. Sutha is also a member of OMSSA's Board of Directors. She sat down with OMSSA to talk about human services delivery, her career, and involvement with the Association.

Reflections on the 2023 Exchange Conference

June 2023

Held in Ottawa this past May, OMSSA’s 2023 Exchange Conference brought together more than 330 people for two days of learning, sharing, and connecting. It was a huge success! Over the one and a half days of the conference, attendees got to see many great examples of the excellence of OMSSA Member organizations and the staff and managers who carry out important work geared towards improving the lives of so many Ontarians. The Conference program was packed with content related to the work that OMSSA Members do in housing and homelessness, children’s services, and employment and income supports. Learn more about our 2023 Exchange Conference. 

A Summary of the Region of Waterloo's Encampment Decision

May 2023

On January 27th, 2023, Justice M. J. Valente of the Ontario Superior Court rejected The Regional Municipality of Waterloo’s application for an injunction to evict individuals who were encamped on Region-owned property due to those individuals being in breach of a local By-Law prohibiting such actions. While the Justice praised the valuable work that the Region has already done to address homelessness, he nevertheless denied the injunction on the basis that the By-Law violated the homeless residents’ Charter right to life, liberty, and security. More recently, the Region announced that it has decided not to appeal the ruling. There are several significant takeaways that can be gleaned from this first-of-its-kind-in-Ontario decision. The decision represents the need for a serious shift in thinking around how OMSSA Members will address the issue of encampments moving forward.

Making York Region EarlyON Child and Family Programs More Accessible for Families Through the New EarlyON Registration Tool

May 2023

OMSSA is featuring several of our 2022 Local Municipal Champion award recipients and their work in the Knowledge Exchange Blog. Please read the entry from York Region. In April 2022, the York Region EarlyON Child and Family Programs and Ontario Child Care Management System (OCCMS) teams in collaboration with CMSMs/DSSABs came together to develop and implement a system-wide, centralized online registration platform for EarlyON programs.

An Interview with Polly Smith

May 2023

OMSSA sits down to speak with Polly Smith, Director of Employment and Social Services at the Municipality of Chatham-Kent about the importance of human services delivery, her career, and involvement with OMSSA. 

Peel's Youth Caseworker Team

April 2023

The Region of Peel is dedicated in creating a community where every person experiences a sense of belonging while having access to all services that may be required through each stage of life. As a result, the Peel Youth Caseworker team was founded, to provide integrated services to youth while being devoted to assisting residents out of poverty. 

An Interview with Henry Wall

April 2023

OMSSA sits down to speak with Henry Wall, Chief Administrative Officer, from the Kenora District Services Board about the importance of human service integration and the issues of housing and homelessness in Northern Ontario communities. 

The District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board: Community Resource Centres

April 2023

OMSSA is featuring several of our 2022 Local Municipal Champion award recipients and their work in the Knowledge Exchange Blog. Please read the entry from the District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board. Over the past five years TBDSSAB has worked to create community resource centres for tenants and clients, creating centralized access for neighbourhood engagement and service enhancement. 

A Municipal Approach to Employment Service System Leadership

March 2023

OMSSA is featuring several of our 2022 Local Municipal Champion award recipients and their work in the Knowledge Exchange Blog. Please read the entry from the County of Bruce. The Employment Service System Manager for the Stratford-Bruce Peninsula took a truly local approach to service system management. Within the Employment Service Transformation, the Bruce, Grey, Huron, and Stratford consortium is the only Service System Manager that formally brought together the four CMSMs into an integrated model to deliver employment services to the catchment area.

Lambton County Integrated Team

March 2023

OMSSA is featuring several of our 2022 Local Municipal Champion award recipients and their work in the Knowledge Exchange Blog. Please read the entry from the County of Lambton. With early uncertainty regarding COVID-19 and strong awareness of the heightened vulnerabilities for those experiencing homelessness, the County of Lambton was tasked with ensuring the shelter and safety of households experiencing homelessness. They had varying needs, levels of support, and sources of income. It was understood within the Social Services Division that a unique approach to helping these households begin their journey to a new home would be required. This is where the concept of the Integrated Team originated. 

OMSSA Report on the 2023 Ontario Budget

March 2023

On March 23rd, Ontario's Minister of Finance, Peter Bethlenfalvy, delivered the 2023 Ontario Budget. The budget comes at a time when Ontario is facing a housing crisis, homelessness crisis, pandemic recovery, inflation, and global economic uncertainty. Learn more about some of the highlights relevant to OMSSA Members and the municipal human services sector.

OMSSA Report on the 2023 Federal Budget

March 2023

On March 28th, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland delivered the 2023-24 Federal Budget. The budget was themed around the cost of living, dentalcare and clean energy. Learn more about some of the highlights relevant to OMSSA Members and the municipal human services sector.

Serving The Community Through OMST

February 2023

OMSSA is featuring several of our 2022 Local Municipal Champion award recipients and their work in the Knowledge Exchange Blog. Please read the entry from the City of Ottawa. Social Service Staff members took steps to address concerns of mental health with an increased digital divide and aggravating pre-existing inequities as the effects began to impact individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those concerns were addressed by challenging the status quo and removing barriers to providing essential human services when people were most in need. In 2021, the Outreach and Mobile Services Team (OMST) began to offer outreach services to individuals and families.

This Is Not OK

February 2023

Homelessness can be a result of a complex mix of social services, health, and economic difficulties. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic changed how we work, our way of education and how we interact with others. Due to reduced in-person social services, widespread isolation, and inflationary housing and food costs, homelessness is gaining recognition as a serious problem. With agencies and drop-in centres now open people can have access to in-person support yet the number of people wandering our streets continues to shock and disappoint the public. 

The City of Toronto is Leading and Learning with Pride to Better Support 2SLGBTQI+ Seniors

February 2023

Within the next 25 years, Canada's elderly population is expected to grow three times larger compared to today, necessitating the need for senior services. The needs of seniors in the 2SLGBTQI+ community who identify as Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Intersex—must be considered as the country's demographics change.

Coming Together For The First Time Since 2019

February 2023

The 2022 Policy Conference was the first in-person event for OMSSA in the last three years. OMSSA members and staff were eager to meet with their colleagues resulting in a great turnout at the event with members joining from all around the province. The Conference consisted of several plenary and concurrent sessions focusing on relevant human services policy topics. 

Transforming the System of Homelessness Prevention Services and Supports in Simcoe County

January 2023

OMSSA is featuring several of our 2022 Local Municipal Champion award recipients and their work in the Knowledge Exchange Blog. Please read the entry from the County of Simcoe. To effectively manage needs within the homeless shelter system during the COVID-19 pandemic and enable early identification of issues, the County of Simcoe rapidly integrated public health, mental health, addictions, housing services and paramedic services through weekly meetings and on site in regular and temporary motel based shelter settings, established new relationships and strengthened existing relationships across systems to improve access to critical services and supports to homeless individuals and families.

An Interview with Greg Bishop

January 2023

Greg Bishop has been the General Manager, Social and Community Services Division at the County of Simcoe since 2015. This role includes leadership and oversight to the Social Housing, Community Services, Ontario Works and Children Services Departments. Greg is also one of the recipients of the 2022 OMSSA Lifetime Achievement Award. OMSSA sat down with Greg to discuss human services, his career, and involvement with OMSSA. 

An Interview with Debbie Cercone

January 2023

In 2006, Debbie started in the role of Executive Director of Housing and Children’s Services with the City of Windsor responsible for housing, homelessness, child care and early years and emergency social services and held this position for over 15 years until her retirement in 2022. Debbie is also one of the recipients of the 2022 OMSSA Lifetime Achievement Award. OMSSA sat down with Debbie to discuss human services, her career, and involvement with OMSSA. 

An Interview with Karly Church

December 2022

Karly Church is an anti-trafficking advocate, crisis counsellor and well-known speaker. She is known for her work on the issue of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking and has been a leader in helping shift the perception of trafficked girls from criminals to victims and now to survivors and leaders. She is also the recipient of the 2022 OMSSA Champion of Human Services Award. OMSSA sat down with Karly for an interview to discuss her work. Please note: This article discusses a specific person’s experiences with human trafficking. This may be difficult for some readers.

An Interview with Mellissa Morgan

December 2022

Mellissa Morgan is the General Manager of Human Services and Long-Term Care for the City of Cornwall, and she oversees the operations, transformation, and modernization of Ontario Works, Children‘s Services, and Housing Services for Cornwall, Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry. She believes that life stabilization is a fundamental and core principle within each of those areas. She is also the recipient of the 2022 OMSSA Patti Moore Human Services Integration Award. OMSSA sat down with Mellissa for an interview to discuss her work and experiences over her career within the City of Cornwall and various human services topics.

We Need to Talk

November 2022

This post is being re-published with permission from Tend Academy. This post was originally written by Françoise Mathieu in August 2022. Françoise was most recently a keynote speaker at OMSSA's 2022 Forum where she discussed many of the topics and themes discussed in this blog post. Photo credit: TEND Academy

The Housing Hub Vision

October 2022

Read our latest blog post from Whitney Kitchen, Coordinator of Housing Administration and Development with the City of Windsor, about the Homelessness & Housing Help Hub (H4) that began as an emergency response to the Covid-19 pandemic to provide social distancing and safe daytime space to individuals experiencing homelessness. Also learn more about the the vision for a new permanent Housing Hub as a response to the success achieved at the current H4.  

Bruce County Launches Affordable Housing Toolkit for Developers

September 2022

Read our latest blog post from Tania Dickson, Housing Services Manager with Bruce County, about the launch of the first phase of their Affordable Housing Toolkit earlier this year. The toolkit offers a wealth of information and data to assist property owners and developers appreciate the need for affordable housing. The toolkit outlines the need for diverse development opportunities, including medium and high-density units, to support everyone‘s various housing needs. Learn more about Bruce County's toolkit.

Who Says That Promoting the ECE Profession Can't Be Fun?

August 2022

Read our latest blog post from Tammy Kealey-Donaldson, Manager of Children's Services with Lanark County about the promotion and recruitment of Early Childhood Educators (ECEs). Lanark County is recognized for its Early Childhood Educator (ECE) Dino campaign which has proven to be a huge success. Building on its 2021 Local Municipal Champion Award, learn more about Lanark County's work to recruit and retain ECEs in the community. 

Heartwork and so much more...

July 2022

Read our latest blog post from Michelle Schurter, CEO and Founder of the Millennial Strategist, talking about a recent professional development event led by the Municipality of Chatham-Kent for Child Care and Early Years workers. The focus was on celebrating the service provided to families and communities, particularly over the past two years with the pandemic, and digging deep into the value Early Childhood Educators bring to children, families, community, and the economy. Twelve communities partnered with Chatham-Kent and shared the cost of one virtual day of learning bringing together over 4,000 educators! Learn more about the event and what's next for the Child Care and Early Years workforce in Ontario. 

Secondary Suite Funding Programs in the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville

June 2022

Read our latest blog post from Caroline Rigutto, Policy and Program Review Analyst with Leeds and Grenville, talking about how in 2020 a municipal Housing Affordability Task Force was formed in Leeds and Grenville to strategically examine housing affordability needs, and to recommend prioritized solutions. As an initiative to increase the supply of affordable rental housing in Leeds and Grenville, the Task Force recommended that a Secondary Suite program be developed. Learn more about this program in Leeds and Grenville. 

Understanding the AMO-OMSSA Partnership

May 2022

Read our latest blog post from AMO's Senior Advisor, Michael Jacek, talking about how OMSSA and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) work together. OMSSA members may not realize that our organizations are already joined at the hip and together we can accomplish much through collaboration while being mindful of our respective roles and contributions. 

OMSSA Report on the 2022 Ontario Budget and Election Preview

May 2022

The purpose of this blog post is to highlight what was included in the 2022 Ontario Budget and to preview to members what to expect in terms of issues and potential outcomes in the upcoming Ontario Election that will occur on June 2nd, 2022. (Photo credit: Toronto Star)

Responding to Human Trafficking During COVID

April 2022

The importance of having a sensitive and informed response to domestic sex trafficking was put to the test during COVID-19. Many expected human trafficking would slow down during a global pandemic. What the Durham Human Trafficking Response Team saw was the exact opposite. Learn more about the experience from Jocelyn Siciliano of Durham Region Social Services.

From Poverty to Equity: Expanding the Lens in Dufferin County

April 2022

When you think of the word poverty, what do you see? Many see visions of people without access to drinking water in faraway places or of sprawling metropolises with rough-looking, crime-ridden neighborhoods. Most people have a hard time seeing poverty in their own charming little town, even though it exists. Poverty doesn’t always resonate with all people and all human service providers in the same way. Read more from County of Dufferin's Director of Community Services, Anna McGregor, on the work being done to address poverty and equity in this community. 

OMSSA Report on the 2022 Federal Budget

April 2022

On April 7, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland, delivered the 2022 Federal Budget. Housing was the highlight of this Federal Budget with $10.1 billion in new spending over five years and a goal to double the amount of homes built over the next 10 years addressing housing supply.  

Community Paramedicine in Sault Ste. Marie

March 2022

After years of seeing gaps between the care people need and the traditional programs offered, Sault Ste. Marie paramedics will finally have the chance to provide even better community-based healthcare to their patients. Soon, Sault Ste. Marie will have its own Community Paramedic program, a concept that has proven itself time and time again throughout Canada and is long overdue in this Northern community. Read more from Sault Ste. Marie Paramedic Chief Katie Kirkham on this program and its importance to the community. 

An Interview with Grace Mater 

March 2022

Throughout her years in public service, Grace Mater has been committed to collaborative approaches that enhance the lives of children and families in Hamilton. She stepped into the Operations Chief role for the City of Hamilton’s pandemic response as well as the General Manager, Healthy and Safe Community Department role prior to her retirement. Grace is also the recipient of the 2021 OMSSA Lifetime Achievement Award. OMSSA sat down with Grace to discuss human services, her career, and involvement with OMSSA. 

An Interview with ADM Cordelia Abankwa

February 2022

Cordelia Abankwa is the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Employment and Training Division with the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development and an executive leader and relationship builder with 30 years of experience in municipal and provincial public service where she has led innovation in complex, multidimensional environments.  She is also the recipient of the 2021 OMSSA Patti Moore Human Services Integration Award. OMSSA sat down with Cordelia for an interview to discuss her work with the Ministry and experiences over her career within municipal and provincial settings. 

How Can Human Services Empower Young Leaders?

February 2022

As young leaders we know we have only hit the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our career development. We are two of the three co-founders of the Multiculturalism Group. The group focuses on cultural inclusion through empowering, engaging and educating staff about multiculturalism. This opportunity has allowed us to develop our leadership skills through coaching, leading and mentoring individuals. We would like to share a few of the lessons and skills we have developed as leaders that can be applied across all of the human services sectors. Read more from OMSSA's 2021 Young Leader Award recipients. 

The Rollout of Employment Services Transformation in Haldimand-Norfolk

January 2022

As one of the prototype locations for Employment Services Transformation (EST), it has been nearly a year since the roll out in Haldimand-Norfolk. EST is the first major step of the Social Assistance (SA) transformation in Ontario, quickly followed by centralized intake in February. We know we are in the first stages of an ongoing transformation which will continue until 2024. Learn more about the experience in Haldimand-Norfolk. 

Welcome to OMSSA's Knowledge Exchange Blog

OMSSA’s Knowledge Exchange Blog provides members with an opportunity for knowledge exchange to discuss sector issues across Ontario so readers are aware of the depth and breadth of sector issues, events, and activities across Ontario. 


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