Photo caption: The Poverty Reduction Strategy Lived Experience Advisory Group from 2015-2019

The Poverty Reduction Strategy’s Lived Experience Advisory Group (LEAG) uses their personal lived experience with the realities, conditions and impacts of living with poverty to inform the effective development, implementation, and monitoring of the City’s Poverty Reduction Strategy.

Current LEAG Members (2020-2022)

The LEAG includes residents who reflect the diversity of the city. In selecting members for the LEAG, consideration was given to ensure good representation from equity-deserving groups. LEAG members include people with diverse racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, sexual, and gender identities. Members include racialized people, new immigrants, people with disabilities, Indigenous people, and people with experiences of the justice system. LEAG members’ insights into a range of programs and issues, including Ontario Works, unemployment, systemic discrimination and the impacts of violence, will inform the activities of the Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy.

 

Amanda is a vocal decent work advocate who has experienced the overwhelming impact of precarious contracts in multiple sectors including media and healthcare. Over the last decade, she has contributed her filmmaking skills to multiple organizations including Worker’s Action Centre, Atkinson Foundation and the National Film Board of Canada. As a dedicated researcher, Amanda’s interest in the social determinants of health continues to grow after experiencing the intersection of poor job quality, lack of affordable housing and lack of access to extended healthcare coverage. She believes that the rapid explosion of precarious work is both inhumane and unsustainable and that a person’s access to critical dental work, physiotherapy and prescription medications should not be tied to their employer. She hopes her experiences can contribute to the discussion on the massive extent of hidden poverty in Toronto and the societal/survival pressure to keep it hidden.

Ward: Etobicoke Centre Councillor: Stephen Holyday

Angel is the author of two books which both touch on inequality, social injustices, poverty, stigma and more. She is a motivational speaker, as well as an advocate, activist and artist. She is also a Survivor Consultant, Peer Support Worker, and the Creator and facilitator of a tenant group within the supportive housing building where she lived for approximately ten years, which offers peer support, information and resource sharing and more, and which has been active since 2018. She is an Advisor for the implementation of a major research study examining the impacts of human trafficking and youth homelessness and poverty. She has been a keynote speaker and featured in articles and dissertations and at schools, churches, reserves and more. She shares her story for prevention and to expose injustices and systemic barriers.

Despite not graduating from high school or elementary school, she graduated college with a diploma with Honours in Social Service Work. She did field placements at the community legal clinic and a homeless shelter for youth. For the past seven years, Angel has organized and facilitated an event on Christmas day for those without plans in the downtown Toronto area that includes gifts and food for anyone in need. Angel is also a certified Practitioner and Instructor of Axiatonal Alignment Therapy and has completed Level One Reiki and is working toward achieving her Master of Reiki. Her most important honour yet is recently becoming a full-time caregiver for her mom when she was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Due to Angel’s lived experiences, she is most passionate about the effects of poverty on health and quality of care and stigma, as well affordable and safe housing and overdose prevention.

Ward: University-Rosedale Councillor: Mike Layton

Aretha is a certified Child Mental Health Specialist and Community Leader with a BASc in Social Justice and Public Administration who has spent the last decade volunteering and advocating for black youth and families where she lives. She passionately volunteers with community organizations from diverse cultural groups and socioeconomic backgrounds by volunteering with several community organizations, including Accelerate Her Future Advisory Board, Peel Black Community Council with United Way, Advantage, Advantage Training Skills with No Limit Community Associations and other Community and network Committees. Aretha has also partnered with North York Soccer Academy to get youth from low-income and at-risk neighbourhoods involved in sports and leadership programs that she coordinates.

Aretha leverages her 15+ years of lived experience with mental health and community experience in her work each day. She is passionate about designing, facilitating and coordinating interventions focused on community violence, mental health and well-being, and improving the social service sector in under-served and low-income communities in Toronto. She is currently a frequent speaker, coordinator, facilitator and organizer for mental health, anti-black racism, social development and addressing the causes of neighbourhood inequality to develop opportunities for diverse groups, youth, students and communities.

Ward: York South-Weston Councillor: Frances Nunziata

DJ is a hopeful student studying to become a social service worker that has worked in communities all across the GTA. Working with disadvantaged youth while being one they have seen firsthand how desperate the situation has become in correcting the issues both within those communities and the city at large, noting that housing and safe drug use are two key factors in eradicating poverty in Tkaronto.

Ward: Toronto-Danforth Councillor: Paula Fletcher

What community do you live in?  Morningside and Kingston Rd

What are one or two issues from the Poverty Reduction Strategy that you are passionate about addressing in your community?

  1. Housing
  2. Mental Health

Why are these issues important to you? Because I have had my own challenges

What are you most proud of? My children

Ward: Scarborough-Rouge Park   Councillor: Jennifer McKelvie

Drow has worked in the housing support sector assisting homeless people to get housed in Toronto for over 6 years. His experience in supporting communities with mental health and addiction issues goes back to 2008 when he fist started his career as a counselor. After completing his trainings with Working for Change and his education in George Brown College as Community Mental Health Case Manager he started his new career with Fred Victor Center as a Community Support Worker. In this role he supported marginalized populations to address issues related to homelessness in combination with legal, mental health, and addiction challenges.

Drow is passionate about raising awareness and education in his community to address issues related to and causing homelessness. He believes that proper monitoring and evaluation can help us to understand the roots of these challenges more accurately. Well-being and mental-physical health of the community has high importance for him and finding more effective ways to create a better city is his credo. In this role honesty, dedication, friendship & proper service are things that he is most proud of. As a LEAG member he hopes to bring his experience and learn from team members to find better ways to support his community.

Ward: University-Rosedale Councillor: Mike Layton

 

Elsa is a proud resident of Downsview and the daughter of low-income, refugee parents from El Salvador. She has experienced firsthand the intergenerational cycle of poverty specifically supporting her parents with her sister. Elsa is passionate about eliminating student debt, housing for all, communities supporting one another and she is excited to share her insight with LEAG.

Ward: York Centre Councillor: James Pasternak

Heba resides in East York and currently volunteers with the TOGETHER refugee helping organization. A long-distance between her moving to Toronto and today is indeed a life-changing experience…

Through the dire experience, Heba learned a lot about vulnerability aspects that are hidden in plain sight (financial, physical, emotional, communication, educational, social and more). During her continuous non-stop journey, Hebba also developed a natural passion for identifying gaps between regulations’ tools/goals and their implementation which makes a different reality (wrote about it in essays and a distance outcome). Thus Heba’s key goal, if or practical value, in Poverty Reduction strategy, is to address in her community not only the need to support the vulnerable but to enable to be robust and make a comeback within their own community and up.

In other words to analyze the gap between support that helps survival and realistic tools to empower and create independent self-sufficient individuals who can further help others. If there is a chapter for investing in infrastructure in any budget (federal, provincial and municipal); the human being is a key element in that infrastructure as a starting point.  Build a human being and you have built a community, hinder or ignore that human being and you have created a chronic status quo of underdevelopment in that community.

The example Heba choose to display vulnerability is ‘single-moms’, who may also be new to the dynamics (a fragile situation without the right quality (not only quantity) of support may be further augmented towards disability, poverty and homelessness). Easily preventable!

Heba is proud to have self-actualized at more than one front and learned about barriers to achieve that.

Ward: Beaches-East York Councillor: Brad Bradford

Philanthropic, powerful, wise, dynamic, caring, and understanding are just a few words to describe Janel Simpson-Campbell. Graduated with her bachelors in Sociology she is fascinated and passionate about serving humanity and her community at large.

Within the first few months of moving to Mornelle/Morningside which is her current neighbourhood, she courageously navigated her way to becoming a three-time grant recipient of the Toronto Strong Neighbourhood Strategy 2020 (TSNS 2020).

Janel’s vision to see changes and community engagement was made possible when she began hosting conversations and events that address diversity issues- bringing families, and young people together and Community Building- bringing schools and businesses together.

She is an extraordinary mother, wife, sister, and friend and her definition of life are “living with a purpose and leaving behind a legacy.

Ward: Scarborough-Guildwood    Councillor: Paul Ainslie

What community do you live in? Davenport

What are one or two organizations that currently volunteer with?

  1. Daily Bread Food Banks
  2. CultureLink

What are one or two issues from the Poverty Reduction Strategy that you are passionate about addressing in your community?

  1. Food Insecurity
  2. Housing Costs

Ward: Davenport  Councillor: Ana Bailao

What community do you live in? Scarborough

What are one or two organizations that currently volunteer with?  Noah’s Alms Foundation for Youths

What are one or two issues from the Poverty Reduction Strategy that you are passionate about addressing in your community?

  1. Resource
  2. Poverty strategies

Why are these issues important to you? They are the cornerstone to abolishing poverty

What are you most proud of?  My Foundation

Judith is a mother of six beautiful humans. She is a blooming entrepreneur with a non-profit that serves children that need help and rescue in struggling times. Her absolute passion is to abolish poverty, especially for children and youths.

Ward: Scarborough North   Councillor: Cynthia Lai

What community do you live in? Leslieville, near Greenwood Park

What are one or two organizations that currently volunteer with?

  1. ACORN
  2. LEAG

What are one or two issues from the Poverty Reduction Strategy that you are passionate about addressing in your community?

  1. Homelessness
  2. Employment

Why are these issues important to you? My goal is to improve the economic wellbeing of more people.

What are you most proud of? My education, my work experience, my children.

Ward:
Toronto-Danforth  Councillor: Paula Fletcher

What community do you live in?  St. James Town

What are one or two organizations that currently volunteer with?

  1. Acorn
  2. Toronto Shyness and Social Anxiety Support Group

What are one or two issues from the Poverty Reduction Strategy that you are passionate about addressing in your community?

  1. Tenant situation
  2. Free internet for lower income

Why are these issues important to you?
Tenants are in a bad position right now because of the rent increases.

The Internet is a human right and everybody should have access to it.

What are you most proud of? My work with my support group and Acorn

Ward: Toronto Centre   Councillor: Kristyn Wong-Tam

What community do you live in? Flemingdon

What are one or two organizations that currently volunteer with?

None at the moment because of the pandemic. In the past, I worked with Greenwood Community Centre and Park People Organization, Flemingdon Health Centre.

What are one or two issues from the Poverty Reduction Strategy that you are passionate about addressing in your community?

Helped newcomer families get settled in the city. Also, I like to help disabled people.

Why are these issues important to you?
To help people in poverty, people, because I have lived through this experience.

What are you most proud of?
I am proud because I am part of this group.

Ward: Don Valley East    Councillor: Denzil Minnan-Wong

 

What community do you live in? Davenport

What are one or two organizations that currently volunteer with?
I do volunteer for TTC riders and ACORN

What are one or two issues from the Poverty Reduction Strategy that you are passionate about addressing in your community?
After this pandemic, people with low income (especially people with a disability struggling terribly), and eviction problems they are facing

Why are these issues important to you?
Because I am also a person with a disability and low income

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my resilience against the wild capitalism and educating people around me to get them involved with the movement

Ward: Davenport   Councillor: Ana Bailao

What community do you live in? Scarborough

What are one or two organizations that currently volunteer with?

  1. Rotary International
  2. Free The Children
  3. KICC

What are one or two issues from the Poverty Reduction Strategy that you are passionate about addressing in your community?

  1. Income  and employment support for low income families and employees
  2. Education / Career support for young adults

Why are these issues important to you?

As a young adult in my early 20s, these are some of the most common problems that a young adult from ages 18 to 25 would face in their lifetime. Most young adults would benefit greatly from career mentorship and employment programs in order to get their “foot in the door” and kick start their path towards a career. Our generation is the future so we must try to guide a way for long-term stability and mitigate future problems.

What are you most proud of?

My progress and achievements.

Ward: Scarborough-Rouge Park     Councillor: Jennifer McKelvie    

What community do you live in? Etobicoke South

What are one or two organizations that currently volunteer with?

  1. Church on the Queensway
  2. Lakeshore Lodge (long-term care home)

What are one or two issues from the Poverty Reduction Strategy that you are passionate about addressing in your community?

  1. Livable wage employment (especially for the 45+ residents)
  2. Affordable Housing

Why are these issues important to you?

To reduce poverty and pain of the individuals affected and improve the general economic health of the community

What are you most proud of?

My ability to assist the most vulnerable in the community and support those less fortunate

Ward: Etobicoke Centre   Councillor: Stephen Holyday

What community do you live in? Scarborough Centre

What are one or two organizations that currently volunteer with?

Youth Council

What are one or two issues from the Poverty Reduction Strategy that you are passionate about addressing in your community?

I’m passionate about improving the quality of life of those living below the poverty line in the City of Toronto.

Why are these issues important to you?

This issue is important to me because I value health and well-being, and I believe subtle changes can make noticeable differences in our communities.

What are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of influencing policy while serving on a public hospital’s advisory committee, to improve the quality of life of patients.

Ward:
Scarborough Centre Councillor: Michael Thompson