The Cost of the Consequences of Poverty to Niagara’s Economy

Niagara Connects partnered with the Niagara Community Observatory at Brock University to create the 2012 policy brief, “Are the Consequences of Poverty Holding Niagara Back?” The brief highlights that the consequences of poverty are costing Niagara $1.38 billion a year including both direct and indirect costs.

The brief calls for Niagara to focus on an investment strategy that emphasizes development of people as a key economic driver for Niagara. It provides a clear formula for Niagara to think and invest in a more proactive, efficient, upstream, preventive fashion.

The brief concludes by saying:
“Much of the evidence that we need to build our strategy exists: it is organized, well-researched, analyzed and ready to go. To further inform the strategy, the business sector in Niagara could help to design the investment plan in collaboration with community partners.

The roots of the consequences of poverty are multi-faceted and complex. Thus, the investment strategy that we undertake in Niagara will require acknowledgement that it, too, will be multi-faceted and complex. It will require Niagara-wide cooperation, leadership and innovation to achieve our collective return on investment.”

summary of cost of consequences of poverty in niagara

In 2014, the #Rethink Niagara working group, facilitated by Niagara Connects, began assembling building blocks to build a framework for systematically and proactively addressing root causes of poverty in Niagara through a preventive, upstream investment approach of investing in people so that everyone in Niagara has equal opportunity to thrive, our social gradient is collapsed, and our economy and quality of life are strengthened.

Source: Niagara Connects
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Impact of Niagara Prosperity Initiative

Beginning in 2008, the Niagara Prosperity Initiative (NPI) provides an annual investment by Niagara Region of $1.5 million to support poverty reduction and prevention activities. NPI uses a research-based approach to address root causes of poverty, allocating resources where they will have the greatest effect.

NPI Goals include:

  • To guide and direct investments on identified initiatives to alleviate poverty in neighbourhoods across Niagara
  • To advocate for change that will reduce and prevent poverty in the community
  • To develop and enhance collaborative relationships between stakeholders
  • To engage people living in poverty in meaningful ways to ensure that investments reflect need

General Background information about NPI can be found here

Two foundational reports inform the NPI approach:

A 2007 report on poverty in Niagara called A Legacy of Poverty? Addressing Cycles of Poverty and the Impact on Child Health in Niagara Region

Among this report’s findings:

  • 15 per cent of working families in Niagara earn less than $20,000
  • 15.6 per cent of Niagara’s children live in poverty
  • 45.6 per cent of residents pay more than 30 per cent of income on rent
  • 33 per cent of visits to food banks are made by children
  • 42 per cent of Ontario Works caseload are children
  • 32 per cent of Ontario Disability Support Program caseloads are children

Source: Niagara Region, NPI
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An October 2011 updated report: Building a New Legacy: Increasing Prosperity for Niagara Residents by Improving the Quality of Neighbourhood Life

The data available in this updated 2011 report comes from the 2006 census; before the downturn in the economy.
Among the report’s findings:

  • 12 per cent of families in Niagara live below the Low Income Cut Off (2006 data)
  • 71.1 per cent increase in Employment Insurance Beneficiaries from Aug. 2008 to Aug. 2009 in Niagara
  • 40 per cent increase in Ontario Works cases from Oct. 2008 to May 2011
  • In 2005-2006 just over 4,000 households used the 13 local food banks across Niagara

Source: Niagara Region, NPI
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NPI Community Impact Report, 2013
Since 2008 when the NPI was established, 183 projects have been funded through 62 different community agencies in Niagara. Almost half of the projects funded are geared specifically toward assisting children and youth.

Measuring Impact of NPI:
Feedback from Niagara residents helped by NPI projects indicate the strategy is making a substantial difference in the lives of individuals. The NPI is evaluated according to three measures also used by Vibrant Communities, a national poverty reduction initiative:

  • enhancing community capacity for poverty reduction
  • improvements in individual and household assets
  • changes in systems and policies

An analysis of feedback* collected from 352 residents served by an NPI project shows that:

  • 52% experienced improvements in individual and household assets;
  • 48% experienced an increase in the community’s capacity for poverty reduction

Breaking down individual and household assets, the data shows significant improvements in 5 key areas:

  • Personal Assets – Inner resources such as self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Physical Assets – Basic material goods and services such as food, shelter, transportation and child care
  • Social Assets – Relationships and networks
  • Human Assets – Skills, knowledge, education and health
  • Financial Assets – Income, savings and sources of financial security including government income security programs

Source: NPI Community Impact Report
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Niagara Poverty Reduction Network
The formation of the Niagara Poverty Reduction Network (NPRN) has arisen out of the Niagara Prosperity Initiative.

Over 30 agencies and individuals in Niagara work through NPRN to achieve the following Goals:

  • Dispel myths about living in poverty
  • Improve collaboration and actions in poverty reduction
  • Engage and include all individuals in the community

An NPRN organizational chart can be found here

Source: Niagara Poverty Reduction Network
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