INCommunities is a community information centre providing information and referral services through their AIRS (Alliance of Information and Referral Systems) accredited 211 contact centre; Niagara Community Information Database; language interpreting services; and a volunteer matching program.

211 is a quick, free way to connect to the information about community services, launched by INCommunities to the Niagara Region in 2005. Each call is answered by an Information and Referral Specialist. The service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Individuals can dial 211 to ask about:

  • Health services & supports
  • Financial & social assistance
  • Housing & utility help
  • Children & youth services
  • Food assistance & meal programs
  • Seniors services & home care
  • Government program assistance
  • Parenting & family programs
  • Disability support programs
  • Newcomer services
  • Volunteer organizations
  • And much more!

Source: INCommunities, 211 Niagara. Dial 211.
Retrieved from:

INCommunities prepares an annual Year End Report for each of the seven geographic areas they service. In 2016, 211 received 36,379 calls from Niagara. 68% of callers were women, and the majority (74%) were adults aged 25-59. The top 5 reasons for calling were:

  1. Income support/assistance (18%)
  2. Health care (17%)
  3. Legal/public safety (14%)
  4. Housing (8%)
  5. Information services (8%)

Information about calls in prior years or for other geographic areas can be downloaded at the link below.

Source: INCommunities, Summary Report 2016 – Niagara.
Retrieved from:

211 Information Referral Specialists document situations where no referrals were available to meet an inquirer’s assessed need. The situations captured below are intended to inform communities of potential gaps in service within our human resource provision. While unmet needs represent a very small percentage of total inquiries, the reasons why needs were unmet may provide valuable information that service providers can use for future planning.

211 Calls – Unmet Needs, Niagara, 2016
2014 2015 2016
Total number of inquiries 67,565 47,393 36,379
Total number of unmet needs 290 334 471
Unmet needs as a % of total inquiries 0.43% 0.70% 1.29%
Reasons Needs Were Unmet
Reason why need was unmet 2014 2015 2016
Service not available 132 144 118
Lengthy/closed wait list 9 31 16
Ineligible for service 80 94 84
Hours 2 9 28
Cost 9 19 23
Difficulty connecting 7 13 35
Language 1 2
Transportation 50 11 5
Refused referral 11 157
Agency/program resources depleted 5
Total 290 334 471
Unmet needs as a % of total calls 0.43% 0.70% 1.29%


Source: INCommunities, Unmet Needs Report, Niagara.
Retrieved from:

Leadership Niagara

2017-18 marks the 10th year of the Leadership Niagara (LN) Community Leadership Program, bringing together individuals recognized as emerging and aspiring leaders in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Each year, 30 to 40 applicants are selected into the 10-month program. Participants divide into work teams to complete a community project. Graduates join a growing network of people dedicated to ensuring a stronger, healthier, more vibrant Niagara.  

Source:  Leadership Niagara
Retrieved from: and

Niagara Poverty Reduction Network

The Niagara Poverty Reduction Network works collectively to wipe out poverty in Niagara through information-sharing, changing attitudes and compelling Niagara citizens to get involved and take action. The network’s 30 member organizations and community members work together on priorities such as gathering data to identify Cost of Living and Living Wage in the Niagara context.

Source: Niagara Poverty Reduction Network
Retrieved from:

Niagara Prosperity Initiative

The Niagara Prosperity Initiative (NPI) was established by Niagara Region in 2008, and provides an annual investment of $1.5 million to support poverty reduction and prevention activities. NPI Goals include:

  • Guide and direct investments on identified initiatives to alleviate poverty in neighbourhoods across Niagara
  • Advocate for change that will reduce and prevent poverty in the community
  • Develop and enhance collaborative relationships between stakeholders
  • Engage people living in poverty in meaningful ways to ensure that investments reflect need

Source: Niagara Region Social Services
Retrieved From:

Niagara Prosperity Initiative (NPI) Contracted Amounts by Project Type (2008-2016)
Type of Project $ for Projects % of Funding # of Projects % of Projects
Assistance with Shelter $527,357.95 4.4% 14 4.4%
Research/Conference/Seminar $112,743.86 0.9% 5 1.6%
Transportation Initiatives $249,803.09 2.1% 9 2.8%
Job Specific Skills $741,734.81 6.2% 16 5.0%
Direct Services $865,721.58 7.2% 18 5.7%
Community Gardens $673,112.91 5.6% 22 6.9%
Back to School Programs $575,366.64 4.8% 8 2.5%
Life Skills Programs for Adults $1,637,839.35 13.7% 38 11.9%
Access to Food $1,187,791.89 9.9% 28 8.8%
Community Development $1,935,631.19 16.1% 42 13.2%
Educational Programs for Children/Youth $3,490,871.38 29.1% 118 37.1%
Total $11,997,973.38 100% 318 100%

Source:  Niagara Prosperity Initiative Presentation by Niagara Region to Niagara Employment Network, June, 2016.
Retrieved From:

In 2015, approved Niagara Prosperity Initiative (NPI) projects (34 projects from 24 agencies) were expected to:

  • Serve a total of 7,453 people.
  • Form 365 new networks and partnerships.
  • Involve 1,077 people in civic engagement activities.
  • Create 57 jobs to be filled by people who live in poverty.

In-kind value from the community was estimated at $685,498 in 2015, meaning that for every dollar spent by NPI funding, 0.52 cents was matched by the community.

Project Type (2015) $ for Projects % of Funding # of Projects % of Projects
Educational programs for children/youth (i.e. after-school programs) $278,377.80 21.3% 10 33.3%
Community gardens $50,484.75 3.9% 3 10.0%
Access to food (includes grocery cards, food bank, GFB) $27,213.44 2.1% 1 3.3%
Life skills programs for adults $228,887.27 17.5% 4 13.3%
Community development $72,422.81 5.6% 3 10.0%
Assistance with shelter $228,162.89 17.5% 3 10.0%
Job-specific skills $167,840.49 12.9% 3 10.0%
Direct services (includes phone, laundry, personal needs) $249,609.78 19.1% 2 6.7%
Research/conference/seminar $1,834.80 0.1% 1 3.3%
Total $1,304,834.03 100% 30 100.0%

Source: Niagara Prosperity Initiative 2015 Update. Report prepared for the Public Health and Social Services Committee of Niagara Region. June 23, 2015.

In 2016, approved Niagara Prosperity Initiative (NPI) projects (31 projects from 25 agencies) were expected to:

  • Serve 9,280 people.
  • Form 653 new networks and partnerships.
  • Involve 7,046 people in civic engagement activities.
  • Create 140 jobs to be filled by people who live in poverty.

In-kind value from the community was estimated at $767,298 in 2016, meaning that for every dollar spent by NPI funding, 0.56 cents was matched by the community.

Project (2016) $ for Projects % of Funding # of Projects % of Projects
Assistance with shelter $229,195 16.6% 3 9.7%
Job-specific skills $81,251 5.9% 3 9.7%
Direct services $151,627 11.0% 2 6.5%
Community gardens $246,598 17.9% 6 19.4%
Life skills programs for adults $237,826 17.2% 7 22.6%
Community development $8,738 0.6% 1 3.2%
Educational programs for children/youth $426,175 30.9% 9 29.0%
Total $1,381,410 100.0% 31 100%


Source: Niagara Prosperity Initiative 2016 Update. Report prepared for the Public Health and Social Services Committee of Niagara Region. July 12, 2016.

Age-Friendly Activity in Niagara

2016 census data released in May 2017 shows that the number of Niagara residents aged 65 and older account for 21.4% of the population, which is 95,845 Niagara residents. In comparison, children under 15 years of age make up 14.9% of the population, or 66,760 people. Below are the Niagara figures compared to the Ontario figures:

Regional Municipality of Niagara Province of Ontario
% aged 0 to 14 years 14.9% 16.4%
% aged 15 to 64 years 63.7% 66.8%
% aged 65 years and over 21.4% 16.7%

Source: Statistics Canada, 2016 Census Profile.
Retrieved from:

The Niagara Aging Strategy and Action Plan was launched in 2015 by the Age-Friendly Niagara Network. (AFNN). The Aging Strategy and Action Plan is a “living document” that serves as a template for planning by service agencies, different levels of government, businesses and the community at large.

The Aging Strategy and Action Plan document summarizes input from over 500 individuals to:

  • Validate older adults’ needs as perceived by older adults, advocacy groups, service providers and others
  • Identify new or emerging needs of older adults, as the population and society changes
  • Provide insights into existing and emerging needs that will help communities and organizations within communities to become more age-friendly and advance to achieve age-friendly community characteristics as outlined by the World Health Organization.

Companion documents include an Action Plan Toolkit and an Implementation Template.

In 2017, the AFNN received OTF funding over 28 months, to advance implementation of the Niagara Aging Strategy and Action Plan’s five goals, and to build a sustainability plan to ensure ongoing development of Niagara as an age-friendly community.

Source:  Age Friendly Niagara Network
Retrieved from:

The above information is also included in the Health and Wellness Sector of this report.

Senior Pride Network Niagara: This network was developed in response to a Spring 2016 Niagara-wide environmental scan that documented a dearth of programs and services aimed at older LGBT citizens, and a need for training of service providers. The group aims to improve on and expand the programs and services for and with older LGBT people in the region.

Source:  Senior Pride Network Niagara
Retrieved from:

Inter-generational Mentoring: Literacy Link Niagara is facilitating an inter-generational reverse mentoring program whereby youth at Lakeshore High School in Port Colborne are mentoring adults who need to upgrade their digital skills.  The local public library is also a partner in this program.

Source:  Literacy Link Niagara
Retrieved from:

Age-Friendly, Senior Advisory and Youth Advisory Activity at the Local Municipal Level in Niagara
Municipality Activity
Fort Erie The Senior Citizens Advisory Committee meets on a monthly basis. The purpose of this committee is to establish a mechanism to fairly and equitably distribute financial assistance provided through the Town of Fort Erie, to determine the need for increased senior citizen services and establishing mechanisms to adopt recommendations.

The Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee meets monthly to discuss, plan, and advise Town Council about issues concerning youth of Greater Fort Erie. They act as a positive advocate for youth so that youth are valued and seen as contributors to the community.

Grimsby The Grimsby Seniors Club Advisory Committee organizes the Grimsby Seniors Club, which offers recreational activities to anyone who is retired and over the age of 55.
Lincoln In 2017, the Town of Lincoln is establishing a Seniors Advisory Committee
Niagara Falls The City of Niagara Falls Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee provides a voice for the youth of Niagara Falls, while advising Council of important recreational and social issues concerning the City’s younger population.
Niagara-on-the-Lake The Niagara-on-the-Lake Age-Friendly Steering Committee provides guidance to Town Council and staff on matters and initiatives aimed at making the Town a more age-friendly community, enabling all residents and visitors to participate as full and meaningful community members.
Pelham The Town of Pelham is designated as a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities.

The Pelham Seniors’ Advisory Committee was created to assist the Town of Pelham Council and Staff in making decisions on matters that impact quality of life and provide solutions through the lens of Pelham’s senior residents.

The Town of Pelham’s Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council (MYAC) provides a communication link between the youth of Pelham and the Pelham Town Council. MYAC identifies and brings forward issues that have an impact on Pelham youth, act as a positive advocate, and promote meaningful activities for youth in partnership with the community.

Port Colborne Port Colborne is designated as a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities.

The Port Colborne Senior Citizens Advisory Council advises City Council with respect to issues which have or will have an impact on Port Colborne’s seniors, ways in which Port Colborne can become a more age-friendly community, and opportunities to establish policies, services, and structures that support and enable seniors to live in security, enjoy good health and continue to participate fully in society.

The Port Colborne Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council organizes events for local youth and discusses a variety of issues such as youth initiatives and activities, and promote awareness for the youth of Port Colborne.

St. Catharines Annual forums are held by the city, to hear both youth and older adult voices and concerns.  
Thorold The Age-Friendly Committee provides recommendations to Thorold City Council to elevate the profile, level of leadership and engagement of seniors in the community, how to facilitate active lifestyles for all seniors, optimize health and wellness services for seniors, and improve access and utilization of various services and supports.
Wainfleet The Township of Wainfleet’s Youth Advisory Committee provides recommendations, advice, and information to Council on matters relating to youth, facilitates public input to Council on youth programs, and assists in enhancing the quality of life of youth in the community.
Welland Welland is designated as a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities.

The Senior Citizens Advisory Committee serves in an advisory capacity to Welland City Council and staff on matters that impact the quality of life of senior citizens in Welland.

The City of Welland’s Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council meets monthly to keep council informed of important matters affecting youth, act as a positive advocate, and seek input from youth on important matters affecting them.

West Lincoln The Town of West Lincoln’s Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council meets monthly to keep council informed of important matters affecting local youth.

In late 2017, the West Lincoln Council is gathering information to support creation of an Age Friendly Community committee.

Municipal Initiatives to Engage Citizens

Fort Erie – The Town of Fort Erie Adopt-a-Park Program is a volunteer opportunity as a way to keep Town parks beaches and trails inviting and clean, through the assistance of community-minded, environmentally conscious community and civic organizations, private business and industry. 

Source: Town of Fort Erie
Retrieved from:

Niagara Falls – The City of Niagara Falls community engagement website, Let’s Talk Niagara Falls allows for the community to contribute ideas and feedback on City matters.

Source: City of Niagara Falls
Retrieved from:

St. Catharines – The Compassionate City initiative focuses on strengthening St Catharines as a city that provides dignity, respect and opportunity for all of its residents. A Compassionate City Guide provides phone contact information for social service providers in St. Catharines.

Source:  City of St. Catharines – Compassionate City Guide, September, 2016.
Retrieved from: and

Niagara Region – The regional government is part of the SWIFT project, to better connect residents in rural communities with online information and services by building an Ultra High-speed fibre optic Internet Network for Niagara.

The South Western Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) initiative is a project to build an ultra high-speed fibre optic Internet network for everyone in Western Ontario and Niagara. The project is being led by a partnership of 16 regional and local municipalities in Southern Ontario.  The project’s aim is to provide access to fibre-optic high-speed Internet access for 3.5 million Ontarians living in rural areas. Niagara Region has signed on as a partner to the SWIFT project.

The SWIFT project will allow the creation of an extensive, cost-effective high-speed Internet network that will serve all of Niagara. This has wide-reaching economic benefits for Niagara, including:

  • Supporting the growth of small businesses in rural areas by expanding access to online and e-commerce tools
  • Securing significant Federal and Provincial investment to improve Niagara’s information infrastructure
  • Better connecting residents in rural communities with online information and services

The scope of the project for Niagara is to participate in a well-developed southwest Ontario initiative to build new fibre optic infrastructure throughout Southwest Ontario and in the Niagara Region. The South West Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) will include optical transport, aggregation, and access connectivity as a basis for providing Metro-Ethernet Forum (MEF) standard of service over a unified platform across participating southwest Ontario municipalities.

SWIFT will be an open access system equitably available to all providers and users in the region. Service providers will build, own, and operate the network and pay modest wholesale and retail residuals to SWIFT in exchange for the upfront two-thirds build cost subsidy they receive from SWIFT and our federal and provincial government partners.  Through this mechanism, it is the objective of SWIFT to connect virtually every resident, farmer, business, and public-sector organization to fibre optics by 2040, thereby contributing to the resurgence of the regional economy.

When the initial build phase of the project is completed in 2020, fibre optic access will be available in about 350 communities across Niagara Region and Southwestern Ontario to a population density as low as four persons per square kilometre. 

Source:  Niagara Region and SWIFT Network
Retrieved from: and and

The above information is also included in the Economic Prosperity Sector of this report.

Use the icons below to Share!