Toronto founds public poverty advisory group

Twenty Torontonians will use their first-hand experience with the conditions and impacts of living with poverty to inform the development, implementation and monitoring of the city’s anti-poverty initiatives.

More than 350 residents applied to be part of the Lived Experience Advisory Group (LEAG). The selected members come from communities across the city and have diverse experiences with poverty. They represent the population groups most affected by poverty as well as people currently living in poverty and people who have overcome it.

“This is an exciting opportunity for residents, staff and political representatives to work together towards effective and meaningful change,” said Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell (Ward 28 Toronto Centre-Rosedale), the City’s Poverty Reduction Advocate. “The LEAG will be an invaluable resource by bridging the conversation between communities, by promoting city services and poverty-reduction related activities to local residents and by educating and informing Council and staff of the realities of living in poverty in Toronto.”

The group will meet regularly over its 2-year term to provide information and advice to city staff, as well as to contribute to the implementation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy.

“LEAG is important in order to share our narratives about our lived experience, successes, failures and insight into how the three levels of government work or don’t work for citizens trying to make it back from the very margins of society,” said Heather Shand, a LEAG member. “Together we will form a strong voice, build bridges within city hall, form new working relationships and most importantly, inform policy with our vast, incredible and inspiring stories.”

TO Prosperity: Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy is a concrete, 20-year plan to address the immediate needs of low-income residents, create pathways to prosperity, and drive systemic change. Unanimously approved by Toronto City Council in 2015, TO Prosperity is informed by the expertise of people with lived experience of poverty. The strategy has 17 recommendations for improving housing stability, services access, transit equity, food access, and the quality of jobs and incomes.

— Jennifer Wing