Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Reward homeless for finding homes

New study proposes using power of incentives to help keep people off of Calgary's streets

CALGARY, January 23, 2012 /Canada NewsWire/ - In a paper released today by The School of Public Policy, Professor Brendan O'Flaherty offers a straightforward method for fighting homelessness that contrasts many current programs already in place to deal with this important social issue.

"If you want people to be housed rather than homeless, reward them for being housed," O'Flaherty argues.

Specifically, O'Flaherty advocates the introduction of an Optimal Homelessness-Reducing Home Allowance (OHRHA), which would take the form of a flat amount rewarded to people for each night that they are not homeless.

What would differentiate OHRHA from existing social assistance programs would be its simplicity and purpose.
"Other housing allowances were designed with other goals in mind," the author writes. "The virtual exclusion of non-elderly single adults from these programs is pretty good evidence that they were not intended to reduce homelessness."

Programs like Alberta Works or provincial housing allowances impose special criteria that must be met in order to receive payments. O'Flaherty indicates that OHRHA would have only one rule: you receive payment if you are housed.

In terms of funding such a program, the author recommends imposing a new land value tax on Calgary property owners. He argues that the advantage of such a tax is that any costs would be absorbed by the positive impact of OHRHA on land prices. In fact, the tax would be proportional to land value increments.

The study can be found online by going to www.policyschool.ucalgary.ca/publications.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Canadians donate more than 672,000 gift-filled shoe boxes to the world's hurting children

Operation Christmas Child donations in 2011 surpass 2010 donations by five per cent; online shoe box option helps those who missed collection deadline

CALGARY, January 18, 2012 /Canada NewsWire/ - Thank you Canada, you did it again! Canadians donated 672,274 shoe boxes packed with toys, hygiene items, and school supplies during the 2011 Operation Christmas Child shoe box campaign that ended recently. That's five per cent more than the 2010 total of 640,714 boxes.

Operation Christmas Child staff, volunteers and partners have already begun distributing the 2011 shoe boxes in the developing world. During the next few weeks, children in Haiti, Senegal, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Argentina, Nicaragua, Chile, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Guatemala, and Venezuela will be receiving shoe boxes packed by caring Canadians.

"We're thrilled to be sending over 672,000 lovingly-packed shoe boxes of gifts to children around the world who need them most," said Randy Crosson, director of Operation Christmas Child Canada, a program of international Christian relief and development organization Samaritan's Purse Canada.

"Each shoe box is an opportunity to show hurting children they are loved by God and by us, and the generosity of Canadians will once again bless children who likely have never before received a gift."

Several thousand Canadians chose to pack their shoe boxes online this year. They took advantage of Operation Christmas Child's option that enables visitors to the website to choose shoe box gift items, write a personal note, add a photo, and make a donation - all of it online.

This option is available year-round for those who - for health reasons, scheduling challenges, or limited access to transportation - aren't able to shop for gifts and pack shoe boxes in the traditional way: ( http://samaritanspurse.ca/Operation-Christmas-Child/Virtual-Shoe-Box-Introduction.aspx).

All shoe boxes packed online in 2011, plus all shoe boxes from Quebec in 2011, are part of a 75,000- box commitment to Haiti, where the need for hope and a reminder of God's love remains very strong after a deadly earthquake and cholera epidemic in 2010.

Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected and hand-delivered more than 94 million shoe box gifts to children in over 130 countries hurt by war, poverty, natural disaster, disease, and famine.

Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has been a vital project of Samaritan's Purse - a Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world.

The shoe box is just the beginning, because Operation Christmas Child is creating opportunities for Samaritan's Purse to provide other help to children, their families, and their communities through safe drinking water, literacy and job skills initiatives, feeding programs, medical care, and more.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Solar Lanterns Replacing Kerosene With Self-Sustaining Revolving Loan Fund

Solar Aid/Video screen capture

from TreeHugger.com
by Sami Grover - Energy / Renewable Energy
January 16, 2012

Recently Sierra Club chairman Carl Pope issued a call for international government-level investment in small-scale solar in Africa, arguing that a relatively small amount of money could save lives, transform communities and cut significant amounts of CO2 in the process. (The CO2 output from kerosene lanterns was said to almost equal the total emissions from the UK.)

But it's not just governments that can make a difference.

We've already seen charities developing solar solutions for isolated rural communities, and now Solar Aid and lantern-maker IndiGo are launching a revolving loan fund to keep the solar revolution spreading:

Kickstart is a new type of profitable, self-sustaining Revolving Fund that provides working capital to accelerate the roll-out of IndiGo pay-as-you-go solar lighting products in rural off-grid communities. Users receive high quality solar lighting and in-home phone charging, which they pay for on a weekly basis using scratchcards, just like a pay-as-you-go mobile phone. The revenues from the scratchcards recover the cost of the units and are returned to Kickstart to allow the deployment of additional units to new users. In this way, consecutive Kickstart investments revolve from the original fund, ensuring the money works harder to provide benefit to multiple users over time. Kickstart, accepts donations or defined-term, interest-free loans from impact investors, to provide working capital to stimulate the growth of pay-as-you-go solar products.

Given that solar is now cheaper than kerosene in many rural communities, it seems likely that market-driven solutions and micro-entrepreneurs will plan an increasingly large role in solar development in Africa. But it will be innovative financing models and savvy non-profit organizations that help to kick start that movement—overcoming cost of entry barriers, and beginning to disseminate a technology that will ultimately market itself...read the full story at TreeHugger.com

Friday, January 13, 2012

Canada Should Stand Firmly in Support of ALL Same-Sex Marriages

TORONTO, January 12, 2012 /Canada NewsWire/ - In a statement released today, The United Church of Canada has called on the Canadian government to reassure non-resident same-sex couples, and the clergy who married them, that Canada recognizes their marriages as valid.

"The legitimacy of the love expressed in the covenant of marriage is not dependent on where a couple lives," says the church's Moderator, Mardi Tindal. "Canada recognizes same-sex marriage in its legislation, and therefore, all such marriages that are duly licensed should be considered legitimate."

Tindal adds that she's very concerned about the shock and pain that today's news headlines may have caused, given how long a struggle it has been for same-sex couples to be recognized in the first place.

"I have been married for several decades to a man I deeply love. I cannot even imagine how it would feel to be told my marriage is no longer valid," says Tindal.

The United Church of Canada is well-known for its advocacy in support of same-sex marriage. In a submission to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2004, the church argued that same-sex couples should have the right to be legally married. When the Canadian government introduced same-sex marriage legislation in 2005, the church called it a "win-win" solution.

At that time, the church said,
"Marriage will be enhanced, not diminished, religious freedom will be protected, not threatened, and Canadian society will be strengthened, not weakened, as a result of this legislation."

Tindal adds,
"If Canada is prepared to marry non-resident same-sex couples, then we must be prepared to work with them when a relationship ends and a couple seeks a divorce."

She explains that many United Church ministers have officiated in good faith at weddings for same-sex couples, providing a spiritual blessing to a legal commitment. It would be a significant disappointment, not only to the couples involved but also to the ministers who have performed these marriage ceremonies, to be told that some of these marriages are not valid.

"As followers of Jesus Christ, The United Church of Canada believes that God calls us foremost to an expansive love that crosses boundaries and borders," says Tindal. "We look forward to the government's confirmation that irrespective of the willingness of other states or countries to recognize same-sex marriage, Canada has and will stand by its decision."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Haiti two years later: "This is still a children's crisis"

OTTAWA, January 12, 2012 /Canada NewsWire/ - Two years after the unthinkable 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti, significant progress has been made in reconstructing the country. Even so, Canadian NGO SOS Children's Villages warns that Haiti is still very much in a state of emergency and it is affecting children the most.

35% of the Haitian population is under the age of 15; half the population is under the age of 18. SOS Children's Villages has issued warnings that the number of abandoned children is rising steadily. SOS is working alongside other NGOs to urge the Haitian government, the UN Security Council and other international bodies to improve the quality of care for, and the legal situation of, the thousands of abandoned Haitian children.

"Because of poverty and impossible living conditions, families in Haiti are no longer able to provide for themselves," explains SOS Children's Villages Canada President Boyd McBride, "The situation of so many abandoned children in Haiti is dire."

McBride also stated,
"The crisis in Haiti is very much still a children's crisis. SOS is in the region doing what it can to support families and children, ensuring children have access to education and health care, providing needed social programs to enable mothers to continue to care for their children."

SOS Children's Villages, which has been active in Haiti since 1978, has been concentrating its long-term reconstruction efforts in the region on supporting children without parental care, supporting families at a community level and supporting schools.

During the first twelve months following the earthquake, SOS Children's Villages provided tens of thousands of children with food every day, giving medical care where needed and providing shelter to unaccompanied children. Over the past year, SOS has begun the transition to constructing new schools and expanding long-term social programs including:

...Supporting families and children in the districts of Port-au-Prince, Cap Haïtien and Les Cayes. The SOS Children's Villages goal is to strengthen the resources of the communities in order to enable the families, particularly women, to support themselves.

...Expanding the construction of schools: SOS Children's Villages is financing the construction of a community school and four public schools in Santo and the area of Les Cayes. SOS is also providing teacher training.

...SOS Children's Villages Canada have announced a new child protection program designed to reduce the number of Haitian children abandoned or separated from their families, and to improve the security and protection of children separated from their caregivers.

"With over half the population of Haiti under the age of 18, The reconstruction of Haiti continues to be a complex undertaking and we know from our work on the ground, Haitians are grateful to the many generous Canadians who have contributed to the process." notes Boyd McBride. "SOS has been in the region for 34 years. We're here for the long haul."

SOS Children's Villages provides children in need with a caring, loving, and secure family environment where basic needs for food, health, shelter, and education are met. SOS Children's Villages creates opportunities for children to become responsible, contributing members of society by providing Villages and community support where stable, nurturing homes exist to meet family, social, emotional and physical needs of children.