Skip to content

Let’s end poverty for Christmas

A baby girl washed up on a beach at Surfers Paradise, a popular holiday spot on Australia’s Gold Coast, about a week ago. She was nine months old. Poverty and homelessness were involved.
0

A baby girl washed up on a beach at Surfers Paradise, a popular holiday spot on Australia’s Gold Coast, about a week ago. She was nine months old. Poverty and homelessness were involved. At the time of writing this, her father, who was known to police for street offences and mental health issues, was under investigation. Her mother was questioned, and her young brother was taken into custody by Australian authorities. This is about as tragic as it gets. Someone had seen this homeless family living out of a van before the death of the baby girl was discovered. And that same person had also noted a spike in homelessness in his area over the past two years. Across the ocean, here in Canada, things aren’t all that rosy either. Canada Without Poverty, (CWP), a not-for-profit charitable organization dedicated to the elimination of poverty in Canada, has some sobering statistics to share. Like how almost 5 million people in Canada, or one out of seven individuals, currently live in poverty. That’s close to 14 per cent of Canada’s population. In Edmonton, the poverty figure is lowered to about one in eight, but that is still a whopping 12.5 per cent for the capital city of Canada’s economic powerhouse province. What gives? For starters, housing is a big issue as unaffordable housing puts people at risk of homelessness. According to CWP, “3 million Canadian households are precariously housed (living in unaffordable, below standards, and/or overcrowded housing conditions); an estimated 235,000 people in Canada experienced homelessness in 2016, with roughly 35,000 people being homeless on any given night; and almost 1 in every 5 households experience serious housing affordability issues (spending over 50 per cent of their low income on rent) which puts them at risk of homelessness.” Then there are all the precarious jobs out there. Like the kind that aren’t quite full time so employers won’t have to pay benefits. Or the kind that makes it necessary for people to hold down two, and sometimes three, part-time jobs just so they can barely make ends meet. Talk about a logistics nightmare, especially for parents of school-age children trying to juggle work schedules with transit and school. Let’s not forget food insecurity. Food bank usage in Canada was up 28 per cent in 2015 from 2008. The “HungerCount 2016” report by Food Banks Canada states “This year’s increase in food bank use was widespread, with eight out of ten provinces experiencing a hike and Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Nova Scotia showing drastic surges of more than 17 per cent.” There is a deep cost to poverty, and not just for those who face hardship every day. Society also pays the price of poverty, and it is a steep one. On top of any karmic costs, which, I’m sure, would be significant in a country as rich as ours. There are also costs for health care, social welfare, economic, and even criminal justice. We are talking in the billions. The good news is that $1 invested early on in a low-income earner’s life can save $9 later in health care and criminal justice costs alone. The question is whether we have the political will to spend that early on. If not, it becomes clear that poverty has become policy in Canada. For more in your best interest, follow Sheelagh @sheesays or visit www.ideagarden.net.