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Archive for September, 2011

Let’s Vote for a Healthy and Inclusive Community

On the cusp of the provincial election Laurentian University Social Work students at the Centre for Research and Social Justice Policy and others speak out about eradicating poverty in Ontario and what they expect from politicians via the video below.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXRgc3PFKNQ

Niagara Region Provincial Candidates Polled on Poverty and Social Justice Issues

For Immediate Release
September 29, 2011

The Social Assistance Reform Network of Niagara (SARNN) is a network of front line health and social agencies, churches, organizations and individuals who have worked together since 1988 to advocate for social assistance reforms. SARNN is a supporter of the non-partisan Poverty Free Ontario campaign being held across Ontario in nearly 20 communities. In order to gain a better understanding of the positions of the candidates in all four Niagara ridings on key issues that are relevant to the health and well-being of our communities, and, in particular, people living in poverty, we posed five questions:

  1. The Commission to Review Ontario Social Assistance is now underway. Commissioner Frances Lankin has stated that the system, which serves over 800,000 Ontarians, needs more than “tinkering”, it needs a major overhaul. What specific changes would you recommend to the Commission regarding the current social assistance system to ensure the system is improved?
  2. The Low Income Cut Off lines used by our Federal Government and Statistics Canada report that a single person is living below the poverty line when their annual income is below $13,000. A single adult receiving Ontario Works receives $598/month, which is only $7,176 per year – far below the poverty line. Over 40 Ontario MPPs have “Done the Math” and agree that the rates are too low and inadequate. Do you feel current social assistance rates are adequate and acceptable? If not, how should the rates be set? Would you support adding an immediate $100 healthy food supplement to social assistance rates? 
  3. In 2009, all Ontario parties supported Bill 152, An Act respecting a long-term strategy to reduce poverty in Ontario. The current strategy has a goal of reducing child poverty by 25% in five years. How would you build on the current strategy and what goal and policies would you and your party set for the next five years in order to ensure all people living in poverty are included?
  4. Low income adults (either working poor or receiving social assistance) do not have access to preventive dental services. Poor oral health is a detriment to overall physical and mental health, as well as a barrier to employment and social inclusion. We need to put the mouth back into the body. Will your party commit to extending preventive dental coverage to all low income Ontario adults within the next 12 months?
  5. Approximately 12.4 percent of Canadian households live in housing that requires major repairs, is overcrowded, and/or costs more than 30 percent of household income. Moreover, an estimated 300,000 people are living without homes in Canada. Locally, the Niagara Region Housing Authority has 5,381 households with 9,800 people on a waiting list for subsidized housing. Having a safe and affordable place to live can be a stepping stone out of poverty. Does your government support a fully-funded national housing strategy that respects provincial jurisdictions, as well as support to maintain existing federal subsidies for social housing units? Would you support a housing benefit for low income Ontarians? If so, what would it entail?

Responses were received from five candidates:

  • Jim Bradley, Ontario Liberal Party, St. Catharines Riding candidate
  • Donna Cridland, Green Party of Ontario, Welland Riding candidate
  • Donna-Lynne Hamilton, Ontario Libertarian Party, Welland Riding candidate
  • Irene Lowell, Ontario New Democratic Party, St. Catharines Riding candidate
  • Saleh Waziruddin, Communist Party, St. Catharines Riding candidate

Candidates varied widely in their responses and support for items such as a $100 healthy food supplement, adult dental coverage, and housing benefits. Many excellent ideas were brought forward regarding how to effectively overhaul the current Ontario social assistance system, as well as each party’s vision in setting future poverty reduction strategies. “Poverty is a significant cost to all of us whether directly or indirectly and eradicating poverty must be a priority in Ontario. We urge all voters to ask their local candidates more about this issue”, says Gracia Janes, the Chair of SARNN.

For complete responses from each candidate, please go to http://www.povertyfreeontario.ca/pdf/Niagara-Region-Provincial-Candidates-Polled-on-Poverty-and-Social-Justice-Responses-in-Chart.pdf

*****

Media Inquiries can be directed to:

Gracia Janes
Chair, Social Assistance Reform Network of Niagara (SARNN)
Phone: 905-468-2841
Email: gracia.janes@bellnet.ca

Lori Kleinsmith
Member, Social Assistance Reform Network of Niagara (SARNN)
Phone: 289-479-5017 X2445
Email: lori.kleinsmith@bridgeschc.ca

ISARC Faith to End Poverty Videos

Video 1: Employment

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0vA0nzU4wU

Video 2: Strong Communities

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3_GcE2jsx0

Video 3: Social Assistance

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rC-zV1mCPOM

Video 4: Housing

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MATqmNikVk

Video 5: Poverty Reduction Act

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1JX2PoyIAY

http://www.faithtoendpoverty.ca/

Why poverty isn’t on the agenda

HAMILTON – More than 1.7 million Ontarians live below the poverty line; 89,000 of them live in Hamilton.

But that population hasn’t been getting the attention of the three major party leaders leading up to next week’s provincial election.

It’s the middle class — not people in poverty — who are the focus of the dialogue along the campaign trail, say social planners and anti-poverty advocates.

“I think that the parties have chosen to focus on middle class issues of affordability and taxes, which really neglects the fact that there is a growing number of people who are falling out of the middle class into the poverty line,” said Peter Clutterbuck, a community planning consultant with the Social Planning Network of Ontario.

According to 2009 results from Statistics Canada — the most recent figures available — Ontario’s poverty rate has gotten worse since the 2007 election. At that time, 11.2 per cent of households in the province lived in poverty. The latest numbers show the province’s poverty rate sits at 13.3 per cent.

Despite these increases, politicians are setting their sights squarely on “working families,” rather than Ontario’s poor. The reason, Clutterbuck says, is because those living in poverty are often seen as non-voters — and therefore don’t often hold the political clout of higher-income voters.

“We think that this population is perceived as not being a politically strong constituency,” Clutterbuck said. “I think the parties think the Ontario electorate is only concerned about its own family costs.”

The Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction is hoping to generate more local dialogue about poverty by asking Hamilton’s candidates to declare their support for social assistance reform on Twitter.

The Roundtable is asking candidates to tweet “If elected, I will work to reform social assistance in Ontario” by Thursday, exactly a week before the election. On Monday, the day the challenge was issued, three NDP candidates — including leader and Hamilton Centre MPP Andrea Horwath — one Green, and one Family Coalition candidate accepted.

Social assistance reform is one of the most pressing issues for the Roundtable, said director Tom Cooper. Due to social assistance cuts in the ’90s and increases at or below cost of living, social assistance rates are 41 per cent less than they were 15 years ago (if inflation is taken into account).

“We’ve heard loud and clear that social assistance reform is needed — 75 per cent of people using food banks in Hamilton are on OW (Ontario Works) or ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program),” Cooper said. He said that shows that social assistance rates aren’t reflective of the actual costs of goods or services in Hamilton.

Both Cooper and Clutterbuck say minimum wage also needs to be addressed. Currently, if an Ontario resident earning minimum wage worked full-time for the whole year, he or she would still be below the poverty line.

“We’ve been disappointed in the lack of leadership among all three parties with putting those issues forward,” Clutterbuck said.

In terms of party platforms, Cooper said the NDP and the Liberals have some positive ideas — including a promise to build 50,000 new affordable housing units over the next 10 years from the NDP, and a healthy snack program for kids in schools from the Grits. The snack program is similar to a program the Roundtable has suggested.

“Ours, I think, is looking a bit bigger and deeper, but they’re moving in the right direction,” Cooper said.

Cooper said the party that appears to be focusing the least on poverty are Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives.

“I haven’t seen anything from the Progressive Conservatives yet in terms of a poverty reduction strategy,” Cooper said.

Still, he argues all three parties should be giving greater focus to poverty.

“It hasn’t been a big part of the provincial dialogue,” Cooper said. “Governments need to step up and take responsibility.”

http://www.thespec.com/news/elections/article/600576–why-poverty-isn-t-on-the-agenda

Poverty campaign comes to Oshawa

DURHAM — With the provincial election on, a coalition of social and religious groups wants to make poverty an issue.

Poverty Free Ontario kicked off its campaign last week in 16 Ontario communities, including Oshawa.

Ted Glover, one of the organizers in Oshawa, said, “It’s sad we have to use the words poverty and Ontario in the same sentence. We’re one of the most wealthy provinces. It’s unconscionable.”

About 1.6 million Ontarians, or 13.1 per cent of the population, live in poverty, he said at the rally, held outside St. George’s Memorial Anglican Church in downtown Oshawa. “Fourteen per cent of children in our rich province live in poverty.”

Recently, the Community Development Council Durham released a study on poverty in the Region and it found as much as 15 per cent of Durham residents live in poverty.

“Gandhi said poverty is the worst form of violence,” Mr. Glover said.

The Social Planning Network of Ontario and the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition are co-sponsoring PFO, with the aim of urging all provincial parties to work towards ending poverty in Ontario in this decade.

The aim of the coalition is “to send that message to politicians” to end poverty, Mr. Glover said.

“We want them to include it their platform legislation. It’s an opportunity to step out of poverty. No one chooses to live in poverty.”

The measure of a society is “how it treats poor people,” Mr. Glover stated.

Poverty rates have been “increasing significantly,” Mr. Glover stated.

The provincial government has a goal of ’25-5′, which means a 25-per cent decrease in rates in five years, he added.

He noted food bank usage has risen 28 per cent, while there’s an increasing need for breakfast programs in schools, saying, “Hungry children don’t learn. They act out.¨

Poverty is “visible, but often it’s invisible,” he said.

Among the measures PFO is pushing are:

– a $100 per month healthy food supplement for all people on social assistance (Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program);

– an increase in minimum wage;

– a housing benefit for poor and marginalized people;

– job creation;

– food and income security;

– provisions for health, education and daycare services;

– safe, affordable and sustainable housing.

“You can have the most beautiful clothing, but what good is it if you don’t have a place to stay?” Mr. Glover said.

“I’d like them to know there is hope,” he said of people living in poverty.

Bridges wants politicians to put poverty on the agenda

FORT ERIE – It’s an issue that isn’t brought to the discussion table often — but Bridges Community Health Centre (CHC) isn’t letting it slip past the politicians in October’s provincial election.

The community centre , which focuses on promoting health and developing the community, is partnering with Poverty Free Ontario, a non-partisan provincial initiative representing over 20 communities in the province.

The goal of Poverty Free Ontario is to raise awareness of the need to end poverty in communities like Fort Erie, says Rhonda Barron, a health promoter for the CHC.

“Poverty Free Ontario is a pre-election campaign focused on making sure poverty is an election issue.”

Everyone in the community from families, to businesses and faith-based organizations were invited to drop into CHC to pick up signs, buttons and pamphlets for Poverty Free Ontario and to learn more about how to help communities end poverty on Thursday.

Poverty can affect any one at any time, whether young or old and it makes a large impact on a community, says the health promoter.

Barron says the Poverty Free Ontario initiative has been on the radar for a few months now and she wants people to realize that there are many people living in town who deal with poverty on a daily basis, which she says a lot of people are unaware of.

“This issue effects the entire community — poverty knows no boundaries. We want to end poverty because it is a public issue.”

The pamphlet gives statistics which include the latest figures for Ontario which shows a poverty rate of 13 per cent. It is the highest rate in 30 years and it is the fastest growing rate in Canada since the last provincial election in 2007.

Barron says there is a strong link between poverty and health which needs to be addressed — through the provincial election she hopes more people will take notice and ask their provincial candidates about it.

“We’re giving out pamphlets so when a politician knocks on your door and gives you one of his pamphlets, you can give him a pamphlet on poverty.”

Barron says the point of the pamphlets are to begin a discussion with the provincial candidates and ask them what their strategies are to fix the issue.

“We’re urging politicians to put poverty eradication on the agenda and we want people asking the candidates about their poverty eradication plans.”

She says she hopes to see people wearing the 300 buttons and posting the 100 signs promoting Poverty Free Ontario around the community that were given out by CHC.

“For people who are marginalized, or deal with poverty on a daily basis, it is easy to brush their voices under the carpet. Their voices are not often heard very well, which is why advocacy campaigns like this are important.”

For more information about Poverty Free Ontario, or to pick up a copy of the Poverty Free Ontario pamphlet, Barron says to phone the community health centre at 905-871-9135.

By Sarah Ferguson

http://www.forterietimes.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3304194

PFO Bulletin #8: Getting the Housing Benefit Right

The NDP released its anti-poverty platform on Friday, September 16, 2011. Perhaps anti-poverty advocates should be grateful for any nod in this direction, given electioneering by all the parties that is otherwise concentrated on middle class, pocketbook issues.

But any anti-poverty policy is not equivalent to the policy necessary to end poverty in Ontario. The NDP’s commitment to building 50,000 affordable housing units over ten years is certainly commendable as is the promise of a new emergency dental care program for 50,000 low income adults.

The reference, however, to a housing benefit for 200,000 low income individuals and families at a cost of $240 million a year when fully implemented is worrisome. In its policy platform, the Liberal Party also says that it will “consider delivering a new housing benefit for Ontarians who are struggling”.  The plan that the Liberals are entertaining is the same that the NDP has committed itself to.

A housing benefit of this limited scale in a province with 1.7 million people living in poverty does not begin to address the real issue. That issue is the woefully inadequate core incomes of almost 600,000 adults on social assistance and about 800,000 low wage workers who do not earn enough to meet their basic monthly living costs.

A single individual on social assistance lives in deep poverty, $11,300 below the poverty line annually; a single mom with one child lives $9,500 below the line set by the Ontario Government as our official poverty measure. Even a full-time worker earning minimum wage for the whole year falls more than $1,000 short of the poverty line.

These figures indicate that basic incomes for all the necessities of life are inadequate and require increases in social assistance and the minimum wage over the next two-three years to enable low income people to live with some measure of health and dignity.  Unfortunately, until Government job creation strategies reduce the social assistance caseloads and create better paying jobs, the cost of ending deep poverty will be much higher than $240 million for a housing benefit that will go to somewhere between 15% and 20% of the population in need.

But the cost of income supports to end deep poverty would still be just one-sixth as much as the $4.2 billion in corporate tax cuts that will be fully implemented in Ontario by 2013.

A start on the path to income adequacy for people on social assistance would be a $100 a month Healthy Food Supplement for the almost 600,000 current welfare recipients. For the working poor, minimum wage increases over the next three years could bring the full-time worker above the poverty line.

When a government commits to a strategy that deals with the fundamental issue of basic income inadequacy, then a complementary measure such as a housing benefit could support all individuals and families with higher housing costs that threaten to draw from their household budgets for healthy food and other daily necessities.

Poverty Free Ontario has a clear position on the proper place of a housing benefit within its overall plan to poverty eradication:

  • A “two-track” approach to poverty eradication by 2020 – immediate action now (short-term first track) combined with specific action over the next three years (longer-term planned action).
  • Core income proposal 1: Implement the $100/month Healthy Food Supplement now as the first step toward income adequacy to eliminate deep poverty among people on social assistance
  • Core income proposal 2: Develop and implement a schedule of social assistance benefit increases over the next three years to bring everyone on social assistance out of deep poverty and as close to the poverty line as possible.
  • Core income proposal 3: Raise the minimum wage by three annual 75 cent increments starting in 2012 to bring it to $12.50/hr in 2014 (10% above the poverty line for a full-time worker) and index it annually thereafter.
  • Complementary income proposal: Develop a full housing benefit over the next year or so available to all low income people who are still paying more than 30% of household income on housing costs even after the previous core income measures are in place in order to protect their core incomes for basic necessities from high housing costs.

It is time to move beyond partial measures that avoid the structural basis for the intolerable levels of poverty in this wealthy province.  Only commitment to a serious and comprehensive poverty eradication plan combining immediate action on core income adequacy with specific and concrete steps over the next three to four years will end poverty in Ontario in this decade.

Poverty eradication a political priority: group

York Region candidates canvassing your support for the Oct. 6 provincial election can expect a taste of their own marketing medicine.

Poverty Free Ontario, a non-partisan initiative urging all political parties and electoral candidates to make poverty an election issue, launched Let’s Vote for a Poverty Free Ontario at Newmarket’s Inn From The Cold Thursday.

The novel strategy to make poverty eradication a political priority borrows from traditional election campaign tactics, including lawn and window signs, buttons and brochures.

Co-sponsored by The Social Planning Network of Ontario and the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition, in partnership with local social service agencies, the initiative was unveiled simultaneously in more than 40 Ontario communities, network co-chairperson Pat Taylor said.

“The public can get on board by asking their candidates about their position on the issues,” she said, adding window signs can be downloaded from the network’s Internet site. “The intention is to keep the campaign going after the election.”

The initiative is funded by the sale of buttons and donations, she said. Poverty Free Ontario has blanketed the province and hopes community support will sway political will in favour of concerted programs to end the varied hardships of the poor.

Ontario’s poverty rate stands at 13.1 per cent, the highest level in the last 30 years, coalition co-ordinator Peter Clutterbuck said.

“Community members and civic organizations in touch daily with the intolerable living conditions of low-income Ontarians recognize ending poverty is a major political issue,” he said.

Coalition executive director Michael Skaljin is buoyed by the groundswell of support from leaders and communities from all faith traditions across the province.

“Poverty amidst the wealth of our province, even in harder economic times, is morally indefensible and we expect political parties and candidates running for office would not only publicly acknowledge the issue, but make clear proposals about how to reduce and eliminate it within this decade,” he said.

Newmarket Regional Councillor John Taylor bought a button and took a sign for his lawn.

“Going into this election, we want to make sure poverty is an issue,” he said. “To be blunt, poverty hasn’t been getting the attention it deserves. In the United States, the gap between the rich and poor is threatening the social fabric. We’re following.

“I’m proud to say York Region has done much to end poverty, but much more can be done.”

Poverty Action for Change Coalition chairperson Tom Pearson endorsed Mr. Taylor’s remarks.

“The problem is too many groups work in silos, independent of each other,” he said. “By working together to tie up all the loose ends, we can make Ontario poverty free.”

Resources are available in support of the campaign, York Region Food Network executive director Joan Stonehocker said.

Buttons are emblazoned with We are Working for a Poverty Free Ontario. Lawn and window signs state, I am Voting for a Poverty Free Ontario. Reverse canvassing leaflets promoting the poverty issues can be given out at the door when candidates visit or at meetings.

Let’s Vote for a Poverty Free Ontario is one of the largest anti-poverty programs to date, Ms Taylor said.

“A lot of people have put a lot of effort into this,” she said. “If it doesn’t work, it’ll be very disappointing.”

• Let’s Vote for a Poverty Free Ontario signs can be downloaded at faithtoendpoverty.ca. Buttons and a limited supply of lawn signs are available at Inn From The Cold, 510 Penrose St., Newmarket. Program information is available at povertyfreeontario.ca.  For training information, call Yvonne Kelly at 905-967-0428, ext. 205.

http://www.yorkregion.com/news/article/1083912–poverty-eradication-a-political-priority-group

Poverty Free Ontario challenges candidates

OAKVILLE – Despite its reputation for health, there is poverty in Halton Region and a number of groups have joined forces to spread the word to the community.

With the provincial election coming up in a few weeks, the group will be challenging candidates on poverty issues and is asking residents to vote for a poverty-free Ontario.

On Thursday, Sept. 15, the Interfaith Council of Halton, Voices for Change, Halton and the Halton Poverty Roundtable held a Poverty Free Ontario discussion at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, as similar roundtable discussions were taking place in communities across Ontario.

The province-wide Poverty Free Ontario initiative was organized by Social Planning Network of Ontario in partnership with the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition.

At the Oakville event, several people spoke about their own experiences with ongoing poverty.

The pastor of the church, Daniel Phannenhour, also made a presentation, urging people to think about poverty in the provincial election, saying the issue does not get the attention it deserves in society.

“People of faith care about poverty because we share a conviction of the world, in which we live, that it is created good,” he said. “Creation is good. The goodness of creation and all its blessings, including that of our human community, reflects the goodness of the creator.”

However, when the goodness of creation is denied to certain people through the barrier of poverty, people of faith are compelled to respond.

He said poverty could be considered as a noble and virtuous condition; however, when stories of poverty are told, they reveal the most marginalized people in society, such as single women with children, older women living alone, people with disabilities (physical, mental and emotional), and aboriginal people.

“Such people relegated to poverty can only be the result of deliberate and intentional decisions made by the people who exercise authority within our political and economic picture,” he said.

“These decisions can be changed and poverty can be eliminated through the exercise of our collective values expressed through the political process.”

He asked people to vote to end poverty and that the group would make the issue of poverty a top priority in the election.

June Cockwell, representing Halton Poverty Roundtable, said the organization is part of a larger national collective working to eliminate poverty.

The Poverty Roundtable has organized an all-candidates meeting for the Oakville riding at the local YMCA on Tuesday, Sept. 20, where it plans to question candidates on issues of poverty. The meeting runs from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in Multi-purpose Room 5 (Kinesis Room).

Three women, who have been involved with Voices for Change Halton, spoke to a small group of people about their experiences.

Barbara Chilwell is a single mother of a child with special needs, Emily Murphy is only 21, and Juliana (who asked for her last name not be used) is an immigrant. All three are currently faced with poverty.

Barbara Chilwell

Barbara Chilwell and her special needs daughter lived with Barbara’s mother.

“My fall into poverty happened very suddenly,” she said.

“One Friday afternoon my mother had a stroke. A week later I had a heart attack, then I had cardiac arrest and then I had congestive heart failure. About three days later my mother died. About five days later, my stepmother – who was the same age as me and my best friend – died.”

She continued to live in the house, as her family owned it, but her mother’s contributions to it ended.

“I lived on the equity of the house for a few years and then I couldn’t manage and I wasn’t getting any better physically,” she said.

Eventually she was forced to get social assistance, but going on an Ontario Disability Service Program was a negative experience.

“You have to bare your soul to people and you’re shamed that you’re there in the first place,” she said. “Whether it’s through illness or no matter what got you there, no one likes to ask for help.”

She said the system makes one feel as though the person is trying to take advantage of it and it affects people negatively.

“I was a business person prior to all of this. I lost my confidence. I lost my self. I lost my voice. I would still advocate for my daughter . . . but for myself, I could not do that,” she said.

Her world became smaller because it was difficult to socialize with friends, having no money to even go out for coffee. Being on social assistance made her feel like a drain on society and there is a stigma associated with it.

“You believe what everybody says about you, whether you want to or not,” she said.

She said she’s thankful there was a system to help her, but those social services are very expensive.

She was invited into Voices for Change Halton where there were people who understood what people such as her were going through.

“Through that I started to understand I had a voice and I had to get it back,” she said.

She became involved with the organization.

Her life is now improving, being off expensive, publicly-paid-for medication, and feels as though she’s less of a drain on society.

“Because I’ve been given my voice back, I’ve also been given hope. We all need hope. We need to see there’s something we can do.”

Though she’s still on social assistance, she said she will soon be able to contribute to society after being given a hand-up, not a hand-out.

That is why she decided to speak, so people will understand the need to help people in tough times.

“I want people to understand the value to society to help me find my voice, to move ahead, to get out of the system, to become a person I used to be,” she said. “Or, when people get onto the system, to stop the slide, to stop losing your job, or getting ill, to being beaten down, to becoming less than you are because then the journey to getting a job is a lot harder.”

Emily Murphy

The 21-year-old Murphy said she has been on Ontario Works since the age of 18.

“I never thought of myself as living in poverty,” she said. “I wasn’t aware of the issues and I didn’t find myself as poor — not when I was living off $25 a week for groceries, or when I was washing my hair in public bathrooms… or when I was staying at the Lighthouse shelter… I was just going through a rough patch.”

Murphy said she comes from a middle-class family. She got into poverty because she hated school. It was a case of not fitting in and she was miserable in high school. One day, she couldn’t get herself back into the school building and she never graduated.

She began arguing with her family about not completing school and then she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

“That was the final straw. With all the logic of a wounded animal, I decided to straighten up on my own. It didn’t take me long to end up on OW (Ontario Works),” she said.

Paying $450 a month for housing, she had little money left for anything else.

Murphy felt like a drain on the system and an absolute failure. Her self-respect took a beating. She told herself she would eventually do better and become better but it didn’t happen.

She recently went to Voices for Change where she learned a single person on OW gets 39.6 per cent of the poverty line. This needs to change, but she understands the battle is a difficult one.

“I feel obligated to try to do something about it, whether it’s effective or not,” she told the group. “I want to be able to do something that I can be proud of. I’m definitely proud to be up here speaking today. That’s a good start.”

Juliana

Juliana lived a well-off life with her husband and children in Dubai. However, the couple knew it wasn’t the best place to raise their children so they decided start fresh in Canada. They packed up their lives and came to Canada in 2002, being promised an easy start to get to the wealth they had enjoyed.

“When we came here, I discovered the decision was really good for kids, but not for us as parents,” she said.

In Dubai she was a management professional and her husband was an engineer with 25 years experience, which meant little in Canada. They spent money getting a home and starting a new life but neither one could find work.

She and her husband began to fight and eventually they divorced.

“I started to figure out all that is bad with the system, starting with me paying taxes in this country but when you ask for help, they treat you like a person who doesn’t deserve it or someone who isn’t allowed to have this money,” she said of having to get social assistance.

When she found a job, she wanted to improve her education, but she couldn’t afford to.

She remarried and her second husband said he would take care of her, but he was abusive. She got help at a women’s shelter, where someone recommended she should consider leaving him. After only 10 months, the marriage broke up.

Juliana stayed in a shelter and returned to her home country for a few months. Upon returning to Canada, she began rebuilding her life and her business in jewelry design.

“I’m in the middle of the road that is taking me to be a really successful entrepreneur, but at the same time, I’m still dealing with legal issues, social issues,” she said of her current life.

“I’m struggling with money issues because I don’t classify for any help. I’m still waiting for this to be over.”

She said social assistance programs are not helpful to women, as the programs don’t help women upgrade their education or those who have their own businesses, or women who come out of recent relationships.

Juliana added it is difficult to get out of the tough financial situation in Canada.

“If you are not a strong person that you can get yourself out of it, working in two or three part-time jobs, you will not be able to get out of that situation,” she said.

She said the system needs to change and she’s happy to be part of an organization that is trying to do that, with Voices for Change Halton.

“There are people who are struggling in this country and there are people who are filthy rich,” she said, adding there is a need for people to help those who are in need.

“Hopefully, I will be one of those people soon, who help those who are in poverty,” she said.

Dominik Kurek, OAKVILLE BEAVER STAFF
http://www.insidehalton.com/community/oakvillebeaver/article/1083904

Local Study and Action on Poverty Eradication in Toronto

More than 60 congregants of the Eglinton St. George’s and Fairlawn Avenue United Churches gathered on September 14 in north Toronto to hear and discuss the proposals of Poverty Free Ontario for eradicating poverty in the province within this decade.

The SPNO’s Peter Clutterbuck made a presentation on Poverty Free Ontario and took questions from a very engaged and committed audience.

After question period, those assembled worked in small groups to identify what action they might take to bring their concerns about poverty forward to candidates running for election.

At the end of the evening, on behalf of SPNO Peter Clutterbuck presented Rosemary Pryde and Jannie Mills with a Poverty Free Ontario T-shirt (one of only three produced) as a gesture of gratitude for the funding contribution of Fairlawn Avenue United Church, which enabled SPNO to support cross-community organizing on Poverty free Ontario in 16 communities throughout the province.

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