The di­men­sions of poverty

Fi­nal Peo­ple’s School on Poverty ex­am­ines roots of poverty and po­ten­tial so­lu­tions

The Casket - - Local - SAM MACDONALD sam­mac­don­[email protected]­cas­ket.ca

A con­ver­sa­tion on what makes and keeps peo­ple in poverty took place on Nov. 27 at the Peo­ple’s Place Li­brary. Class was in ses­sion for the fi­nal meet­ing of the Peo­ple’s School on Poverty at the lo­cal li­brary.

Guests and those who have been part of the con­ver­sa­tion were given a run down on what causes poverty, later dis­cussing what can be done to cor­rect the forces that put and keep peo­ple in poverty in the Antigo­nish area.

Mem­bers of the Antigo­nish Poverty Re­duc­tion Coali­tion (APRC) shared find­ings from the past Peo­ple’s School events – and the con­ver­sa­tions they in­spired. The find­ings il­lus­trate the many, over­lap­ping root causes of poverty.

Is­sues that have to do with poverty in the Antigo­nish area that have arisen from past

Peo­ple’s School events are gen­er­ally sorted into five ma­jor ar­eas; food se­cu­rity, pol­icy, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, cul­ture, hous­ing and trans­porta­tion.

The focus of the event was the role the com­mu­nity plays in deal­ing with poverty, and what can be done go­ing for­ward to ad­dress the root causes.

Laura Pick­ers­gill pre­sented in­for­ma­tion on the fac­tors that cause poverty, not­ing that one of the most ur­gent is­sues that is a driving force in the Antigo­nish area is hous­ing – or rather, a lack thereof. Pick­ers­gill noted that al­most all con­ver­sa­tions about poverty the coali­tion had, with mul­ti­ple groups of peo­ple al­luded to hous­ing.

"There was recog­ni­tion of ini­tia­tives, and good be­ing done, but ul­ti­mately, there is not enough af­ford­able hous­ing, and not enough hous­ing in gen­eral," Pick­ers­gill said.

She noted peo­ple have dif­fi­culty get­ting ac­cess to hous­ing, face a lack of sup­port, and also face larger is­sues such as in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized racism in lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, and those con­trib­ute to the dif­fi­culty peo­ple have find­ing proper hous­ing.

At pre­vi­ous ses­sions, Pick­ers­gill al­luded to sug­ges­tions that in­cluded the need for higher stan­dards for land­lords and hous­ing au­thor­i­ties, mak­ing sure there is qual­ity hous­ing. She noted other ways for­ward in­clude a re­duc­tion in the stigma of peo­ple avail­ing them­selves of pub­lic hous­ing, so they can take pride in their homes. Most im­por­tantly, Pick­ers­gill said, cre­at­ing emergency hous­ing and sim­i­lar ser­vices are needed – as well as more af­ford­able hous­ing units.

As far as pol­icy was con­cerned, Pick­ers­gill said, "con­tin­ued ad­vo­cacy is some­thing we can do. Ad­vo­cat­ing for a liv­ing wage, for bet­ter so­cial as­sis­tance and pol­icy changes on mul­ti­ple lev­els."

She noted ad­vo­cat­ing for change on mul­ti­ple lev­els of gov­ern­ment is the most dif­fi­cult and chal­leng­ing way to cre­ate change in pol­icy, but a nec­es­sary step in rec­ti­fy­ing poverty in the re­gion.

Many of the key ar­eas sparked dis­cus­sions on how to ad­dress is­sues to deal with gaps in ser­vice, such as those as­so­ci­ated with a lack of ac­cess to trans­porta­tion through lim­ited times and routes, a lack of other af­ford­able op­tions, and un­man­age­able pric­ing for some peo­ple trav­el­ling cer­tain places.

Pick­ers­gill said po­ten­tial op­tions to rec­tify trans­porta­tion is­sues in­clude a trans­porta­tion plan for com­mu­nity mem­bers in spe­cific con­texts, look­ing out­side the com­mu­nity for re­im­burse­ment plans, and per­haps a pass sys­tem, with coupons and vouch­ers, to help peo­ple make tak­ing the bus more af­ford­able.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion was the sub­ject of on­go­ing dis­cus­sion, and is an im­por­tant piece of the puzzle, be­cause with­out proper com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween groups in­volved, it can be dif­fi­cult for peo­ple in need to know what kinds of ser­vices are avail­able.

"Com­mu­ni­ca­tion was brought up in at least ev­ery ses­sion in a num­ber of dif­fer­ent ways. There are so many things go­ing on – it can be hard to keep track," Pick­ers­gill said. "Be­tween ser­vice providers and or­ga­ni­za­tions there can be gaps and over­lap be­tween ser­vices. If they don’t talk to each other, they may not know where the gaps are."

A solution to lapses in com­mu­ni­ca­tion put for­ward from pre­vi­ous ses­sions is a com­pre­hen­sive plan, us­ing net­works to make sure peo­ple and ser­vice providers are con­nected. More ed­u­ca­tion, and a re­duc­tion in stigma around poverty, and a nav­i­ga­tor to help peo­ple ob­tain the ser­vices they need are all good ways to clear the air, Pick­ers­gill noted.

The prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with food se­cu­rity were a ma­jor area of con­cern. Pick­ers­gill noted that com­mon is­sues that arise in con­ver­sa­tions about food se­cu­rity in­clude prob­lems with ac­cess, a lack of choice at food bank, iso­la­tion and dis­re­spect for those seek­ing ser­vice from pro­grams meant to help them, and prob­lems with ac­cess to food banks.

Pick­ers­gill said bet­ter ac­cess to food can be achieved through ex­panded hours for food banks, mo­bile food se­cu­rity pro­grams, as­sis­tance through vouch­ers and gift cards – all done re­spect­fully, and in­clu­sively.

"Food ser­vice is a cen­tral need, and some­thing that needs to be in­cor­po­rated into pro­gram­ming and ser­vices," she said.

Cul­tural is­sues, such so­cial iso­la­tion and ex­clu­sion, can po­ten­tially be rec­ti­fied with more ac­ces­si­ble recre­ational and cul­tural ser­vices, such as tra­di­tional hunt­ing in abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties, and events with low­ered costs so peo­ple suf­fer­ing from poverty are able to par­tic­i­pate and in­te­grate into the larger com­mu­nity. One way to make events more ac­ces­si­ble to the poor, Pick­ers­gill men­tioned is vol­un­teerism in lieu of an en­trance fee.

"Peo­ple who feel sin­gled out is the num­ber one bar­rier," Pick­ers­gill said, not­ing that a re­cur­rent theme, when it came to the de­liv­ery of ser­vices to those in poverty, whether it be in us­ing a food bank to get ac­cess to food, need­ing more pub­lic trans­porta­tion op­tions or be­ing un­able to at­tend events be­cause of the costs, was that the stigma and shame of poverty.

That, she noted, must be re­moved, if peo­ple are go­ing to get the ser­vices and help they need.

Be­tween the many fac­tors that con­trib­ute to poverty, there is con­sid­er­able over­lap, and ad­dress­ing one of the many di­men­sions of poverty usu­ally re­quires and en­tails ad­dress­ing other re­lated is­sues.

"The ef­fects of poverty are in­ter­twined, and the so­lu­tions to them need to be in­ter­twined," Pick­ers­gill said. "It’s not just six iso­lated cat­e­gories. It’s about look­ing at a holis­tic per­spec­tive on how we can ad­dress this from mul­ti­ple an­gles, all at once."

Sam Macdonald

Colleen Cameron, speak­ing to guests at the fi­nal Peo­ple’s School on Poverty.

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