The statistics are staggering.
According to the B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, one in five B.C. children live in poverty.
That means they are going to school without breakfast or lunch and in inadequate clothing. How are they expected to hit the books when their stomach is grumbling? They also sense the pressure their parents face to make ends meet.
Poverty is quickly becoming an entrenched part of society when you consider that one in five of all rental households in Canada spends 50 per cent of their income on rent and 235,000 people are homeless each year across the country (State of Homeless report, 2014).
Hunger Count says 841,191 people visited Canadian food banks in March 2014. Anyone around in the 1980s remembers food banks were just supposed to be temporary.
With these figures in mind, that’s why Tuesday’s United Way poverty simulation was so important.
The one-hour session allowed civic leaders and students to glimpse into the world of low-income residents by pretending to stand in line, for hours, at the social services or employment offices. Pay day loans and pawn shops were readily at hand and utilities and banks had their hands out for mortgages and bills in arrears. Doctors warned of medical emergencies because children were not receiving adequate nutrition.
Participants were urged to lobby the provincial government to initiate a comprehensive reduction plan and to support grassroots agencies trying to make a difference.
They were also asked to break down stereotypes, such as those living on social assistance are lazy. That’s often not the case when well-paying jobs are disappearing and unemployment is eight per cent.
We all need to become informed about the world around us.
Those in poverty can be our neighbours, our co-workers and our loved ones. They can be us.