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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Poverty in Nanaimo

The following is a bit long. It is a presentation I have done in schools and elsewhere which I update each year.

Presentation: Poverty & Food
Gord Fuller - 2010

The enemy is not poverty sickness and disease. The enemy is a set of institutions and interests that are advantaged by clienthood, that need dependency, masked by service. We are in a struggle against clienthood. We must reallocate the power, authority, and legitimacy that have been stolen by the great institutions of society. We must commit ourselves to the reallocation of power to the people we serve so that we no longer will need to serve. (McKnight, J. The Careless Society: Community and Its’ Counterfeits [1995]).

Poverty pimp
Is a label used to convey that an individual or group is benefiting unduly by acting as an intermediary on behalf of the poor. The term is used to suggest that "poverty pimps" profit from their attempts to alleviate the misfortune of others, and therefore do not really wish poverty to be eliminated permanently as it is not in their own interest for this to happen. Poverty pimps gain a higher quality of existence from exploiting the poverty of others.
True poverty pimps are worse than just those who live off of helping others. They are the ones who perpetuate poverty in order to keep their job. They add more bureaucracy in order to expand their programs and their power. They provide just enough of a service to keep clients coming back. They are the firms who purposely overcharge and pad the bills, wasting money supposedly given to help the poor. Poverty pimps are the workers and administrators who keep expanding the public and private social services system, thereby expanding their job and salary opportunities. They contribute more money to keep the cycle eternal. They are the ones who make the system so challenging that you practically need a college degree to navigate it, causing many poor people to opt out of the system and often into the street.


If the poor weren't so conveniently invisible, maybe we'd come to our moral senses and devise a national strategy for eliminating poverty. Imagine yourself in a state of constant dread. That's poverty.
David Olive – Toronto Star

If profit was eliminated as a factor, great steps in the alleviation of poverty would begin to truly occur.
Poverty is not a choice but a reality for many. The greatest poverty is not the homeless or the panhandler but that which you don’t see. It is the working poor, the unemployed, seniors, students and the many children in families that are struggling to make end meet.

The past 8 years saw an economic boom then recession and in the last year the start of recovery. Despite this Unemployment is rising, 9% in Nanaimo, as are the numbers of people receiving income assistance, 75% in the last year.

During the boom prices for real-estate increased with many rental properties being converted for sale. The downside of the burgeoning economy and rise of real-estate values is that these are also the very things that can contribute to increased poverty. These polar opposites have simply furthered the widening the gap between the financially able and financially challenged.

Low income has been recognized as the single most significant indicator of health status, putting adults and children at a higher risk of poor physical and mental health, involvement in crime, and unemployment. Most low-income families have gross incomes that are thousands of dollars below the poverty line and most are headed by a person in the labour force, they are commonly known as the working poor. Part of the problem is inadequate hours of work, 1 in 5 jobs are part time, and inadequate pay, BC has the lowest minimum wage set at $8.00 per hour.

Canada's food banks association notes that the predominant users of food banks are working people who complain of not being able to obtain more than 25 hours of work per week from any given employer. Many of the Homeless across Canada are working but simply don’t make enough to pay for accommodation and food.

British Columbia has had the highest child poverty rates in Canada 7 years running; one of every four children in BC lives in poverty. The vast majority of poor children in BC (67.6%) live in families with some earned income, but not enough to get them over the poverty line. Approximately 98,000 families are living in poverty in BC. with 90% of single -parent families headed by women. In BC the number of clients receiving income assistance and expected to work increased by 52% from September 2008 to September 2009; the number of dependent children in families receiving assistance increased by more than 20% over the same period.

In Nanaimo 31%, 20512, of the over 66,000 people to file tax returns have an income of less than $15,000, $18,900 being one established low income cut off determinant of poverty for a single person. 49% make below 25,000 per year.
The numbers of individuals and families making under $10,000, the under employed, those receiving income assistance, as well as many Old Age Pensioners, has remained stagnant over the past 10 years at approximately 15%.

Close to 13,000 people, excluding children, approximately 15% of the total population live on income assistance in Nanaimo. With over 5000 single employable people on income assistance living on approximately $7000 dollars per year, as well as those on disability and families on assistance, you begin to see just how extensive poverty is in Nanaimo. Income assistance is too low to pay rent and buy healthy food, shelter and food costs consume an unreasonable proportion of the income.

2008 Before-Tax Low-Income Cut-Offs for a city the size of Nanaimo were as follows; a family of 1 -$18,900, 2 - $23,600, 3 - $29,000, 4 - $35,200 and increasing by approximately $5,000 per person. Low income cut-offs (LICOs) are by far Statistics Canada’s most established and widely recognized approach to estimating low income. In short, a LICO is an income threshold below which a family will likely devote a larger share of its income on the necessities of food, shelter and clothing than the average family

As the price of real-estate rose many apartments have been converted to condominiums, many rooming houses converted back to single family, and many of the secondary suites in homes, used to help pay mortgages, are being rented at ever increasing rates due to larger mortgages.

Approximately 53 percent of renters, as well as many low-income homeowners in Nanaimo, are paying far more than 30 percent of their income towards rent, 30% being a determinant of poverty. Of those living on pensions or income assistance the percentage of income towards rent rises to more than 50%.

The most significant barrier to healthy eating is inadequate income. Once fixed costs such as shelter and utilities are met there may be little money left for food.

Food and shelter costs have increased significantly over the past decade, while income assistance rates have remained virtually unchanged and minimum wage has not increased. Not all residents of British Columbia have enough money to purchase healthy food. In urban centres the high cost of housing leaves little money left for food and many people with low income face challenges purchasing healthy foods.

Income-related food security is an important health issue in Canada and is a key social determinant of health. People with inadequate incomes are far less likely than those with higher incomes to enjoy diets that are consistent with healthy eating. Less is spent on food and they eat fewer servings of fruit, vegetables and milk products. They are also more likely to suffer illness than Canadians with higher incomes.

Ultimately in order to address poverty we must address the high cost of housing and ensure adequate income above poverty levels. Municipally we must adopt a proactive stance with respect to advocacy on poverty issues at the Provincial and Federal levels.

What can the BC government do to alleviate poverty and ensure that more British Columbians have enough money to purchase healthy food?
• Raising income assistance rates to account for the actual cost of healthy food and safe housing and indexing rates to the cost of living
• Raising the minimum wage to a level that supports an individual working full-time, full-year with an income above Statistics Canada low-income cut-off in a major urban centre
• Supporting a wide range of initiatives, including working with Federal & Municipal authorities, to ensure all British Columbians have access to safe and affordable housing
• Supporting initiatives that increase access to healthy food for all British Columbians, especially those living in rural and remote communities, or for whom access to food is difficult
• Building a system of high quality, affordable, accessible child care


When mentioning Income Assistance more often than not it only includes basic not disability etc.

This one is interesting but the stats are for 2006 and prior

BC STATS Good source for all over BC and a number of subject areas as well as community profiles.

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