Firstly, I feel the need to preface this post with a bit of a warning. After a couple months of having our feet on the ground and facing obstacle upon obstacle on our mission to aid individuals—this blog post is birthed out of frustration, confusion, and a dash of anger. That being said—I will do my absolute best to write with consideration of others and will make a valiant effort not to offend anyone. But I can’t make any promises. Keeping in mind that this will be raw, real and completely honest do your best to hear me out.
Ok. So here’s the deal. There are a few systems in place that aim to alleviate poverty. They aren’t all bad and I dare say none of them are outwardly ill-intended. However…. It has become unquestionably clear to me along this process that a system created to ALLEVIATE poverty is, to be quite truthful, PERPETUATING it. It’s making it worse. It’s trapping people and telling them to lower their standards… To not set goals… To collect their assistance cheque with gratitude and contentment that they qualify for it in the first place.
Now that sounds harsh, I know. But I do feel confident in saying this is the message most of our clients are receiving. Loud and clear! Let me elaborate on this. We have clients who desperately want to further their education in an effort to provide a sustainable income for their family. Involved in this are financial issues (obviously). Take, for example, the fee to apply for University. $55 for a Canadian resident. This is a cost that one client, specifically, can’t afford. Her case worker at Social Development has informed her that they will not assist her with that fee. SO (and here is where the reference to feeling trapped comes into play)— Feed your children or apply for university?? I would say across the board that feeding your children will always be of top priority. So month after month you struggle to make ends meet. To house and feed your family while the dream of one day becoming educated and financially secure slips away. That is nothing short of a tragedy.
Should you find it of interest after reading this you could take the time to search out Social Developments online list of their policies and procedures. What will you find?? That funding for furthering education is available. That it is an option to assist with application fees. So WHY are these people being told otherwise?? Is it a case worker’s lack of knowledge regarding their own department?? Is it a lack of interest and investment in their clients? I’m not entirely sure. But I am sure that, regardless, I am wholeheartedly invested in OUR client’s futures and will do everything in my power to ensure their goals are obtained. Even if that means declaring, very enthusiastically, that “the system” SUCKS! And this is only one example of how the poverty trap is eating up opportunities and potential.
There are various other issues that need to be addressed. Did you know that if a couple is separated and the Mother collects assistance any and all child support paid by the Father is deducted DOLLAR FOR DOLLAR from her assistance cheque each month? This lacks logic on a level that I can’t even begin to comprehend. Not only does this take income away from a struggling family—but I also believe it acts as encouragement or, at the very least, justification for child support NOT to be paid.
Also, have you ever noticed that we have areas in our city where low socio-economic status is prevalent? These are typically areas that provide city housing units to those who require subsidized rent. Low renting costs for low income individuals! Sounds great in theory. But this is where we are going horribly horribly wrong—– we’re segregating them!!!! What….the….hell. We’re forcing people to live in sub-standard apartments, in sub-standard areas because they really can’t afford not to. But hey—beggars can’t be choosers right?
I received an email from a client requesting some furniture for her apartment. I’ve spoken of this lady before—the lady whose child was sleeping on the floor. I’m happy to say that child is now warm and comfortable on a double bed. HOWEVER—when she initially contacted me she had also requested some living room furniture. She felt the need to inform me that she didn’t want to come across as greedy or ungrateful. Here is why— she already had a couch in the living room that was torn and taped up. She feared that I may feel she should be happy with the couch she had and had no business seeking out another one. She specifically said “poor people want nice things too.”
Can we all just take a minute to wrap our heads around that. OF COURSE THEY DO!!! Poor people want nice apartments, quality furniture, good food, educations! Of course they do. We, as a society, have put them into positions where those things become unobtainable. Into situations that result in broken spirits. They are robbed of their aspirations, ambition and standards after multiple attempts at navigating a system that is, supposedly, designed to HELP them! This is social injustice at its finest.
I never want our organization to be one that contributes to the cycle of poverty. I want to be a soft place to land after these people have fallen through the cracks that the system has created. And I want to be their VOICE! Educating and informing the public on what goes on behind the scenes and in the lives of those trying to claw their way out of poverty situations and the hindrances they face is a huge component of what we do. Knowledge is power.. and reminders of the inequalities we’re surrounded by is the incentive we all need to decide that poverty is not only unjust but it is unnecessary.
The poverty rate is whispering “this isn’t working” and nobody seems to be listening. The system needs to change. We’ll shout that loudly and I hope you all will to! Every donation you make to our organization, every commitment you make to volunteer hours, every post you share or item you donate is helping us to grow bigger, stronger and LOUDER! It’s putting us on the path towars setting standards for service provision and exemplifying the way things SHOULD be done. We thank you for that and we thank you for believing that Linking Lives Inc. can (and will) implement large scale change in our city.
“The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but as a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the wealthy. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied, but written off as trash”. -John Berger
As always.. to aid our efforts consider donating at https://www.gofundme.com/linkinglivesinc