Hello to All; this week’s blog post is a bit late, my apologies, actually should have been out last week but between meetings, clients & foot surgery I just could not pull it off!
My surgery was scheduled & relatively minor, however it served to remind me, once again of how truly fortunate I am to have the support network I do; people to go to the hospital with me, people to stay with me afterwards, people who run my errands, walk my dog, bring me food and just generally provide comfort. They promised they would and they did. How lucky for me!
Many of our clients, unfortunately, are not so lucky. Although they too were promised by various people, agencies and governmental departments that they would be supported, that their needs would be met and that they would not struggle alone; that is honestly not their reality. They live with broken hearts and empty promises instead.
For example, they are promised financial support; yet amounts awarded DO NOT adequately cover ACTUAL expenses, they are promised affordable, safe housing yet it often turns out to be beneath acceptable standards & in segregated areas that are less than safe! So instead of receiving enough assistance to rise above their current circumstance they become trapped by poverty! It is a vicious cycle.
The most disheartening of late are the multiple clients whose financial case managers refuse to refer them to Post Secondary Training & Development or discourage re-education plans…WHAT?!?! WHY?!?! How does that even make sense? If we continue to invest as little as possible in these people how will they ever be able to change their lives, their children’s lives and break that poverty cycle? They won’t.
Below is a classic example of the poverty trap and was written by a client we are currently working with; the desperation and loss of hope are palpable and painful to read.
“I did hear back and sadly, I did not get the position. I really was hoping to land something to help offset our current financial situation. Trying to live off $500 for the first three weeks of every month is getting harder and harder each month. The child tax credit is nearly $1000 monthly but when you have to play catch up on all the bills that didn’t get paid on the first, fill the freezer for the next month, put gas in the car, pay the up keep just to have a vehicle, buy clothing and school supplies, and all the other little things, it doesn’t come close to stretching nearly far enough. I sometimes get so frustrated and wonder why I even bother trying when clearly this is what my life was meant to be. There is no way out and no hope for a better future. I can’t get a decent paying job, even if I were to land one, it wouldn’t pay well enough to support us. I can’t return to school as my previous loans are in default so I don’t qualify for any future help from the government for schooling. I can’t get them in good standing since I can hardly afford to pay the bills I currently have, let alone take on more. I live in housing that is making my kids sick. I can’t afford to move to something better so we stay in a home with mold, rotting flooring, and leaking basement windows in an area where we are surrounded by drugs and alcoholism. My children are exposed to violence and can’t play outside without being witnesses to verbal and sometimes even physical altercations. I try to remain positive and keep telling myself that failure is just another chance at success, right? 🙂 Sometimes it is just so hard to stay focused on that bigger picture. I feel there should be better options than segregating the poor off in their own little corner. Forced to live among drug dealers and alcoholics in our own very small and isolated area and then just leave us there and think that we should be grateful for the opportunity to have low-income housing. I am grateful that I can afford the rent but not grateful for all the things I have to give up to get it. Why should we have to live in substandard housing just because we are poor? I would give anything, and I literally mean ANYTHING, to be able to live in a home where we all had our own rooms, with our own beds. Or at the very least, if anyone did have to share a room, the rooms would be big enough for each to have their own bed. A place where we had a kitchen with ample storage where we could cook and eat comfortably. Where we had a bathroom large enough that two people could actually be in there at the same time if need be. I am not talking a $5000 a month top of the line, half million dollar home. Although that would be lovely, I am sure, we just want to be able to not trip over each other when trying to cook supper, or pass each other in the hallway. I literally have stepped on or tripped over my youngest child more than once while making supper. Just a couple of weeks ago, I had to call the police as there were two men attacking another man with a baseball bat (all three were drunk) in the neighbor’s yard. I could hear the fighting from INSIDE my unit and went to see what was going on. Thankfully this was at night and my kids were in bed at the time. A week or so before that, at the same neighbor’s house, a man with a gun was threatening another man and a woman. This incident was witnessed by my four-year-old, whom I promptly removed and took inside for her safety. These things should not be happening. When we do call the police, they don’t come right away because they are called to this area so often, they see it as “just another call to the ghetto”. Although the incident with the bat, they were very quick to respond but didn’t come at all over the gun incident, go figure! I could go on for days about all the injustices we have faced since moving to this area back in 2009. Within days I wanted to move back out again but had nowhere to go. We moved here from a place where the kids had no bedrooms, we had no toilet, and no running water so for us, this certainly was a step up.”
How would you feel if your only options were- unaffordable, inadequate housing or affordable, inadequate housing in a crime ridden neighborhood?
Look into your children’s sweet little faces today and then picture the trauma of having them exposed to extreme violence, drugs and alcoholism on a regular basis…which choice would you make?
Over 20 years ago I made MY choice and I chose poverty over a life of abuse and my children suffered for that choice, as many of our clients’ children’s do today!
These are the kind of awful, gut wrenching, heartbreaking choices our clients are faced with daily; is it safe to let my children play in the yard today? Or do I stay with my abusive partner for the sake of financial security? Or do I pay NB Power or buy food? Seldom are they faced with good, sound, just, options and instead their life becomes simply about making the choice that causes the least amount of harm!
We can do better than that, I know we can!
Please help us offer better options, react less punitively, and open hearts to the reality that our friends and neighbors are suffering and their children are suffering too!
Poverty & abuse are considered cyclical and their patterns WILL BE repeated if we don’t do something to break that cycle…TODAY!
United Nations Definition of Poverty:
“Fundamentally poverty is the inability of getting choices and opportunities; a violation of human dignity! It means lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society. It means not having enough to feed and clothe a family. It means insecurity, powerlessness, and exclusion of individuals, households, and communities. It means susceptibility to violence and it often implies living in marginal or fragile environments.”
“Child poverty in Canada continues at a high and unacceptable level, with income inequality continuing to grow.” –Dr. John Millar (Professor UBC) & Laurel Rothman (Toronto Family Services) 2015.