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Poverty is a global issue that hits close to home

Wednesday, October 17 is the United Nations’ International Day to Eradicate Poverty.

Wednesday, October 17 is the United Nations’ International Day to Eradicate Poverty.

It is a day when we hope that Trail Times readers will take some time to think about our local reality where well over 100 families and individuals come to the weekly food bank held once a month on Tuesday morning in the Anglican Church & all other Tuesday in the nearby United Church.

It is a day to reflect on the shocking fact that, this fall, Trail’s Skool Aid project provided school supplies to over 140 students (up by 20 per cent from last year).

It is a day to reflect on the fact that living on poverty level wages causes huge hardships to families and costs our society far more than it would to simply make sure people had decent housing and adequate incomes.  The costs of poverty can be measured by looking at increased pressures on our health care, social services, education, justice and other systems.

Research shows that one homeless person in Vancouver costs society over $40,000 a year. Pilot projects prove that it’s far less costly to provide safe, decent, supported housing and an adequate income.

Even more important are the many positive changes that become possible in an individual’s well-being and self-esteem, including an increased ability to contribute something back to others in their community.

B.C. is one of only two provinces in Canada that does not have a comprehensive poverty reduction plan in place. It’s therefore not surprising that our poverty rate remains amongst the highest in Canada.

It’s not all bad news. Rather than waiting around for the provincial government to initiate a coordinated approach to poverty reduction,  there are some promising local initiatives underway in the Greater Trail area.

These include attempts to increase the availability of affordable housing, developing strategies to support low income women and enhancing direct services to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

These and other efforts need  coordinated support from all sectors of our community – business, government, social  and community services, education, health care, unions and others -  if we are, in the long run, to truly make a difference in the lives of people currently struggling with all the pressures caused by living on poverty level incomes.

Let’s hope that a year from now, on October 17, 2013, we’ll have a long list of good news stories to share re reducing poverty in the Greater Trail area.

Ann Godderis

For the Trail Poor No More committee