KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – It’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, and as always Halifax activists used the opportunity to raise the profile of people living in abject poverty while in the care of various levels of government.
About fifteen people living in poverty, supporters and friends headed to City Hall this morning to remind municipal politicians about the depth of poverty in our city, and the urgent need to take action.
Newly re-elected mayor Mike Savage came down to the City Hall lobby to meet with the demonstrators and pose for pictures.
The group was asking for a municipal multi-year poverty reduction strategy, and Mayor Savage said that he was hopeful that Council in its new configuration would consider such a thing. He also expressed the hope that Halifax be selected for a federal pilot project on a guaranteed annual income and mentioned the (very modest) support the city offered to the Housing First initiative.
“It was a start. For the councillors to commit to any kind of funding in this partnership was a big deal because of the argument that affordable housing is not within the city’s mandate” Savage said.
People raised the transit discount for low income residents, something the city recently committed to pilot. People on welfare fear that Community Services will withhold funding for bus passes as a result, leaving people on welfare no further ahead.
City Hall done with, the group descended on the JBO on Gottingen Street for a hearty lunch. They were joined by recently elected North End NDP MLA Lisa Roberts.
“I really appreciate the chance to connect with real people and have some real conversations,” said Roberts. “I am very interested to hear input from the community so I can bring bits of reality into that space (Province House) that so often is more about partisan jostling and scoring points.”
People needed little encouragement.
Truly affordable housing, deeply insufficient welfare rates, the cutting of special diets and bus pass subsidies, the list went on and on.
“I have been waiting six months to get a wheelchair that I desperately need, and all I am getting is the runaround from Community Services. It’s ridiculous,” one of the people at the lunch told Roberts.
“When you live in a shelter they expect you to get an apartment while you don’t get welfare. How can you get your own place when all you get is $78 per month. 99.9 percent of the apartments here require credit checks. How can you afford that?”
This year the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, an event sponsored by the United Nations, focuses on the humiliation and exclusion endured by many people living in poverty.
At a national level groups use the day to call for a comprehensive strategy to root out poverty once and for all.
Correction: I didn’t hear it, but somebody in attendance this morning pointed out that, contrary to an earlier version of this story, Mayor Savage went on record as being hopeful that the City would engage in a multi-year poverty strategy. Sorry for the confusion. Oct. 17, 7:40 PM.
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For those of us who don’t live in poverty, what is the JBO?