According to the Central Alberta Poverty Reduction Alliance (CAPRA), it is likely a neighbour or your child’s classmate might not be getting the “nutritional, educational, social and emotional opportunities they need to lead a happy and rewarding life”.
We all know situations like these and the question often is how to respond without insulting neighbours and acquaintances and undermining their dignity.
That is one of the issues that advocates for people with limited resource and are in exceptional circumstances often face. Like similar projects in Medicine Hat, Calgary and Grande Prairie, CAPRA works with business, government, community agencies, contracted service providers and the community at large. It recognizes that understanding and resolving issues around poverty is not about handouts. It involves understanding that health, educational and quality of life issues affect some people proportionally more than others.
This has serious consequences for the vibrancy of our communities and the untapped talent and personal resources that are wasted. It involves a community planning in a concerted way to come to terms with the barriers limiting improved quality of life, a process that can, advocates suggest, save tax payers billions of dollars .
In just one year, for instance, it is estimated that between $7.1 – 9.5 billion is spent to manage the symptoms of poverty in our health care and justice systems.
A telling statistic is that in Alberta, close to 30 per cent of lone parents make less than $25,000 per year. Having an income of close to or less than $2000 per month to house, dress, feed and assist 2 kids to get school supplies and involve them in extracurricular activities and see an occasional movie on that income, is a belt tightening exercise. Monthly rental costs for a two-bedroom apartment is well in excess of $1000 per month and increasing. The vacancy rate for apartments in Ponoka at this point is zero.
This is not an overnight fix.
In a respectful community-wide initiative, we need to start a conversation about neighbors and acquaintances who struggle without complaining, but whose quality of life and engagement in our community can be increased if we gave it some thought and not only for a day.
Perhaps we needed to acknowledge that good communities value every person who lives within it, not matter who they are.
Good communities are not only value-based. They also recognize real-life practicalities and important human needs.