The basic necessities of housing and food are out of reach to many in our province. Almost 600,000 British Columbians live below the poverty line and 122,000 of those are children. We need to make the stats and the stories of poverty visible. We need to Make Poverty Public.
Here are some stories to share. We encourage you to collect more from your community. Check out our Celebrations of Humanity toolkit for support.
Citizens for Accessible Neighbourhoods (CAN) and the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition co-authored a report released April 13th about the demoralizing effects of provincial government policy for both people with disabilities and those who work within the income assistance system.
Looking beyond the numbers to focus on real-life stories, Sharing Our Realities: Life on Disability Assistance in British Columbia finds a remarkable consensus between people with disabilities, income assistance workers, and even the findings of the government’s own disability consultation about what ails the system and what is needed to improve the lives of people with disabilities. The report, which surveyed people with disabilities and income assistance workers across the province, includes recommendations to increase income and disability assistance rates, simplify applications for income and disability assistance, and return to a system with individualized caseworkers.
“The message is that we don’t have enough for basics like food and shelter,” said Frank, who receives disability assistance, “and this makes our disabilities worse. We are losing our health. We are losing our homes. We are losing our lives. This is a crisis.”
See Me Photo Project
Kelowna recently passed a by-law prohibiting people from sitting on the sidewalk day or night. Apparently, there had been complaints of “sidewalk obstructions.” We have dehumanized people to the extent that homeless people are now just “sidewalk obstructions.” The See Me photo project is intended to re-humanize people in poverty so that we can no longer step over or look away from our neighbours.
If you or the people you work with self-identify as living in poverty and are comfortable publicly sharing how you want the government to address poverty, please take part in our See Me photo project. Create a sign that says See Me and take a photo holding the sign. Please email the photos to firstname.lastname@example.org and post to our social media channels using the hashtag #MakePovertyPublic with a message about how you’d like the government to address poverty. We’ll use the photo to show the diversity of people living in poverty throughout BC.
Check out the photos and messages that have already been sent in here.
BC’s Hardest Working
Visit bcshardestworking.ca/ to see more profiles.
Jackie Pierre is a telecommunications industry worker living in East Vancouver in co-op housing. She is a single mother of two girls, one in grade school and the other in preschool. Paying for childcare is her biggest struggle and where the majority of her income goes. Summers are an especially difficult time, and she relies primarily on affordable summer camps and nearby relatives to piece together care for her elder daughter while she’s at work. Despite all of the inconveniences surrounding childcare and working, she still works because it gives her a sense of self worth.
Ingrid Steenhuisen is a 55 year old volunteer and community activist. She was born to immigrant parents who lived in social housing at the Little Mountain site in Vancouver. She joined the military after graduating high school as a way to gain income and employment skills, but was later diagnosed with fibromyalgia and various other health issues. She is currently unable to work. She receives CPP disability plus a small top up from the provincial government, and has moved back to the affordable housing site where she grew up to take care of her ailing mother.
Lynne Charleson is a community activist and an Aboriginal woman currently couch surfing in the Vancouver area. She has 4 children and 3 grandchildren. She greatly enjoys and appreciates the community of the Downtown Eastside. She has struggled with alcohol and addiction in the past, but she is currently doing well. She suffers from arthritis and after several years of struggle has been able to get on disability. However, because she doesn’t have a fixed address at the moment, she isn’t currently receiving the housing portion of the support. Her biggest concerns are child welfare and accessibility of affordable housing.