I have been in school for the past two years and am in a career move, I have worked so hard to get here that I have worn out the cartilage in my knees. My prior work was so demanding that in order to keep our jobs, you had no choice. From 12 dollars an hour to $9.75 then to $8.40 per hour – and these were supervision pays. I worked at this company for eight years, through a temp agency, and even when we were making $8.40 an hour they still took out fees for cashing your work stub. I got injured and did not receive any help from WCB, or any physio treatment for my injury.
So yes, I do believe that we should be making more income.
After working hard, and my health deteriorating, due to work related injuries. If I had been making a living wage I think I could have been able to take better care of myself, ie. take a cab to the hospital instead of walking, be able to feed myself during the time my health was deteriorating – instead of living day to day with the money I was making. When something like this happens you should be able to put money in the bank for an extra month of rent and food (in case of emergencies like mine.)
Instead I am homeless and sleeping on couches just so I don’t have to sleep on the streets – to me this is unfair.
Agnes is a member of PovertyTalks! and is in school to become a social worker. She is currently completing her practicum with the Canadian Mental Health Association.
This past week my two colleagues and I had the opportunity to attend ABLE: The Asset Based Learning Exchange hosted here in Calgary by Momentum and the Financial Futures Collaborative. It was a delightful opportunity to mingle with those working in asset based community development and financial literacy fields, share, and learn about how this work can help to shape ours. I learned much during this exchange and I am looking forward to the development of its practical application going forward.
What will stick with me the most from ABLE was one segment in particular. The second day of the conference there was a panel discussion on predatory financial services (the MoneyMarts and Cash Stores of the world). This panel discussion was not led by the researchers or distinguished guest speakers this time – it was led by the true experts: people with lived experience of poverty who are able to speak to their first hand experiences with these types of businesses.
The insights the panel had to offer to the crowd were raw and unedited. They were the true lived experiences of people who had fallen victim to predatory financial services because they felt they had no other option to turn to. Traditional banking was not an option. If the rent is due tomorrow – who can stand to wait the five day hold traditional banks may subject to your freshly earned check.
The panel received a standing ovation.
Hearing from the voices of lived experience of poverty provides insight we can’t learn from any report, book or graph. It offers the insights needed to truly ground us in the type of work that we do. It is no longer and “us” and “them” conversation. It becomes a “we” conversation, as it should be.
Poverty is close and personal. Our daughter is divorced with two children living in Ontario. She is struggling to find work. She has teetered on the edge of homelessness a number of times. As parents we do what we can to help. In a number of recent conversations in the community, many people identify that there is someone in their own family who is poor. Thus for me and of many of these folks discussion of poverty alleviation is personal.
Most recently I finished reading Scarcity, When Having so Little Means so Much. In the book, an economist and a psychologist reframe poverty as scarcity and then outline how scarcity affects the cognitive and executive functions in our brains. These findings are helping me to better appreciate the impact of scarcity/poverty on the person and to develop some new insights on how to best help.
Yesterday I had two conversations: one with a person living in poverty; the other a long serving social worker in our community. There was common theme in both conversations: frustration, lack of ability to engage, and a sense of powerlessness driven by a feeling of exclusion. The context or our discussion was the two reports: Enough for All and Poverty Costs 2.0. Both of these plans focus on dramatically reducing the levels of poverty in our community. Both felt that those most affected have not been engaged and therefore it is likely these plans will not be effective.
I appreciated the honesty of these two people. It has had me wondering about the number of other Calgarians who may be experiencing these same feelings. Vibrant Communities Calgary is unequivocally committed to bring the different voices together on reducing poverty and supporting the most vulnerable in our community.
On October 17th Vibrant Communities Calgary had the opportunity to collaborate with the Disability Action Hall to mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
Our groups and volunteers gathered at the McHugh Bluff Stairs and placed messages about poverty in the Albertan context all along the 167 stairs to the top, as well as along the bike path. Calgarians were invited to take the 167 steps to learn how we can all do our own part to reduce poverty.
Included in the day was an opportunity to contribute to Canada Without Poverty’s Chew on This! campaign advocating for the federal government to eradicate poverty and hunger by implementing a national poverty reduction strategy. There are 882,000 Canadians who resort to food banks each month and millions of others struggling to get by. Chew on This! volunteers joined the thousands across the country who have endorsed Dignity for All: The Campaign for a Poverty Free Canada.
Passers by and active Calgarians exercising on the steps had the opportunity to read the messages and engage in conversation about them. Many great conversations were had, but what was most pleasing was to hear people chatting amongst themselves making remarks like, “oh my gosh, did you know that? I can’t believe that!” The simple passive act of reading the messages proved to reach an audience we may have not previously had the opportunity to engage with.
The fact remains that poverty affects all too many in our city, our country and our planet. Although the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty does much to raise awareness about poverty related issues around the globe, there is still much work to be done.
Let’s all remember, not just on October 17th, to think of the small ways we each can help to reduce poverty in our communities.