…and so they should! The Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition began life in 1986 to contribute to a review of social assisstance being conducted in Ontario at the time. Here we are in 2012 considering another major review of social assistance. If you were born in poverty in 1986 you could be having your children in poverty right now. ISARC represents an attempt by faith communities in answering to their imperatives to respond to poverty. None of the world’s great faiths let their members or leaders off the hook when it comes to helping others. ISARC is actually kind of fantastic in that contains elements from Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Hindus, Unitarians, Salvation Army and Buddhists as well. All to the good that they are prepared to add weight to a broad approach to improving life in Ontario. Later this month they hold their 2012 religious leaders’ forum. Details on their website along with a variety of other resources. Take a look at their project in suburban Halton Region.
Going back a couple of years for this posting. All the way to 2008 for a well written piece on suburban poverty from the online edition of a monthly magazine for Mennonites in the US. We like diversity of source on this blog, lest we be accused of bias or making stuff up. There are plenty of people walking around who think that poverty is like the weather, it just kind of happens, or that think it is an inevitable product of an economic system that just delivers so many other good things we dare not tamper with it. The founder of the Mennonite faith would have something to say to them, no doubt. He lived in an era that was even worse than ours for many working people.
image: Wikimedia Commons
…and so we see that Sandy has affected New York City in ways differentiated by neighbourhood and class structure. Firstly, without electricity people cannot access benefit programs delivered via swipe cards. That puts bottled water, batteries, candles, food out of reach of many of the poor experiencing this emergency.
Word all over the Internet seems to be that working class suburbs have borne the brunt of the storm’s physical damage. AlterNet just posted a three page article gathering impressions from Staten Island, Red Hook, Breezy Point and Long Beach. Emergency aid and the restoration of services are simply not happening there as fast as they reasonably ought to be. It looks like a series of cold, mini-Katrinas edges New York City today.
photo: John Herve Barbie via Wikimedia Commons
Whenever a big storm, franken or otherwise, hits North America we see plenty in the media about the stranded travellers, the disruption to utilities and businesses, the influence of global warming and so forth. Never much about the homeless and socially excluded. With Sandy, at nine hundred miles across, the biggest storm in the lived human history of the Atlantic Ocean, there has actually been some mention of what might happen to the poor.
Lower mainland British Columbia has seen pockets of poverty arising in the suburbs (Burnaby, Richmond, Coquitlam, Surrey) while pockets of increased wealth have appeared in the downtown east side. The latter notorious for the worst social conditions in Canada for as long as anyone can remember. As is increasingly found in the United States recent immigrants are tending to go directly to suburban areas and suburban poverty. This item from the Globe & Mail gives the details. Did you know that Coquitlam got its first permanent homeless shelter this year?
photo: Surrey, BC via Wikimedia Commons
With this alarming turn of phrase the CBC reported on the description of youth unemployment in New Brunswick as: “approaching levels seen in the poorer parts of Europe.” Randy Hatfield, a poverty activist, was speaking at a forum in Moncton as head of the Saint John Human Development Council.
Poverty costs New Brunswickers $2 billion dollars per year
2011 report from Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
photo: Open CLip Art Library via Wikimedia Commons
It certainly is a mighty thing, Niagara Falls. All that water, the honeymoons, the things to see and do, the casinos, the hydro electric power that made both sides of the border into industrial societies. We can also see social difficulty on the Canadian side of the river has been a concern for some time. The number of people in Niagara Region living below the Low Income Cut Off (LICO) is higher there than the average for all of Canada, according to the Niagara Community Observatory at Brock University in St. Catharines. The Community Observatory recently issued a policy brief on poverty in the Niagara region. The LICO is the generally accepted rough equivalent in Canada to the poverty line in the United States. It would seem that despite its hydro power, industrial heritage and good agricultural land the Niagara frontier is coming to have things in common with the rust belts of Britain and America. Hopefully that can be turned around. Niagara needn’t be below the Canadian average. A community forum regarding poverty will be held in St Catharines tomorrow. It deserves to be well attended.
Poverty creating storm clouds on horizon St Catharines Herald
photo: P. Bica via Wikimedia Commons
In the Toronto area earlier this month there was a small demonstration to protest federal policy in regard to prison construction and an emerging, American-style, tough-on-crime policy. The event went by mainstream media and the public despite the merits of the ideas being put forward. Why are we getting new, large prisons and harsher sentences when crime rates have been going down in Canada? Why dump socially excluded people in jails and cut back on social programs? Why are we even having this conversation?
Protestors target prison building architecture conference
Aids Action Now
In north New Jersey we find more archetypal descriptions of people fallen out of their middle class working lives. “How will they climb back into them?” seems to be turning into “will they ever climb back into them?” Past performance in terms of income, employment, acquisition of assets and debts within the management of one’s personal finances and the dimensions of personal character doesn’t seem to hold an answer for many.
“Unlike the long-term poor, they had those nest eggs to fall back upon in hard times. But now, as the months without work have stretched into years, those accounts have been depleted and even extended unemployment benefits are running out. With job prospects still wispy, increasing numbers of them are reaching out for help,” says Harvey Lipman in this piece from The Record.
This piece contains a number of useful links regarding poverty in New Jersey including a searchable database of six indicators for Passaic and Bergen counties.
image: Princeton University from Wikimedia Commons
Detroit. Most know the tale of woe and decline that has befallen the city that put the world on wheels. Population loss, employment decline, racism, and a high level of physical decay are everyday facts-on-the-ground. The internet is full of images captured by urban explorers of various kinds that demonstrate where things are. Abandoned structures, hotels, private homes and industrial facilities rot and rust with a kind of perplexing grandeur. Such places decay quietly until they are set upon by a kind of inverse working class of scavengers, looking first for copper and aluminium and then later for less valuable metals in larger amounts, undoing what’s left of entire swathes of the city. There’s plenty of graffitti and something very lonely about it all. This reversal- of-fortune dominates nearly all discussion of Detroit and now includes much of what was once suburban. Indeed, the suburban poverty in Detroit’s surroundings appear to have gotten worse than in the city itself.
Here are some resources for understanding Detroit.
Both of these documentaries give credit to Detroit’s once-thriving cultural life, especially its music.
This link is for a non-profit agency called Data Driven Detroit. It has a trove of valuable material on Detroit, census data analysis, written reports, maps. The more we look at D3 the more impressed we are! A model for just about any community.
Image: public domain via Wikimedia Commons