5 Questions about Poverty: Women’s Place Resource Centre

Welcome back to the next installment in our 5 Questions about Poverty, where we asked various community leaders about the impact of poverty in their work. As you’re reading these, I hope you consider these questions in your own work, your community, your life.

This week’s our contributor is Ivy Verhoeckx, Program Coordinator of Women’s Place Resource Centre, based in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. Women’s Place Resource Centre is dedicated to the well-being and economic status of women in the Kings, Annapolis and Digby Counties. 

Q. How does poverty impact on your work?  How does it play out in what you see every day?

Women’s Place Resource Centre has always had a budget line for travel and snacks for programs which are offered.  There does not seem to have been an increase in the number who are asking for transportation assistance, however, the number of women attending the programs who come without having had breakfast, and the number who are accessing the food banks definitely has increased.  Mothers struggle with what they can put in their child’s lunch that is adequate nutritionally and affordable.  We see women who have been impoverished and children who will suffer the same fate.  We hand out more information on nutrition and recently started handing out recipes which include items they might receive at the food-bank.  These items may not have been in their diet previously.

Q. What are some of the changes you would like to see from a policy perspective – from a community perspective?

Definitely a guaranteed income.  This would allow individuals to feel some relief from being ‘monetarily poor’ while helping with their self respect and determination helping reverse the climate of impoverishment.   There also has to be a grass-roots understanding that when electricity is deliberately removed a portion of the persons rights (the part which states that ‘ Canada has a legal obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the right to food’ and that food  be ‘safe for human consumption’) according to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, signed by Canada in 1976 – has also been removed.

There is a tremendous disconnect within the smaller community as to exactly what money can and cannot buy and that money allows individuals to have some control over situations.  Wood burning stoves are not a solution to ‘lack of electricity’ for those who cannot afford the wood burning stove, nor the wood; nor is it a helpful suggestion to those who live without choice in rental units including apartments.

The broader community must value everyone in the socio-economic demographic and justice must prevail over profit.

The educational community needs to align their philosophy with what is required for today, not yesterday (relevant) and teach what it means to survive in today’s world, including how to budget, understand banking/saving, types of insurance, how to purchase a vehicle, how to preserve food, mend clothing etc.

Q. What’s the biggest myth or misconception about poverty that you would like to change?

That the poor created the hardship without any assistance from society.

The rich, poor, middle classes exist only by comparison and societal skewed system of values.  Our society makes it extremely difficult for an individual or family, to shake off the shackles and shame that goes with poverty/impoverishment.

Q. Thinking about another determinant of health, what are the connections to poverty?

Certainly the inability to buy nutritionally adequate food, no matter it be fresh, frozen or canned is a major detriment as it leads to not just poor choices, and physical ills, but to acceptance of ‘it will have to do’.  Living and growing in poverty, in an impoverished state leads to mental health issues including low self-esteem, depression, substance abuse.  Certainly, the stats show that women and children are at the highest risk of having to deal with poverty and the ills that go with it.  Without adequate money with which to purchase the food required for a healthy life, some foods become inaccessible, while others are inadequate in quantity and quality (nutritional value).

We want to thank Ivy for her powerful insights and experiences about her work with women and children and the impact of poverty – issues around transportation, the cyclical nature of poverty, the impact on health status and community perceptions of poverty were especially powerful. If you want to continue the conversation, please post a comment below, and stay tuned for another contributor next week!

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