In February of 2017, Employment and Social Development Canada launched a consultation process as part of the development of a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy. The results were released today. This is what they learned about poverty and homelessness across Canada...
Canadians are having difficulty keeping a roof over their head, whether it is because of the high costs related to housing, or because they have experienced certain life situations beyond their control which have led to homelessness.
The lack of income and affordable and suitable housing are important factors leading to homelessness and poverty.
“While poverty is not always about homelessness, homelessness is always about poverty.”
Families are forced to make hard decisions. They have to sacrifice because the costs of basic living expenses—such as heating, electricity and food—cost more than what they make. This means they often have little to nothing left for anything else, such as participating in local activities. This also results in many low-income Canadians feeling left out of their communities.
“When we have affordable housing we can focus on employment, and raising our families. We can dream of other possibilities.”
“When you are poor and you are a senior, you can’t afford to get into debt. It is far easier to get into debt than it is to get out.” Participant, Tackling Poverty Together Project
Issues related to health can sometimes lead one to live in poverty and make it hard to get out.
“When you are poor and you are a senior, you can’t afford to get into debt. It is far easier to get into debt than it is to get out.”
Hardships caused by illness, disability and poverty can be connected. They can create a high level of stress and a sense of lost dignity in someone’s life. One of the main reasons for poor health and illness is not being able to meet basic needs, such as food and housing.
Poverty can indirectly lead to additional costs for Canada’s public health care systems and creates challenges in affording pharmaceutical treatments and dental care. Many people who visit emergency rooms or seek urgent help suffer from health issues that are linked to the challenges associated with poverty.
Struggles with mental illness can lead to job loss, poverty and homelessness. We heard that the experience of poverty itself can worsen mental health and create a vicious cycle.
Having a job is not always enough to avoid poverty because their wages are too low. Low wages were frequently cited as a barrier to having basic needs met and participating in activities that make individuals and families feel truly included in society.
Re-entering the workforce after facing difficult life situations such as serious illness or the loss of a loved one can be a difficult process that requires support, particularly for those returning to work after a long absence.
“I had a good job. Then I got in an accident and when I returned to work I asked if they could give me accommodations for my disability and they said no and fired me.”
Supports and System Navigation -
Canadians don’t know about programs and supports that could be helpful. More supports and investments are needed to reduce poverty in this country, and there needs to be greater awareness of and access to existing government programs.
“You can’t access what you don’t know about.”
Despite the hardships experienced by many Canadians living in poverty, they continue to show a great deal of resilience and courage as they face their challenges.