The cost of living in Canada continues to see an upward climb and that does not make it easy to live comfortably. From gas to groceries, prices seem to be skyrocketing out of control and all Canadians are feeling the effects, especially those already living in low-income situations. Add to that the rising inflation rate and the percentage of people living in poverty just gets higher.
What is poverty?
According to 2019 Statistics Canada data, the poverty rate was just over 10 per cent based on Canada’s Official Poverty Line, which is an indicator measuring the number of Canadians who live in poverty as measured by the Market Basket Measure (MBM). “According to the MBM, a family lives in poverty if they cannot afford the cost of a specific basket of goods and services in their community.”
How does poverty affect Canadians?
The sad reality is that Canadians suffering from poverty experience distress every time they go to the grocery store or shop for basic necessities. Many of those who suffer from poverty are largely hidden from view.
The Community Counselling Centre of Nipissing (CCCNIP) explains that poverty can cause depression and anxiety and contribute to substance abuse and trauma. Counsellor Danielle Pitre has worked with clients who have been living in cars or couch surfing. She says “People just see the poverty and don’t see the surrounding circumstances. Sometimes, in order to address poverty, I have had to help people get connected to support systems.” Pitre explains that helping someone with an application for a social insurance card, for example, can be an effective way to help them overcome poverty-related depression.
How can poverty be addressed?
Unfortunately, society makes it easy for others to blame the poor for their poverty. This is a result of social policy as well as neglect and disregard. Many might say, “I’ve worked very hard to get where I am, why can’t they?” Or, “If we give people good jobs, is that enough to overcome poverty?” The answer to those questions is complicated by the thinking patterns that come with poverty.
Let’s be clear, poverty is not just financial. It can affect people from different upbringings and cultural backgrounds. It’s not just about salary level, bank balances or cash in a wallet. Poverty is a mindset that helps people adapt and cope in a dangerous and unpredictable world. The rules of poverty often clash with middle class values. People who are focused on survival do not follow the rules of the middle class. It is naive to think that simply giving people money or a job will get them out of the cycle of poverty.
Often, people in poverty tend to live in the present with less attention to planning for tomorrow and distrust professional institutions. For example, after suffering from theft or assault, a person might avoid contacting the police. That is because many people in poverty focus on survival rather than on self-development. To add to an already complex cycle, physical safety is also an issue for people in poverty. To overcome this feeling of insecurity, one might ally oneself with an individual who appears more powerful and who can then provide protection.
Understanding how poverty makes people think is important for social policy. Pitre sees a common feature in clients who overcome poverty. “It starts with housing” she says. “On top of that, you need a community of supports that will help people deal with the mental health and addiction issues that are often linked with poverty. There is no simple fix according to Pitre. Each person who climbs out of poverty has their own unique journey.”
At CCCNIP, experienced staff work to understand what people are experiencing. This is the first step in developing compassion and empathy, which ultimately are key factors in helping the community resolve the issues of poverty.
Please call 705-472-6515 to access services or visit www.cccnip.com.