A Face of Poverty

Poverty can have many faces. It does not affect just one race, gender, religion or age group. In today’s day and age, living in poverty provides a social and financial barrier that separates the working class from the middle and upper middle class. Katelyn Nisbett, a 20-year-old woman who cleans houses for a living, has a story that is disheartening, but is also inspiring at the same time.

According to Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), and other tables, half of Canadians were living on less than $25,400 in 2009. The poverty rate rose 0.2% from 9.4% to 9.6%, compared to 2008. Child poverty rose from 9.1% in 2008 to 9.5% in 2009. 1 in 10 Canadians was considered poor.

“We can’t afford to do the things that other people can do, like, we can’t afford to go out to nice dinners or concerts or just places other people would normally go like in museums and stuff and amusement parks, we can’t like do things on our bucket list because we always have no money,” Nisbett explained.

According to a report published about Canada’s housing market outlook for 2017 from RE/MAX, the well known real estate company, the average residential sale price in 2013 was $522,963. Within the last four years that number has risen quite significantly. The estimated total sale price for 2016 is $725,857.

“There are so many people looking for houses right now and homes but they don’t make enough money to buy one. And the housing market is so high, even renting is expensive,” Nisbett said. The forecasted total sale price for 2017 is $783,926.

As of October 1, 2016, the general minimum wage in Ontario is $11.40/hr., according to the Ministry of Labour. Full-time, part-time, casual employees, who are paid an hourly rate, commission, piece rate, flat rate or salary, are eligible to be paid minimum wage. For Nisbett and her family, the paycheques that come in are only minimal to meet their needs.

“My mom works at Costco and she works as a food demonstrator there. She doesn’t get a lot. I work as a house cleaner. I sweep and mop, my mom does the bathrooms as a side job when she’s not working at Costco. She also sings and plays music in bars and restaurants for extra cash. I clean offices. We only work like one day a week though, because we only have one office we do. Us poor people, we understand what it’s like to be poor so we help the less fortunate where rich people just look at homeless people as if they’re like beggars on the street,” Nisbett said.

Poverty is a social issue that most people will turn their heads away from. It is a tough thing to see. People cannot bare to look into the pleading eyes of a human being without feeling remorse, sorrow and pity for them. “Living in poverty, it’s helped us stay grounded because we’re not so greedy when it comes to certain things,” Nisbett said. “And we don’t want to be pitied, we want to be respected as people. We work hard.”

There are some services that help people living in poverty, such as food and clothing banks, churches donating to families in need, stores offering discounts. “We used coupons and sales. We borrowed money a lot when I was younger from my grandmother or the bank,” Nisbett said. Ontario has a Local Poverty Reduction Fund which costs $50 million, and it took six years to create and support innovative community-driven projects that help to improve the lives of people who are most affected by poverty.

In 2016, Ontario invested more than $16 million in thirty new projects that zeroed in on ending child/youth poverty, increasing job security, reducing homelessness, and helping Indigenous communities on and off-reserve. There were over twenty funding recipients in 2015. One more round of funding will be taking place in Spring 2017.

United within their community, Nisbett and her family do what they can to help others even though they may not have all the means to do so. In the meantime, Nisbett and her family are continuing to work hard to earn a living and make the best of their current and on-going situation. “When you’re poor, you have to work for everything, but when you’re rich, you don’t gotta work as hard,” Nisbett said.

The negligence towards improving poverty rates will continue to flourish if nothing is done purposefully and consistently. It’s the responsibility of every citizen to help.

-E

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