Poverty Is A Special Kind Of Trauma

p1050114*Photo Borrowed from Sharon Kravitz

According to the BC government, homelessness in Vancouver will end in 2015. While I am sure that there are indeed well intention-ed persons working diligently on this very lofty goal, I think what’s missing here, is the bigger picture.

As long as the priorities of the government are on real state development, investing, and capital, what we end up with is the displacement for those who have lived in the only affordable homes in the city, for those (rather unfortunately) living below the poverty line. The fact that anyone is forced to live below the poverty line is another topic. I digress.

What is the poverty line? The poverty line is Low Income Cut Off after-tax earnings per year.

In 2009, the low-income cut-offs (LICOs) – also known as the poverty line – for after-tax incomes were as follows:

1 person: $18,421
2 persons: $22,420
3 persons: $27,918
4 persons: $34,829

Those persons living on disability without working, are earning about $10,000 a year. If we compare this to the 2009 (LICO), this means a single person living solely on disability, is living approx $7,000 below the LICO (or poverty line) as established in 2009.

Looking at Stats Canada, one notes that the gap between the wealthy and poor gets wider, so likely in 2013, even with Christy Clark’s rise in disability rates, the disability rates are probably a few thousand dollars lower than the LICO as it stands today.

Those collecting welfare only, are living with income that is non-livable, probably not unlike third-world conditions. Most of these folks depend on DTES free food and shelter societies like Salvation Army and church organizations.

An argument to protect the DTES by putting in zoning bylaws to prevent further development in a neighbourhood that has a history of maintaining services to help the marginalized is, therefore, critical.

Another argument for a working wage would also greatly reduce poverty and encourage people without disabilities to work. As it stands today, many working people lose hope or simply give up, once they realize that working at minimum wage simply sends a person in circles unable to pay bills or make rent.

Vancouver is one of the most expensive cities to live in. My question is, why are we not looking at a working wage? Why are we not protecting the DTES from gentrification?

To the Mayor and Premier, I say: Think bigger. Look broader. Provide incentive by developing a working wage. Protect the DTES. Continue to provide support for those dealing with mental health and substance issues while looking at the bigger picture. After all, if you want people to become healthy then you need to give them an incentive to stay healthy. This means that opportunities to live above the poverty line must exist.

Supportive housing without bed bugs is a good start. Provide incentives for non-profit housing organizations to implement sauna and cooling rooms.

While providing supportive housing, including rent-controlled housing on the DTES. Provide incentives for developers to build rent-controlled buildings on the DTES. Prevent, punish, or stop foreign worker policies that force people to work at slave wages so that the corporate CEO’s get richer while at the same time prevent job opportunities for locals.

I could go on but…

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