Poverty in Halifax doesn’t have a specific face according to the experts. It has many faces, spread across the entire municipality.
“One of the differences between Halifax and other urban centres in Canada is that our neighbourhood structure is quite different,” explains Peter Mortimer of the United Way of Halifax.
“There is no one section. It’s any part of the city that is affected,” agrees Mel Boutilier of Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank. “It just goes to say that people with minimum-wage incomes don’t have any more money, so no matter where they are, they can’t cope.”
The United Nations is holding the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on Monday, and Metro is tackling the issue across Canada. In Montreal and Toronto, poverty may concentrate in a few areas, but the size and history of Halifax means there tends to be multiple poor areas in many communities.
“From our perspective, it’s not an issue of poverty, it’s an issue of identifying residents who want to make a difference in their community,” Mortimer says. “They may be experiencing poverty, but that’s not the lens we’re using.”
Canada has no official measurement for poverty, but one tool is the LICO, or low-income cut-offs. That means a person or family spends 20 per cent more on the basics than is spent by similar persons in similar locations. In 2006, 76,000 Nova Scotians, or 8.4 per cent of the population, were living in low-income situations. Roughly one-third of those people lived in HRM. That’s down from 8.9 per cent in 2005 and puts province in the middle of the pack.
The number of children under 18 living in low-income families continued to decline, falling from 19,000 in 2005 to 16,000 in 2006.
That doesn’t make life any easier for those under the wire.
“I fear for this winter,” Boutilier says. “Last winter, we had an awful time coping with people who were running out of oil, people who couldn’t pay their power and had their lights shut off.”
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