Eradicating poverty is “simpler than people think,” says Wayne MacNaughton of Community Action on Homelessness.
“There are three things that are necessary: Sufficient housing, sufficient income and sufficient supports,” he proclaimed.
MacNaughton was homeless for a few years because he couldn’t find affordable housing. He now lives in the North End of Halifax in an apartment building built for people with low incomes.
At the nearby Parker Street Food and Furniture Bank, people in a jam-packed waiting room take turns getting help with food, clothing and other basics. Executive director Mel Boutilier said education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty.
“We need to do everything we can to get people so they can be self-sufficient,” he said. He recently ran into a client who had completed Parker Street’s flooring installation program. The man was overjoyed to be employed after 18 years on social assistance.
Parker Street has in the past offered courses in IT, automotives and skills development. They’re currently waiting on funding to allow them to re-offer the programs.
“It’s a big saving for governments,” Boutilier said, noting money invested in training reduces the demand on social assistance.
Peter Mortimer at the United Way of Halifax focuses on “social capital.” That’s the network people have to help find work, among other things. Low-income people tend to have networks rooted low-income areas, meaning they miss out on “word-of-mouth” jobs in higher-income positions.
“The research makes clear that neighbourhoods that have high levels of social capital also have less crime, better income, better educational outcomes,” he said.
Spryfield, for example, has “strong but isolated” networks. “We got the business network to sit down with citizen networks. It was the first time they’d actually ever talked together. That’s led to all sorts of things,” Mortimer said. “Getting this social capital, it has long-term implications. Over a very long time, that starts influencing some of the negative measures.”
Make Poverty History Halifax is holding a rally Saturday to mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. It starts at Victoria Park at 1 p.m., proceeding to Halifax North Memorial Library. Contact Merlin Watt, MPH Halifax coalition chair, at 401-7981 or