When anti-poverty activists and service providers gather on Parliament Hill Friday, they hope to send a message to legislators that ending poverty is possible within our lifetime.
The rally, dubbed Stand Up Against Poverty, is an annual event tied this year to international events taking place from Oct. 16-20 to mark the UN’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. This year, those who fight poverty in Ottawa have reason to hope that municipal and provincial officials are hearing their message.
Earlier this year, Ontario released a poverty reduction strategy, and in December, Ottawa city council is to receive its own reduction strategy that will stress the role every sector can play to reduce poverty in the nation’s capital.
“What we’re seeing in that strategy is the City of Ottawa taking the leadership role in co-ordinating services across the city, connecting the different pieces,” said Michael Maidment, chair of the city’s Poverty Advisory Committee.
The municipal strategy, which the committee is shepherding, will be phased in and will include immediate issues with short-term, realistic targets, said Maidment, as well as outlining ways the city can partner with the province, the private sector and community agencies to reduce poverty.
Peggy Austen, senior director of impact strategies for the United Way of Ottawa-Carleton, hopes the strategy will help raise the profile of poverty here.
“Ottawa is a city where it’s easy to hide poverty,” she said. “You can drive past communities and neighbourhoods that are experiencing incredible rates of poverty and disengagement and not even know it, unless it’s brought to your attention.”
Poverty is less visible in Ottawa because social housing complexes are scattered throughout neighbourhoods, instead of being concentrated in a few places.
Programs the United Way supports are increasingly concentrated on targeting pathways out of poverty, such as education and employment. They include 45 homework clubs, as well as breakfast and snack programs in more than 130 schools that serve more than 8,000 children and youth, Austen said.