B.C.’s regional chief is calling on the federal government to prioritize First Nations housing in its national housing strategy.
Yesterday the federal government released a report detailing the results of a four-month long national consultation on its proposed national housing strategy.
According to the report the majority of Canadians said the national housing strategy should support those who need affordable housing the most — low income and homeless families and individuals.
Shane Gottfriedson, the B.C. Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, emphasized improving conditions of First Nations housing should be “front and centre” of the new strategy.
Overcrowding, mould and old run-down houses are perennial problems on reserves and Indigenous Canadians are over-represented in the homeless population, he said.
“When you don’t have a home, you’re ostracized.”
Jen Wolf spent part of her childhood living in a VW van with her family. Now she returns to her hometown of Ventura, CA, in a VW Bubbletop she restored with her husband to revisit her youth and find the healing she didn’t realize she was looking for
Spend less than you earn, save your money, and—poof!—your financial problems are solved. If only it were this easy. Being broke sucks enough on its own, and then there are obstacles that make it extra hard for poor people to fight their way to financial security. For example, here are a few expenses that actually cost more for low-income individuals.
Toilet Paper and Other Staples
Even if you’ve never heard the phrase “the toilet paper effect,” you’re undoubtedly familiar with how it works.
A study from the University of Michigan tracked the toilet paper purchases of over 100,000 American households for seven years. Researchers found that high income households bought toilet paper on sale 39% of the time, compared to 28% for low income households. They also bought more rolls on average compared to low income households. Overall, the study found that low income households pay about 6% extra per sheet, and here’s what the researchers concluded:
the inability to buy in bulk inhibits the ability to time purchases to take advantage of sales, and the inability to accelerate purchase timing to buy on sale inhibits the ability to buy in bulk. We find that the financial losses low income households incur due to underutilization of these strategies can be as large as half of the savings they accrue by purchasing cheaper brands.
In other words, as the study’s title points out, Frugality is Hard to Afford. We’vediscussed this phenomenon in detail, too. It’s not just toilet paper. When you’re poor, it’s not easy to buy stuff in bulk or buy high-quality items that will last. There are a lot of hidden, systematic ways poor people pay more for stuff, and there are some expenses that aren’t so subtle.
I’ve written about this before but banks take advantage of the poor with higher rates
Bank fees make it expensive just to maintain your money in an account, which is ridiculous. They’re easy enough to get around, though—if you have the money.
For example, Bank of America’s regular checking account comes with a $14 monthly maintenance fee. It’s waived if you have a minimum daily balance of $1,500 or more, which is no easy feat if you’re poor. You can also get around itif you sign up for their credit card and qualify for a certain tier. This might be a decent option if you have solid credit. Some banks let you get around it if you have a direct deposit in a certain amount. That’s a decent option if you have a job that earns enough and also allows you to sign up for direct deposit.
The point is: there are solutions, but in practice, those solutions don’t seem to work well when you’re flat-out poor. Studies show there are fewer financial service options for lower income individuals, so they rely on costly alternatives: payday loans and other debt traps.
For example, a study from the National Poverty Center found that 17% of the unbanked say their application to open a bank account was denied. Many others find their existing bank accounts closed because the minimum balance was too low. Whatever the reason, not having access to these accounts makes it even harder to save, work toward financial security, or build a nest egg. The reasonable mainstream services that are available to most of us just aren’t as accessible for low-income households, which means they pay a lot more for alternatives.
I posted this photo this morning and was surprised by the feedback. After writing over 25,000 words on homelessness here, for the The StarPhoenix, and other publications, I had long ago thought that very few cared enough about homelessness to care enough to respond one way or the other.
The background of the photo is pretty boring. Wendy and I were simply taking the 6 p.m. cruise on The Prairie Lily. It was smoky last Friday and I debated bringing my Pentax K-3 with me at all. I did and I took some photos of the downtown and River Landing. As we approached Victoria Park I was looking at the east side of the river when a hush fell over the top deck and I heard someone say, “Oh My God, someone is living over there.” I looked and took a couple of photos. Someone actually cried a bit. Here we were basically taking the Saskatoon equivalent of a luxury cruise down the river using the very definition of disposable income and there was someone living in a tent surrounded by garbage. The top of the deck got very quiet as we sailed by and then as we passed it again on the way back.
The boat holds around 75 people. Let’s say it averages 50 people a cruise so at least 100 people a day see what I saw. It is directly across the river from the homes on Saskatchewan Crescent E. (some of which have asked that I remove the photos of their property despite it being in full site of Victoria Park and the Prairie Lily). Rather than cause problems. I took their photos down.
Over the last several years I have written several columns a year on homelessness and housing issues. I have written about the cost to society, best practices on how to stop it, the impact on children, and the impact of living in a tent. The Saskatoon homelessness count came out and there are 500 people living in some state of homelessness.
When I have written about encampments in the city before, people always tell me that they must be voluntary, when I have taken photos of the tents, I have had it suggested that they could be camping. I decided to include a person in this photo because that is where she lives and to be honest, the angle of her head makes it impossible to identify her from anyone else.
This is what homelessness looks like. A $80 tent from Walmart looking at multi-million dollar homes on Saskatchewan Crescent. It is also multi-million dollar homeowners looking back at a tent and no one is moved to change a thing.
This is partially why residents balked at Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s proposal in 2010 to build an even larger jail to house 5,832 inmates. Not only could Gusman’s staff not control the population they had, but the city’s increasing incarceration rate was not correlating with a decline in crime. Crime had, in fact, been increasing.
Gusman’s proposal was squashed by a coalition of community organizations that mobilized residents and convinced the city that it could not financially afford to keep, as one city council representative put it, jailing its way to becoming a safer city. The city ended up approving a new jail in 2011 that was just a quarter of the size the sheriff wanted: 1,485 beds, though the city was holding twice as many inmates as that at the time. This meant the city had to rethink and revamp its incarceration practices moving forward.
When author Richard Flanagan finished his latest novel, relative poverty forced him to contemplate getting a job in the mines in northern Australia. His Booker Prize win has spared him a life underground for the time being, but he did not waste the opportunity to acknowledge in his speech that â€œwriting is a hard life for so many writers.â€
And itâ€™s only getting worse, as Elizabeth Renzetti wrote wrote recently in these pages. Twelve thousand dollars â€“ thatâ€™s the figure the Writersâ€™ Union of Canada estimates as the average annual income writers make from their writing in this country. I remember what itâ€™s like to live on $12,000. You live in a shabby apartment furnished with hand-me-downs from your parents and garbage-picked gems, you allot $25 a week for food and you wear a borrowed dress when youâ€™re invited to a gala fundraising dinner for writers at a fancy hotel. You take the subway there. If you are in your late 20s, as I was then, itâ€™s fine, you make do because you are doing what you love and most people donâ€™t have that extraordinary privilege.
You donâ€™t squander that privilege. You work your ass off. And hopefully youâ€™re rewarded for that effort. It worked for me, as it did for many writers of my generation, perhaps the last for whom it was possible to live off their writing. In Britain, writersâ€™ incomes have fallen by 30 per cent in the past eight years, collapsing to what one Guardian headline called â€œabjectâ€ levels.
So many writers I know are looking back at this point in mid-life and saying, â€œI had a good run.â€ A good run saw us earn increasingly bigger if still modest advances. (Yes, $75,000 sounds like a lot, but when it takes five years to complete a book and your agent is taking a cut of 15 per cent, youâ€™re still below the poverty line if this is your sole source of income.) Publishers were once able to invest in a career, with income from bestsellers offsetting the less sensational works in a catalogue. Now, every book has to be a winner. If you fail to earn out your advance through sales, your next advance will be lower, or perhaps, as has become increasingly the case among my mid-career contemporaries, you will lose your publishing home.
Writing seems to have become one of the few careers where the more experienced and proficient you become over the years, the less you are compensated. And the humiliations of this are great. It does become difficult to uphold belief in the worth of your work. And since this is work intrinsically tied to oneâ€™s sense of self, it becomes difficult to uphold a sense of self-worth. It takes ego and adrenalin to work in solitude, through years of confusion and uncertainty, in the writing of a book. If you donâ€™t believe in it, no one else will. Of course, there is reward in art for artâ€™s sake, but few can sustain morale, motivation or mortgage on an income of private aesthetic fulfilment.
I live in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country, but on one of the more â€œmodestâ€ streetsâ€”mostly doctors and lawyers and family business owners. (A few blocks away are billionaires, families with famous last names, media moguls, etc.) I have noticed that on Halloween, what seems like 75 percent of the trick-or-treaters are clearly not from this neighborhood. Kids arrive in overflowing cars from less fortunate areas. I feel this is inappropriate. Halloween isnâ€™t a social service or a charity in which I have to buy candy for less fortunate children. Obviously this makes me feel like a terrible person, because whatâ€™s the big deal about making less fortunate kids happy on a holiday? But it just bugs me, because we already pay more than enough taxes toward actual social services. Should Halloween be a neighborhood activity, or is it legitimately a free-for-all in which people hunt down the best candy grounds for their kids?
â€”Halloween for the 99 Percent
In the urban neighborhood where I used to live, families who were not from the immediate area would come in fairly large groups to trick-or-treat on our streets, which were safe, well-lit, and full of people overstocked with candy. It was delightful to see the little mermaids, spider-men, ghosts, and the occasional axe murderer excitedly run up and down our front steps, having the time of their lives. So weâ€™d spend an extra $20 to make sure we had enough candy for kids who werenâ€™t as fortunate as ours. There you are, 99, on the impoverished side of Greenwich or Beverly Hills, with the other struggling lawyers, doctors, and business owners. Your whine makes me kind of wish that people from the actual poor side of town come this year not with scary costumes but with real pitchforks. Stop being callous and miserly and go to Costco, you cheapskate, and get enough candy to fill the bags of the kids who come one day a year to marvel at how the 1 percent live.
Thanks to Hilary for this.
A couple of weeks ago a local politicians phoned me up and simply said, â€œYou are stupid and naiveâ€. Â That intrigued me so I said, â€œgo onâ€. Â During the conversation I was told the city â€œactually worksâ€ and no one cared about the social issues I was talking about. Â I was reminded that â€œpeople vote in their own self interestsâ€ and they donâ€™t care for others.
They are right. Â Statistically I can prove to you that people donâ€™t care about poverty issues. Â People donâ€™t care about battered women unless it is an NFL player hitting them. Â People donâ€™t care about the children being prostituted or the girls taken from reserves to work the streets. Â People donâ€™t care about global warming very much or at least not enough to change. Â People donâ€™t care about how we can built a better city. Â They only care about their own commute. Â The proof is in the hashtag #yxetraffic when there is an accident on Circle Drive. Â You would think the world has ended because people are delayed a little bit.
People do care about their taxes. Â Personally I have long felt that I am under taxed for the services we get but despite having a really low property tax rate, people tell me all of the time how much tax they pay. Â Apparently they donâ€™t read about anyone elseâ€™s tax rates. Â People care about how rough they have it. Â I get letters from people who live in multi million dollar homes on Whiteswan Drive telling me how bad it is there because of the traffic noise. Â When I minimized the road design of Saskatchewan Crescent, I got email from many people who live there about how hard it is to live on Saskatchewan Crescent. Â I know, who thought the two worst streets to live on are Whiteswan Drive and Saskatchewan Crescent and where do I send a donation to make it better? Â
Politicians tell me all of the time of the people that they fear the backlash from. Â Itâ€™s not those that are struggling. Â They donâ€™t donate and they donâ€™t vote. Â Itâ€™s those who complain about their taxes, who think the city is spending their money in the wrong places, that only care about the pothole on their street. Â It is why the communications that the City of Saskatoon ran as soon as the lockout started mentioned keeping a promise to taxpayers (a promise I canâ€™t find anywhere) and putting the blame on the ATU. Â Who runs ads attacking the group of people you are supposed to be negotiating with?Â
The special city council meeting that was called to vote on the pension changes had a great Q & A with Murray Totland where each councillor lobbed softball question after softball question at him to help build political cover. Â What never came up? Â What the city was going to do to help people who rely on transit. Â
This is a city council that spent hours a couple of years ago debating what kind of fence that the city should build. Â Should it be wood, brick, chain link, cement block, a combination of materials? Â Seriously, they went around and around over the most minuscule of things. Â Yet when a couple of thousand of people were left out in the cold with no transit, there was no discussion at all?
I agree with labour action. Â Lockouts and strikes are part of the process. Â At the same time this lockout is different. Â There are some hard working people that are being negatively affected.
- A guy I know who pulled himself off the streets lost his job because of not being able to get to work because he lived on the westside yet had a job in the far north side of the city.
- A waitress I talked to lived on the westside, attends University of Saskatchewan and works downtown. Â Itâ€™s almost impossible to get to class, work, and home in the same day. Â When I went back to talk to her about it, she broke down in tears from just trying to spend an additional three hours a day walking and not being able to get home between class and work.
- A couple that has been married for 62 years in our neighbourhood was separated last year when Alan had to be placed in a care home because of his dementia. Â He doesnâ€™t eat when his wife isnâ€™t there so she takes Saskatoon transit from Mayfair to his care home everyday to help make sure he is okay. Â Now she canâ€™t see him and he isnâ€™t eating. Â As she said, â€œI talk to him on the phone but itâ€™s not the same. Â Iâ€™m so lonely without himâ€
And where are city councillors? Â Well they are refuting a story from the Huffington Post on property taxes but are silent on a transit lockout that is hurting all sorts of people. Â I have some on council that I consider friends but as I have told them, they are failing the city as politicians and as human beings.
A couple of people I have talked to have told me that they are leaving Confederation area at 6:30 a.m. to get to work or class on time. Â Next Wednesday I am leaving the Confederation Bus terminal at 6:30 a.m. and am walking to the University. Â It is 6.1 kms. Â Google Maps tells me it is a 90 minute walk.
To keep me company on the walk, I invited City Councillors along with me. Â I thought we could talk about some poverty issues and maybe even a little about the lockout. Â So far two have gotten back to me on the record. (out of town)
We will be walking through parts of Wards 6, 4, 3, 2 and 1. Â
I am not sure why I am doing this except to work through the incredible disappointment I have with all of city council. Â Itâ€™s not just disappointment with them as politicians (I feel that after every single city council meeting ever) but rather with them as the leaders of the city. Â Of my city. Â They are hurting people that I spent almost every waking moment for a decade trying to help and none of them even want to acknowledge that they exist. Â Maybe by walking with me we can get some sort of understanding of the challenges they face just getting to work or class.
You can come with me if you want. Â We can talk minimum wage increases, Saskatoon Transit, and what it is life to work hard and be ignored. Â You will see first hand that I canâ€™t type on a phone and walk at the same time. Â
Iâ€™m not leading a protest. Â Iâ€™m just trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with a city that hurts that many people and doesnâ€™t think twice about it. Â If you have any ideas why, let me know. Â Or join me on Wednesday at the Confed Bus Terminal at 6:30 a.m. Â Iâ€™ll be the guy that looks like me. Â Bring your own coffee.
But dreams rarely pay the rent. So Ms. Fernandes worked three jobs, at three Dunkinâ€™ Donuts stores in northern New Jersey, shuttling from Newark to Linden to Harrison and back. She often slept in her car â€” two hours here, three hours there â€” and usually kept the engine running, ready in an instant to start all over again.
The last day of her life was no different. She got off work at 6 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 25, and climbed into her 2001 Kia Sportage, officials from the Elizabeth Police Department said. She was dreaming again, this time about taking a break to celebrate a milestone with friends. But first, she told her boyfriend, Mr. Carter, during a brief cellphone conversation, she was going to take a nap.
She pulled into the parking lot of a Wawa convenience store, reclined in the driverâ€™s seat and closed her eyes. The storeâ€™s surveillance camera videotaped her arrival at 6:27 a.m.
Detectives would pore over those tapes after her body was found later that day. It was the last image that anyone would see of her alive.
Once school is out for the summer, the opportunity for children to engage in educational activities of any kind decreases. Studies show that, on average, students lose about a monthâ€™s worth of instruction, as measured by standardized test scores. But not everyone is average and, as a 2011 RAND Corp. report finds, summer learning loss disproportionately affects poor students, who already begin school behind their more affluent classmates. Research shows that any high-quality summer program that keeps children engaged â€” whether that is a traditional camp, summer school or even frequent trips to the museum â€” can mitigate summer learning loss.
The problem is, not everyone can afford to send their kids to a fancy summer program. That means low-income children (exactly the children that could benefit most from such programs) cannot afford to participate. Meanwhile, in a world in which most children grow up in a household without a full-time caregiver, low-income parents not only struggle to find full-time care but also must divert large a large fraction of their limited salaries to pay for it.
Worst of all, this loss is cumulative, with serious consequences as the achievement gap widens every summer. Karl Alexander, a Johns Hopkins University sociologist, tracked 650 children in the Baltimore public schools, recording their scores on the California Achievement Test in June and again in September, after summer break had ended. Alexander found that the poorest kids â€œoutlearnâ€ their wealthier peers in terms of knowledge gained during the academic year, but during the summer months they fall further behind. In contrast, the wealthier children, aided by a home full of books, organized summer camps and â€œconcerted cultivationâ€-type parenting, continue to develop their skills.
Nicole Lee-Mwandha oversees homeless programs for D.Câ€™s public school system. She says every year the numbers of homeless children increase. Since the 2009-10 school year, it has jumped by 60 percent.
â€œDCPS is about five percent [homeless], but in my heart I strongly believe students go unidentified because of the shame and stigma surrounding homelessness,â€ she says.
Lee-Mwandha is getting more buy-in from school staff and has begun holding training workshops for them at shelters.
â€œInstead of a training in a nice cushy air-conditioned room, I do training in D.C. General and really see where their homeless children are coming from,â€ she says.
Lee-Mwandah says thereâ€™s a sense of urgency to help these homeless children. Stanton Elementary packs food for its approximately 70 homeless children to take home for the weekend. Roosevelt S.T.A.Y., with more than 100 homeless students, has a relationship with a bakery so families get fresh bread. She says some schoolsâ€™ homeless liaisons even provide turkeys for homeless families on Thanksgiving, but, she says, itâ€™s still not enough.
â€œAnd thatâ€™s the hard part when they need to select how many families out of the abundance of families they can help. Weâ€™re doing the best we can with the resources we have, itâ€™s still very limited,â€ she says.
For school staff on the front lines, the fear is the issues these children deal with are much bigger than what can be addressed during the hours theyâ€™re at school.
An Obama administration program set up to reduce chronic hunger and poverty has contributed to rising incomes for farmers around the world and helped save millions of people from starvation, according to a report released Monday by the United States Agency for International Development.
The program, Feed the Future, was started by the agency four years ago after a rapid rise in global food prices. It has helped more than seven million small farmers increase crop production and has provided nutritional foods to 12.5 million children in countries hit hard by drought, war or poor development, the report said.
In addition, the United States government received more than $160 million in private sector investment in 2013 to help farmers and small businesses increase their food production, the agency said, a 40 percent increase from 2012.
Dr. Rajiv Shah, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, said the report provided the first comprehensive look at the programâ€™s effectiveness.
â€œWe have real numbers for the first time,â€ Dr. Shah said, adding that the new data showed that the administrationâ€™s efforts to end extreme poverty were having some success.
The administration has made food security one of its top foreign policy priorities and has pledged billions of dollars in aid for agricultural development to help countries sustainably grow enough food to feed their people.
Feed the Future works with American universities including Texas A&M and Kansas State, which have provided agriculture research and technical help. Private companies such as Cargill, DuPont and Walmart have provided new types of seeds, fertilizer and equipment to farmers.
Gregory R. Page, executive chairman of the board of the Minnesota-based Cargill, said it was essential that private companies be involved in the Feed the Future program.
â€œGovernments and development groups have been at this for years and it hasnâ€™t worked,â€ he said. â€œThe only way that this is going to succeed is if we treat agriculture production as a business, not as aid. Feed the Future is the perfect example of this.â€
The program operates in 19 countries, mostly in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and has seen the greatest success in Senegal, Bangladesh and Honduras, the report found.
In Senegal, efforts financed by the United States helped the country reduce its dependence on food imports, particularly rice. The countryâ€™s rice imports fell more than 20 percent between 2008 and 2011.
The price and focus of community support officers is putting the whole program in jeopardy.
â€œ$450,000 (a year) is a lot of money,â€ Ward 9 Councillor Tiffany Paulsen said at the administration and finance committee Monday. â€œI donâ€™t see how council can measure if this program is working.â€
At the end of July funding for the Community Support Officers (CSO) program expires. The cityâ€™s administration presented a report recommending city council expand the program for another three years into the end of 2017 for $1.35 million.
However, questions about what the CSOs patrol, how much its work overlaps with police officers, and the funding plan have put the future of the program on the bubble.
After reviewing the reports Ward 8 councillor Eric Olauson said he didnâ€™t see the value of this program.
â€œI have a tough time supporting this because I think police here have to change their focus. This was a good idea at the time but I think its run its course,â€ Olauson said.
Councillor Zach Jeffries echoed his colleagues concern noting that five CSOs have written only 15 bylaw infraction tickets over 18 months. He said if they wrote more tickets, council could better measure the success of the CSOs.
â€œThe number of tickets is very small â€¦ people say they want to see more tickets written,â€ Jeffries said, adding it would give council a measurement to determine the programâ€™s success.
â€œI would personally appreciate seeing something more measureable and in my mind itâ€™s something to focus on.â€
Saskatoon Police Chief Clive Weighill said he supports the CSOs, and although he sees how the police officers and the CSOs overlap, he sees the police acting more as a protection measure for the CSOs.
â€œWeâ€™re always concerned about their safety so on occasion we will send a patrol car just to make sure there isnâ€™t going to be any violence,â€ Weighill said. â€œWeâ€™re supportive of the program we think thereâ€™s a space for them to do the work they do.â€
For the programâ€™s initial 18 months, the city resolved that funding for the CSOs would come from parking meter revenues because the patrolling areas (Downtown, Broadway, Riversdale) were metered. However, Riversdale Business Improvement District (BID) executive director Randy Pshebylo said he wants that money to go back into streetscaping.
â€œThe BID board has been very clear that theyâ€™d support a pilot program and that would then extend to an alternative source of funding and that the existing funding revert back to the streetscape reserve,â€ he said.
Well letâ€™s get the obvious one out there. Â Eric Olauson doesnâ€™t see the value in any program that doesnâ€™t involve his ward getting sound walls. Â That is his M.O. Â
Secondly a year ago the same councillors were praising the work of the CSOs and talking about how awesome they were. Â What happened?
The Partnershipâ€™s CEO, Terry Scaddon retired and he was one of the biggest champions for the program. Â Without him there, councillors are feeling far more free to criticize the program.
The program was designed from the start to pressure the province in giving money to help with social issues in Saskatoon. Â We had the Safer Streets Commission and the hope was that the province would help fund some of the solutions to social programs that we have in the cities. Â It wasnâ€™t a real need, crime in downtown Saskatoon was quite low but there was a perception out there. Â Unfortunately we overlooked the fact that the Wall government is very comfortable with the status quo on social issues and that the Treasury Board doesnâ€™t include a single member from Saskatoon. Â To make a long story short, we never got the funding and the program is going to die.
Finally, I canâ€™t leave Coun. Jeffries comment alone. Â Could it be that the reason that there was not a lot of tickets written is that there was not a lot of need in the first place? Â Also, encouraging law enforcement to write tickets is a really bad political direction to be giving them. Â The intention of the CSOs was to be helping people access needed services, not writing tickets. Â Countless cities across North America have cracked down on panhandlers and the homeless and it doesnâ€™t work. Â Criminalizing behaviour that is driven by extreme poverty is the worst form of public policy. Â Zach should know better than that, regardless of which ways the winds are blowing in his suburban ward.