Fairlawn has a strong tradition of working with others to address poverty. In fact, the lofty goal of our Embrace Action vision is to ‘eradicate poverty.’ A lofty goal indeed and most would say unattainable, but surely we can do better than we currently are.
On March 8th, we hosted an evening to discuss poverty. It was a broad-ranging conversation on a variety of poverty-related issues that will help inform the direction that our social justice team will take us in the coming year.
The following is a recap of the major discussion themes:
1) Who lives in poverty? Poverty cuts across all demographic boundaries – those with both high and low levels of education; those who are working and those who are not; those living with a disability and those who are able bodied; those who have lived their entire lives in Canada and those who are just arriving. But we know that the likelihood of living in poverty increases according to race and gender.
2) There are different kinds of poverty. Those with financial affluence may experience poverty of spirit or life-meaning, while those living in financial poverty may be rich in community and in understanding the ‘true meaning of life’. We shouldn’t think of sharing the financial wealth that we have as diminishing that wealth or doing with less, but rather a way of enriching our lives in other ways. Our relationships must be mutual – we have much to learn from each other about what it means to live a ‘good’ life.
3) We live at a time when all three levels of government have expressed a willingness to improve the lives of those living in poverty. We need to hold them to account. One way of doing that is to communicate with them. Call, visit or email expressing your eagerness for government to show creativity in finding solutions and to show leadership in making the difficult decisions that challenge all Canadians to see our collective responsibility in helping those who are struggling. And let’s not forget to acknowledge the positive things that governments do to address poverty.
4) We talked about charity versus building the capacity to become self-sufficient and the importance of social policy that strives to level the playing field and that offers a life of dignity for those who can’t care for themselves.
5) ‘Basic income’ was raised as one way to improve income supports for those who can’t find work or are unable to work. The Ontario government has just completed a series of consultations to create the parameters for a Basic Income pilot project. Start dates to be determined.
6) Those who live in poverty have higher rates of ill-health for many reasons – poor nutrition, sub-standard housing, and the stresses of coping with unemployment, underemployment and precarious work to name a few. Children who go to school hungry or malnourished have more difficulty learning which reinforces the cycle of poverty.
7) How do we hear directly from those who live in poverty – to better understand what they need or want? Many of us have built relationships with them through our charitable and advocacy work, but what about inviting those with lived experience to participate in conversations such as the March 8th event?
8) Start small and get big. Engage in smaller actions such as involvement in a community garden, working side by side with and getting to know those who live in poverty. Use that experience to have a larger impact. Use the knowledge and understanding that comes from that experience to inform our understanding of the issues and our requests for social policy change/enhancements.
The following is a list of quotes about poverty that served as catalysts for the conversations:
- “One of the reasons inequality is so deep in this country is that everyone wants to be rich. That’s the American ideal. Poor people don’t like talking about poverty because even though they might live in the projects surrounded by other poor people and have, like, ten dollars in the bank, they don’t like to think of themselves as poor.” Jay Z
- “A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money.” W. C. Fields
- “Yes, in socialism the rich will be poorer – but the poor will also be poorer. People will lose interest in really working hard and creating jobs.” Thomas Peterffy
- “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.” Henry Ford
- “When the human race neglects its weaker members, when the family neglects its weakest one – it’s the first blow in a suicidal movement. I see the neglect in cities around the country, in poor white children in West Virginia and Virginia and Kentucky – in the big cities, too, for that matter.” Maya Angelou
- “Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.” Aristotle
- “There’s no way that Michael Jackson or whoever Jackson should have a million thousand droople billion dollars and then there’s people starving. There’s no way! There’s no way that these people should own planes and over there people don’t have houses. Apartments. Shacks. Drawers. Pants! I know you’re rich. I know you got 40 billion dollars, but can you just keep it to one house? You only need ONE house. And if you only got two kids, can you just keep it to two rooms? I mean why have 52 rooms and you know there’s somebody with no room?! It just don’t make sense to me. It don’t.” Tupac Shakur
- “If you’re in trouble, or hurt or need – go to the poor people. They’re the only ones that’ll help – the only ones.” John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
- “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” Franklin D. Roosevelt
- “Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed.” Herman Melville
- “Poverty is the worst form of violence.” Mahatma Gandhi
- “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” Charles Darwin
- “Once poverty is gone, we’ll need to build museums to display its horrors to future generations. They’ll wonder why poverty continued so long in human society – how a few people could live in luxury while billions dwelt in misery, deprivation and despair.” Muhammad Yunus, Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism
- “Our hearts of stone become hearts of flesh when we learn where the outcast weeps.” Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging
- “An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” Plutarch
- “It was possible, no doubt, to imagine a society in which wealth, in the sense of personal possessions and luxuries, should be evenly distributed, while power remained in the hands of a small privileged caste. But in practice such a society could not long remain stable. For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realize that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance.” George Orwell, 1984
- “The United States spends over $87 billion conducting a war in Iraq while the United Nations estimates that for less than half that amount we could provide clean water, adequate diets, sanitation services and basic education to every person on the planet. And we wonder why terrorists attack us.” John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
- “When someone steals another’s clothes, we call them a thief. Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes; the money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.” Basil the Great – 4th century Christian theologian and monastic
- “When people love each other, they are content with very little. When we have light and joy in our hearts, we don’t need material wealth. The most loving communities are often the poorest. If our own life is luxurious and wasteful, we can’t approach poor people. If we love people, we want to identify with them and share with them.” Jean Vanier, Community And Growth
- “If you go out into the real world, you cannot miss seeing that the poor are poor not because they are untrained or illiterate but because they cannot retain the returns of their labor. They have no control over capital, and it is the ability to control capital that gives people the power to rise out of poverty.” Muhammad Yunus, Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty
- “A plongeur (manual dishwasher) is a slave, and a wasted slave, doing stupid and largely unnecessary work. He is kept at work, ultimately, because of a vague feeling that he would be dangerous if he had leisure. And educated people, who should be on his side, acquiesce in the process, because they know nothing about him and consequently are afraid of him.” George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London
- “When we want to help the poor, we usually offer them charity. Most often we use charity to avoid recognizing the problem and finding the solution for it. Charity becomes a way to shrug off our responsibility. But charity is no solution to poverty. Charity only perpetuates poverty by taking the initiative away from the poor. Charity allows us to go ahead with our own lives without worrying about the lives of the poor. Charity appeases our consciences.” Muhammad Yunus, Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty
- “Jesus is the starving, the parched, the prisoner, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the dying. Jesus is the oppressed, the poor. To live with Jesus is to live with the poor. To live with the poor is to live with Jesus.” Jean Vanier, Community And Growth
- “But the economic meltdown should have undone, once and for all, the idea of poverty as a personal shortcoming or dysfunctional state of mind. The lines at unemployment offices and churches offering free food includes strivers as well as slackers, habitual optimists as well as the chronically depressed. When and if the economy recovers we can never allow ourselves to forget how widespread our vulnerability is, how easy it is to spiral down toward destitution.” Barbara Ehrenreich, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America
- “Even today we don’t pay serious attention to the issue of poverty, because the powerful remain relatively untouched by it. Most people distance themselves from the issue by saying that if the poor worked harder, they wouldn’t be poor.” Muhammad Yunus, Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty
- “A community that is growing rich and seeks only to defend its goods and its reputation is dying. It has ceased to grow in love. A community is alive when it is poor and its members feel they have to work together and remain united, if only to ensure that they can all eat tomorrow!” Jean Vanier, Community And Growth
- “True generosity consists precisely in fighting to destroy the causes which nourish false charity. False charity constrains the fearful and subdued, the “rejects of life,” to extend their trembling hands. True generosity lies in striving so that these hands–whether of individuals or entire peoples–need be extended less and less in supplication, so that more and more they become human hands which work and, through working, transform the world.” Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed
- “The poor will always be among us”. – Matthew 26:11
- “If you give me a fish, you feed me for a day. If you teach me to fish, you have fed me until the river is contaminated or the shoreline seized for development. But, if you teach me to organize, then whatever the challenge, I can join together with my peers… And we will fashion our own solution.” Barefoot Guide to Working with Organizations and Social Change
- “You say you care about the poor? Tell me their names.” Craig Greenfield
- “The three wealthiest people in the world own more than the GDP of forty-eight countries!” Alice Walker, We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting for: Inner Light in a Time of Darkness
- “No one thought the poor more undeserving than the poor themselves.” Matthew Desmond, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
- “Poverty is the worst form of violence.” – Mahatma Gandhi
- “There are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” – Mahatma Gandhi
- “Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor “ James Baldwin
- “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” John F. Kennedy
- “These days there is a lot of poverty in the world, and that’s a scandal when we have so many riches and resources to give to everyone. We all have to think about how we can become a little poorer.” Pope Francis
- “Jesus tells us what the ‘protocol’ is, on which we will be judged. It is the one we read in chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel: I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was in prison, I was sick, I was naked and you helped me, clothed me, visited me, took care of me. Whenever we do this to one of our brothers, we do this to Jesus. Caring for our neighbour; for those who are poor, who suffer in body and in soul, for those who are in need. This is the touchstone.” Pope Francis
- “Teach us to give and not to count the cost.” Saint Ignatius
- “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.” – Nelson Mandela
- “While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.” Nelson Mandela
- Poverty is not a lack of character. It’s a lack of money. A lack of opportunity. A lack of investment. Its when society turns its back and makes you invisible. ilaida.tumblr.com
- “Once again, we saw the impact that global events can have in our local communities. A violent war in Syria has displaced millions of people, and many are struggling to restart their lives in a new country, including Canada. Yet a lack of income and Toronto’s high cost of living have left many newcomers struggling to afford food and having to get help from their local food banks.” Who’s Hungry: Toronto Daily Bread Report 2017
- “In this report, we have also seen a massive demographic shift in those accessing food banks in Toronto over the last 10 years: in 2006 one third of clients were 18 and under; in 2016 one third are 45 and over. This is primarily due to an increasingly large group of older adults who have lost their jobs and are also struggling to live with disabilities on the very low levels of income provided by provincial social assistance. Their job prospects are limited, and in many cases food banks and meal programs are their only source of food.” Who’s Hungry: Toronto Daily Bread Report 2017
- “People accessing food banks now have much higher levels of education than before – 22 per cent had post-secondary education in 2006, whereas in 2016, 36 per cent do.” Who’s Hungry: Toronto Daily Bread Report 2017
- “Client visits [to food banks] continue to decrease in the city core, and increase in the former inner suburbs of Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough. Since 2008, the inner suburbs have seen a 48 per cent increase, while the city core has seen a 16 per cent decrease during the same period. In the last year alone, Etobicoke saw a 15 per cent increase, while Scarborough saw a 7 per cent increase.” Who’s Hungry: Toronto Daily Bread Report 2017
- “While large strides have been made in the last 10 years in income support for children, there has been little done for a large cohort of older adults, especially single people, who have lost their jobs after the recession and are having a difficult time re-entering the labour market. Many of these individuals were forced to rely on social assistance after they lost work, and are facing ongoing struggles in keeping up with the cost of living.” Who’s Hungry: Toronto Daily Bread Report 2017
- “Hunger in Toronto does not exist because there is a lack of food. Hunger in Toronto in 2016 is the result of high costs of housing, rapidly increasing costs of food as well as low and stagnating incomes.” Who’s Hungry: Toronto Daily Bread Report 2017
- Some statistics: Of those who use food banks in Toronto, $750 is the average monthly income; 65% have social assistance (welfare) as their main source of income; 71% of their income is spent on rent and utilities leaving on average $7.09 left for food and other needs. Who’s Hungry: Toronto Daily Bread Report 2017
- “Povety and hunger cut across all demographic boundaries. More and more in Toronto, they include those with both high and low levels of education. Those who are working and those who are not. Those living with a disability and those who are able bodied. Those who lived their entire lives in Canada and those just arriving here. All struggle with a lack of income and increasingly high costs of housing and food.” Who’s Hungry: Toronto Daily Bread Report 2017
- “The decreasing affordability of housing that accompanies the kind of rapid gentrification many Toronto neighbourhoods have experienced is pushing many who are vulnerable to poverty, especially families with children, to the outer reaches of the city where there are slightly more affordable apartments but fewer services, less walkability and longer commuting times.” Who’s Hungry: Toronto Daily Bread Report 2017