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Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Poverty in Nelson, BC

Valerie Warmington, Nelson City Councilor and community activist, spoke to our Nelson United congregation on June 4th about poverty in BC and more specifically poverty in Nelson.  After Valerie’s presentation during worship, I heard expressions of surprise and wonderment: “how could this happen in Nelson” and “I didn’t know that poverty was that bad in BC.” However, I also heard lots of people strongly say that we need to do something about poverty.

Check out the Nelson at Its Best website for more information, but let me give you a few facts: 13% of People in BC live in poverty; 100,000 people use a food bank each month; $40,646 is the median after tax income for lone parents; 1,1750 plus people are estimated to be homeless.  In Nelson, things are little worse that the BC average: 1 in 5 live below the low-income measure threshold; 20,000 people used the food bank in 2013; $29,621 is the median after tax income for lone parents; 202 plus individuals stayed at the Stepping Stones Shelter in 2014.

Charlie Demers, a Vancouver comedian and activist, created a YouTube video about poverty in Vancouver and BC last January.  While, this video was shot before our provincial election, the impact of the video is powerful.  You can view it here: We Can’t Afford Poverty.

There are many things we can do to address poverty, one of which is to get our provincial and federal governments to deal with poverty.  BC is the only province that does not have a poverty reduction strategy and the federal government is currently creating a new poverty-reduction strategy.  Through government policy and through actions by citizens, we need to be addressing several issues identified on the Nelson at Its Best website in order to reduce or eliminate poverty; issues identified include: low wages; a shortage of affordable housing; lack of access to sufficient healthy food; barriers to education; physical and mental health problems.

At Nelson United, our Economic Justice Team is engaged in the Citizens for Public Justice and Canada Without Poverty campaign, “Dignity for All.”  The plan calls for a coordinated and concerted effort around these interrelated issues: income security; housing and homelessness; health; food security; jobs and employment; early childhood education and care.  Our Economic Justice Team has identified one other critical issue that needs to be addressed and this is that our economic system is broken and skewed toward the wealthy and against the poor.

Naomi Klein was on CBC’S The Current Monday (June 12th) morning talking about her new book No Is Not Enough: Resisting the New Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need; she talked about the disparity between the wealthy and the poor and specifically how Donald Trump’s goal is to make the wealthy wealthier.  We do need an overhaul of our economic system; wealth needs to be shared more justly.  Whether we live in Nelson or Vancouver or Washington, poverty affects us all and needs to be eradicated.

In Nelson, some folk are trying to find ways so that we can all live in this amazing town.  We are not economic units to be manipulated.  We are human beings who deserve to live with dignity and prosperity.  We are entitled to an income that allows us to live without fear; we are entitled to a good education, shelter, clean air and water, and a community where we can belong.  This is right belongs to us all not just a select few!