Red Deer marks day to eradicate poverty
Red Deer joined communities around the world to proclaim Thursday the International Day for Eradicating Poverty.
“While we are a community that has a very high income level, at $105,000 per household, and we are a very well educated community and a very young community, we have our issues as well. Around 15 to 18 per cent of our people live in poverty and the majority of those people in poverty are children and they can’t control anything,” Mayor Morris Flewwelling said after reading the proclamation on the steps of City Hall before a crowd of about 50 people.
He said children who grow up in poverty are marginalized and can become bitter and estranged from mainstream society. The toxic stress of poverty on a family can even impact children’s cognitive development.
“We simply can’t afford that loss of potential,” Flewwelling said.
He said Red Deer has woken up to the fact that poverty is also a huge monetary cost to the community, just like homelessness. Economically it’s not smart to have people living in poverty because of the cost to government and community services.
“We discovered it costs about $100,000 to have somebody on the street. But it only costs about $40,000 a year to have somebody housed.
“People aren’t poor because they want to be poor. And people aren’t mentally ill because they want to be mentally ill. And they’re not on the streets homeless because they want to be homeless. There are circumstances that have put them in those positions and it’s up to us as a community, and as a city council, to make sure we minimize those adverse experiences that people have,” Flewwelling said.
Lori Jack, co-chair of Central Alberta Poverty Reduction Alliance (CAPRA), said the alliance is working to put a face to poverty.
“There’s often the misconception of the older man pushing the cart. That’s not the truth of it. It’s often the working families who are not making enough to make ends meet,” Jack said.
Calculating a living wage and recruiting the business community to actively get involved in CAPRA are also underway.
“What we know about poverty reduction is you need all sectors engaged.”
Poverty costs Albertans $7.1 billion to $9.5 billion annually for expenses like higher health care, justice and policing, and means missed business opportunities, she said.
“We know today that there are over 300,000 (Albertans) living in poverty, 84,000 of those are children.”
Jack said Premier Alison Redford has acknowledged the impact of poverty and the province is working towards the goal to eliminate child poverty in five years by engaging communities in conversations on the influence and impact of poverty, as well as looking at government systems.
Norbert Dumais of Red Deer, who talked about his experience living below the poverty line, said when he was growing up in Saskatchewan, people used to sit down together for a cup of tea to discuss problems.
“It’s time for people to sit down together and have a cup of tea with one another, get to know each other. Get rid of that colour barrier. Get rid of those judgments that you have about other people,” said Dumais, who sang an aboriginal healing song in recognition of the proclamation.
For more information about CAPRA, visit www.facebook.com/CentralAlbertaPovertyReductionAlliance.