Monica Morrison, a member of the Central Alberta Poverty Reduction Alliance, addresses participants at a public forum at the Golden Circle. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Red Deer’s single parents and children at greatest risk of poverty, says report

Yet almost half of local low-income families are people living alone

Thirteen per cent of Red Deer households are struggling to get by on less than $30,000 a year.

At greatest risk are single parents and children between five and nine years old. But almost half of the 4,860 local households experiencing impoverishment are comprised of individuals living alone.

This information is part of a Poverty in Red Deer report that was released to the community at two Wednesday forums that sought feedback on how to help improve the lives of disadvantaged city residents.

The open-houses that attracted dozens of people from churches and agencies, as well as concerned individuals, were organized by the Central Alberta Poverty Reduction Alliance (CAPRA). The group commissioned the report that involved community engagement and study of research, programs and policy direction by consultant, Bassa Social Innovations.

Among the consultant’s observations are that many Red Deerians have an “apparent fear” of engaging with the people who are experiencing poverty. Repeated concerns were expressed about the high cost of living in this community and “the irony of seemingly wealthy people…living with stress, anxiety and social isolation akin to those with limited economic means.”

There’s some agreement among people interviewed for the report that poverty isn’t just about income, but “can be a reflection of limited options due to lack of economic means, social connection or spiritual well being.”

Poverty in Red Deer charts distributions of income and shows that the highest proportion of Red Deer’s households (24.6 per cent) earn from $60,000 up to $100,000. A nearly equal portion are making either over $150,000 annually (20.5 per cent), or between $30,000 up to $60,000 (20.4 per cent) a year. And 21.5 per cent are making from $100,000 to just under $150,000 a year.

The 13 per cent of households earning less than $30,000 a year are likely to include children. In fact, the report states that proportionally, children from from 0 to 19 years are more likely to be part of a low-income households than any other age group. Kids from five to nine years old (at 16 per cent) are particularly represented.

Single-parent families make up 26 per cent of local households, and are significantly likelier to have low incomes. But 2,410 of local households living below the poverty line are made up of people living alone.

Red Deer’s affordable housing needs were found to be slightly higher than the Alberta average. The report states that about 40 per cent of people living on the South Hill “cannot reasonably afford” the housing they are living in, while 32 per cent of people living downtown have a hard time covering their housing.

The living wage, considering the cost of living in Red Deer , including taxes and subsidies, was figured to be $15.11 per hour for a single adult in 2018, $17.44 for the lone parent of one child, and $17.74 for a couple with two children.

Monica Morrison, a member of CAPRA, is concerned that single mothers, their children, and are seniors who are living on small, fixed incomes are disproportionately affected by poverty. Previous studies also found people with disabilities, aboriginals and recent immigrants to be more affected by poverty.

While this complex issue will require intervention and support at all levels of society, she’s glad to start a community conversation before the report is presented to city council later this year.

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