More than 11,500 Red Deerians live in poverty, trying to claw out a life in relative obscurity.
Day-to-day survival is different for them than the majority of people in the region.
Just affording the basic necessities of shelter, food and clothing is sometimes insurmountable.
It is a reality that the Central Alberta and Capital Region United Way branches, in conjunction with the Poverty Reduction Alliance, were trying to impress on 70 local citizens on Wednesday at the iHotel in Red Deer during a poverty simulation.
“It was important to bring members of the community who maybe aren’t as familiar or as well versed in understanding what these experiences are like to have the opportunity to experience and to reflect upon the parts they might play to make a difference in their neighbourhood in their place of business, in their Central Alberta Community,” said Lori Jack, community impact officer with Central Alberta United Way.
Each participant was given a profile and the morning to figure out how to make life work for a month.
Each profile was different and ran the gambit from two-parent households to being homelessness. The simulation went beyond trying to balance a budget. Participants had to figure out life — like getting children to school in the morning, where their next meal was coming from or even finding shelter. They had to deal with different agencies, of which there were 20 volunteers playing roles, and try to survive along the way.
Central Alberta does have a number of programs to aid those in poverty, but Jack says it takes an entire community to improve the issue.
“To reduce poverty it’s not about delivering more programs, it’s about changing some of the systems that are creating barriers for people that are living in poverty,” said Jack.
Of the 11,500 Red Deerians living in poverty, about 2,300 are children, and it is estimated there are thousands more throughout Central Alberta.
Jack said studies show a single person requires a full-time job paying them at least $10.21 per hour to meet their basic needs in Red Deer, and those numbers only go up once children are involved.
A two-parent home with two children requires both parents to make at least $13.11 per hour, while a single parent needs to make $14.75 per hour.
Minimum wage in Alberta is $9.95.
One of the biggest employers in the city is the service industry or retail, and according to Statistics Canada, an average wage in the province in that line of work is $18 an hour for men and $14.75 for women. There is also no guarantee of it being full-time work.
“Alberta is a very rich province, we have oil and gas and lots of trades that pay a decent wage, and that of course drives up all the prices in housing and rentals,” said Jack. “However one of the higher industries here in Red Deer is retail, and those wages do not keep pace with those wages in those other industries.”