Community shows concern for poverty reduction, and urges action.
In a City Hall committee room overflowing with low-income Torontonians and community activists, Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell was presented with six policy reports with over 55 recommendations for the city’s Poverty Reduction Strategy.
“The experts on reducing poverty are sitting in this room,” said McConnell, referring to the outpouring of the people contributing their lived experiences for the reports.
Organized by Commitment 2 Community, a coalition of residents and various community groups, each paper tackles a different topic, including food security and affordable housing. They summarize findings of community meetings held across the city where residents answered questionnaires and participated in facilitated discussions regarding solutions for the most prevalent issues faced by those living in poverty.
On Tuesday, people were able to take it one step further, meeting with councillors and speaking to them about their needs and concerns directly.
Derek George, 55, spoke at the meeting about the importance of providing affordable housing with space and privacy.
“I’ve tried various different community organizations to get housed,” said George. “I’ve been put into rooming house after rooming house to wind up in problems because the people I live with in those houses. It’s not a solution, it’s a band-aid.”
Having been homeless for six years, he is currently staying at Homes First Society, the shelter formerly known as Scarborough Hope. He describes it as “one big co-ed dorm.”
Seventy-nine-year-old Ena Paul is a retired school teacher, and says she decided to get involved in the poverty reduction process as a way to make the city more livable for her grandchildren, three of which are living in Toronto.
“I love Toronto. Toronto is my city. However, there are many people still suffering,” Paul said. “I’m wondering if the next generation, what will the city be like for them, from now on. I think the kids now, they have great opportunities, the school system, we’ve come a long way, but still their parents, like my son, aren’t able to provide as much for their children.”
Others, like 26-year-old Anna-Kay Brown, worried whether there would be action to match the rhetoric on the issue.
“I’m hoping this work isn’t in vain and this research and work isn’t sitting down collecting dust,” said the college student and mother of two young children. “We have many reports that discuss what poverty reduction needs and what Toronto needs to uplift people out of poverty, but let’s hope this is the year that we really start making those changes,” she said. “Once people have the proper resources and proper tools in life, no one chooses to live in poverty.”
McConnell explained that the interim report will be come out next month, and that the City would hold more consultations to see how recommendations are being implemented in the fall.
“When we put together this strategy, we are not putting it together for a year or two, we’re putting it together for a road for the next 20 years,” McConnell said.
Before then, the reports will have to go before council for approval.
This article originally indicated that the report recommendations were based on eight City-run community meetings across Toronto. In fact, they were based on three meetings held by community groups. We regret the error.