The Star Calgary: Immigrants and young single moms among those who struggle most with poverty
Here is a link to the June 7, 2018 article written by Mary Getaneh:
Photo: Syma Habib said the Alex Community Food Centre sees about 300 people a week, most of whom are on social assistance and are from a marginalized groups. (MARY GETANEH)
CALGARY— Immigrants, Indigenous groups and women are heavily represented among low-income residents in Calgary, according to a new report on poverty in the city.
The report, released earlier this week, is from Vibrant Communities Calgary, a non-profit that works at reducing the number of Calgarians living in poverty.
Franco Savoia, executive director of Vibrant Communities Calgary, said the report is “a snapshot” of the rate of low-income residents in the city, based on Statistics Canada’s Census 2016.
“In 2005 the per cent of people living below the low income tax was about 10.3 per cent, now it is at 8.1 per cent,” said Savoia. “When you take the population, we grew as a city, but our poverty did not grow correspondingly.”
Though there are more people living poverty now, said Savoia.
Single women over 75 and single mothers with children under the age of five experience low income at twice the age of their male counterparts, the report shows.
“Immigrants and refugees are overrepresented as are Indigenous people. Women are also carrying more of the brunt of poverty than men in the city,” said Savoia.
Savoia said this could be for a number of reasons. Women generally earn less than men and are under-represented in higher-paying jobs. If these women are single mothers, child care costs add another barrier.
He said for immigrants and Indigenous groups there is often systemic and structural racism that can keep them from accessing jobs.
Syma Habib, community advocacy co-ordinator for the Alex Community Food Centre, said that poverty is a big issue in Calgary.
“It’s a huge issue and the worst part is that it’s entirely preventable,” said Habib. “We can build the right social and structural supports to avoid it. Poverty does not do good things, but people are still in it and that’s unfortunate.”
The food centre serves about 300 people per week, Habib said many of those people reflect the overrepresented groups in the Vibrant Communities report.
“Income really is the biggest thing. The barriers that marginalized communities — especially, women, newcomers and Indigenous populations — are often accessing employment.”
Most of the people the service centre serves are on social assistance, but that isn’t cutting it, Habib said.
“The average single female will be making about $667 a month which is not enough to cover rent and food.”
One potential way to alleviate poverty is by introducing a universal basic income, which Habib said is what many organizations in the city are hoping to start advocating for.
“We are seeing in Ontario the beginnings of these universal basic income pilots,” said Habib.
“If you put income in the hands of people who don’t have it, it doesn’t get wasted. It gets put into food, housing and educational opportunities.”
Savoia said that although the numbers are still high, policies like the Alberta Child Benefit and the low income transit pass will reflect positively in the number of people living in poverty assessed during the group’s next report.
Mary Getaneh is a Calgary-based reporter covering arts, culture and diversity. Follow her on Twitter: @marygetaneh