Part One. This year, Statistics Canada has released new data on the social and economic well-being of cities and towns across Canada. This is part one in a series about Lindsay’s 12 lowest income neighbourhood zones and how they are coping in a challenging economic environment.
This is a series about the challenge and burden of living on a low income in Lindsay, but it’s also a series about hope and action. In each of these designated areas, there is a community anchor of some kind – be it a school, a business, or an institution that helps in some way.
It’s a series that points to hard truths about the social and economic fabric of some parts of the town, but also the people with community spirit who are determined to make progress on these challenges.
L125, as it is known by statisticians, is a ‘designated area’ by Statistics Canada. Like all the designated areas, it’s an irregular shape, going as far north as Peel Street and including a stretch of Kent Street between Cambridge Street North and York Street. As well, it takes in Lindsay Street South as far south as George Street West.
It also contains the Boys and Girls Club of Kawartha Lakes.
Statistics Canada tells us that 430 people live in this particular designated area, with only 70 of them children. The prevalence of low income for these kids (0 to 17-years-old) is an enormous 58.3 per cent. If we just look at children age 0-5 that number increases to 60 per cent who are deemed to be living in a low income environment.
In looking at working age adults, from age 18-64, the prevalence of low income is 42 per cent. Just 195 people are working out of the 360 adults who live in this zone – and just 60 people are doing so full time. The other 135 are working part time.
Boys and Girls Club
The Boys and Girls Club of Kawartha Lakes is at the epicentre for a number of neighbourhoods with challenging levels of low income. The club draws on people from all across Lindsay and surrounding areas, but it is of particular importance for families who are struggling.
The club began back in 1970 at the corner of Cambridge Street North and Wellington Street, and was known as Kawartha Youth Incorporated. Since the club’s inception, it has affected generations of young people for the better, including this writer.
The club works with families to offer accessible and barrier-free services. Fees are affordable and financial support is available when needed. Programs and services are open to everyone and there is no means test for involvement and participation in the programs.
That is, if you can afford to pay, you pay at least something on a progressively sliding honour scale; if you can’t, you don’t pay anything. There is no imperative to produce last year’s income tax for proof, nor does a family have to show a pay stub. It is open to community need.
Heather McCullough is the resource development coordinator for Boys and Girls Clubs of Kawartha Lakes Foundation.
She’s not surprised at the incidences of lower income in the area. McCullough tells The Lindsay Advocate that about 45 per cent of families with kids in the club must access some level of subsidy to enable their child to attend.
“That’s the purpose of our foundation, to ensure we continue to be barrier-free,” says McCullough.
The club provides too many services to name them all for the purposes of this article, but they include before and after school care, computer learning, and a homework program with volunteer teachers who help kids take care of their homework right after school.
There are also sports and other active fun opportunities, which are so important, says McCullough, when too many kids are “glued to a screen” for too many hours in a day.
To build important life skills there are programs that teach how to plan menus for dinner, and how to shop for that food in the first place.
The nightly dinner program for youth for Grades 7-12 is popular, another program that charges no fee, as long as they participate in the preparation and clean-up of the meal. They are also encouraged to provide input in planning the meals in the first place.
“Kids also work with mentors here, something they may not have at home,” she says.
It’s so effective, in fact, that many of those mentored kids come back as staff members and it becomes their career. The homework help is invaluable for younger kids while the older ones benefit from mentorship into their career journey.
Christine Borrowman is managing director of programs and services at Boys and Girls Club of Kawartha Lakes.
Borrowman sits on the local Poverty Reduction Roundtable for children, youth, and families. She advocates for barrier-free services, constantly trying to figure out how to mitigate any gaps in services “so that kids can flourish.”
More middle class families in need of a financial subsidy is an unfortunate trend that Borrowman sees.
“I also worry about the higher minimum wage in the context that grocery prices may rise, for instance,” she says.
Minimum wage rises to $14 an hour on Jan. 1, then $15 an hour one year later. Currently, it is $11.40.
Employment and Mental Health
Some of the employment challenges in this neighbourhood zone, such as the fact that only 30.7 per cent of the people are working full time, are in part reflective of a structural change going on across all industrialized nations. Globalization and privatization have made ‘precarious work’ the new norm.
Jobs that were once almost certainly full-time opportunities are now more often than not contract, part-time, or temporary, often without benefits.
As well, mental health incidences are on the rise and millennials, women and people with low incomes seem to be the most susceptible.
Studies gathered and analyzed by Psychology Today in 2015 conclude that anxiety and depression are markedly higher than they were in earlier eras.
As well, a 2017 Ipsos report notes that that a staggering 41 per cent of Canadians are at “high risk” for mental illness.
They also report that low-income Canadians fared the worst, with 47 per cent of those who made less than $40,000 a year falling into the high-risk category.
Low-income households obviously face the most pressure to pay for basic necessities, from rent to groceries and transportation.
Basic income could be an obvious solution to help. Mental health outcomes will certainly be a key indicator that is tracked during the course of this three-year-pilot in Lindsay, which has gotten underway.
Sheila Regehr, chair of the Basic Income Canada Network, questions whether it makes sense to just toss money toward mental health programs without addressing a key root cause, first.
“We can make the choice to throw money at mental health now, or we can first take a huge mental health strain off of people first with a basic income.”
To sign up for a basic income open session in Lindsay, visit here to easily book an appointment.
— This series uses the low income measure (LIM), an ‘adjusted’ measurement that takes into account that a household’s needs increase as the number of members increase. StatsCan released this data before implementation of the Canada Child Benefit, which was expected to help improve the well-being of families with children.