In the spirit of the season, local residents are being asked to buy into something that isn’t available at any store or online retailer — support a living wage and other income-based solutions to keep people out of poverty. The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit wants people to take a stand against poverty in the City of Kawartha Lakes. Locally, 16.5 per cent of local children and youth live in poverty.
A recent study also found the ‘living wage’ in Kawartha Lakes is $18.42 per hour – what a family of four with both parents working full-time would need to earn to cover basic expenses in 2018. This amount is more than $4 higher than Ontario’s current minimum wage.
“While donating time and money to local charities are great ways to help in the short term, supporting solutions that get to the root causes of poverty can make an even bigger difference over the long haul,” says Mary Lou Mills, a Social Determinants of Health Nurse with the HKPR District Health Unit.
In creating a holiday wish list this year, she encourages people to think of – and act on – ways they can help keep poverty under wraps. One of the most obvious is to be kind and non-judgmental towards low-income earners. “Being poor isn’t a choice,” Mills says. “There are many reasons why people live in poverty, much of it beyond their own control.”
An inability to get reliable, secure work, access affordable housing options, buy healthy food, or find affordable child care all play havoc on a person’s ability to make ends meet. “All of these factors contribute to poverty, which in turn can hurt people’s health,” she adds.
Income-based solutions are essential to successfully address poverty. According to Mills, this is where residents can show they care by:
• Getting behind increased social assistance rates.
• Calling for people to be paid a living wage.
• Supporting basic employment standards to reduce unstable work.
• Saying yes to building more affordable housing units.
“Raise awareness and lobby for change by talking to your family, friends, neighbours and elected officials about the importance of these income-based solutions,” she says. “These are all gifts that will benefit our entire community.”
For example, the local economy is boosted when everyone has stable jobs that pay a living wage. Communities are healthier when everyone has a safe and affordable place to live, can afford nutritious food, and is able to participate in recreational activities. Local families will also face less stress, while children can grow, thrive and succeed in school.