NORTHUMBERLAND - More than 12% of families in Northumberland County live in poverty, according to a status report from the Northumberland Poverty Reduction Action Committee.
The report, entitled Reach Out. Change Lives, looks at the county's population of just over 82,000 people for the period 2012/13.
When asked about the key findings of the report and actions needed, committee co-chair Beth Bellaire said her first reaction was putting more money in the pockets of the poor as the first step – but it's not as easy as that.
"We have just had an increase in the minimum wage announced by the provincial government, but we also need increases to social assistance rates and rates for those on Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). However, the argument against this is that costs such as rents will just go up to negate the impact of those increases. Perhaps I would then suggest having stable, affordable, and safe shelter as the central need," she continued. "This approach of 'housing first' is gaining momentum and has been adopted by our own county council. But to maintain such shelter, a stable and sufficient income is needed - and we are back to point one.
And, she stressed, "to maintain a reasonable income, one needs a job, so now we are at another need - employment opportunities. To get to that job, there also needs to be affordable transportation and education. Of course, through all of this, people need food to merely survive."
These key themes are very inter-related and not one can be teased out, saying, "Fix this, and then poverty will be reduced," Bellaire said.
The report itself contains some very disturbing information. It includes:
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