Poverty survey paints bleak picture

Despite our best efforts, we haven't put a dent in the issue of poverty in the Central Okanagan.

That's the conclusion of Micki Smith of the Kelowna Women's Resource Centre following the release of the 2009 Central Okanagan Poverty Report Card.

"Basically, it's telling us that we haven't made a heck of a lot of progress in the past several years. We're making attempts, but we really haven't put a dent into the whole issue of poverty," says Smith.

The survey was conducted in October of 2008 and covered five key topics including housing, income, child care, nutrition and health care.

Smith says 1,200 responses came back representing 3,000 individuals.

"It tells us things we already know and that is, it's very expensive to live in Kelowna. None of this really surprises me, but seeing it on paper heightens the understanding of the whole issue."

According to the survey of the five topics surveyed, some progress has been made in housing, nutrition and health while no progress has been made on income or child care.

On the subject of child care, the survey concludes, "There is a critical need for more affordable, available and regulated child care spaces in Kelowna due to high cost and long wait lists."

It recommends increasing child care operating grants to retain child care workers and to implement a National Child Care Strategy.

On income, the study concludes: "As the cost of living increases, B.C.'s minimum wage remains at $8 an hour and income assistance begins at $560/month which includes shelter allowance of $375. The number of working poor is increasing."

Recommendations include raising the minimum wage and increasing all income assistance.

"We have a provincial election campaign on right now and it would be nice if people could use this information to question their candidates on these issues and where they stand," adds Smith.

"We are all affected and I think when people look at the report card, they will see themselves in the picture. There's a role for all of us to play and that's what we're hoping for."

Smith says the report card proves that people making $10 an hour are struggling to make ends meet.

"The average one-bedroom apartment rents for $800. We look at affordability as being able to pay 30 per cent of your income on housing. So for anyone to meet that, they would have to make $32,000 a year."

She says $10 an hour equates to just $20,000 a year.

"In order to make their rent, people are having four or five people living in a two bedroom apartment. It's not a pretty picture."

Smith adds Kelowna is short about 6,000 affordable housing units.

"Resources are being put into transitional and supportive housing which we need and emergency shelters which we need. Somewhere down the line, we are still missing out on that basic affordable, subsided housing which we really need."

More Kelowna News