Winnipeg Without Poverty: Calling on the City to Lead
By Jessica Edwards, student at Yellowquill College
It’s 8am, I just barely made my 7-year-old’s school bus pickup on time, as we are taking the city bus, packed with people, strollers, and a wheelchair. I had my bus coin for myself and couldn’t manage to pay another fare for my son over 5, who costs $2.45 to board Winnipeg Transit—costing a total of $5.40 for a 1-way trip downtown. The driver keeps repeating the amount of fare due. As tears well up, I say I just need to be downtown before my son misses school. As a single mom, I had to ask my community support network for lunches, bus tokens, laundry card money, and even body wash. My boys are another statistic for female-led households, who hold a 50% poverty rate.
The struggle is real and many people don’t know the affects and effects of being poverty-stricken. I am a college student, a former youth in care, and a single mom. I don’t have parents to rely on and I definitely don’t have much help from Employment and Income Assistance (EIA). My Band, Roseau River First Nation, doesn’t fund my post-secondary school. Employment and Training sends me a monthly cheque in the mail of $120 to provide for my bus pass, childcare, and a $25 incentive. My childcare is not fully subsidized since I share custody of one of my children, making daycare fees atrocious.
Both the fathers of my children have opportunities, a job, and a stable income to provide for themselves, but lack the ability to help me and the kids. Many times I have to choose between paying my bills or eating, walking to work or grabbing a bus pass, buying milk or bread, doing laundry at a friends, or borrowing money, leaving me in great debt by payday.
In my opinion, the only way out of poverty is education; I am focusing hard to make a future for myself and my beautiful babies.
Make Poverty History Manitoba created Winnipeg Without Poverty: Calling on the City to Lead. Many partner organizations and individuals gathered at the Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre on May 2, 2018. During this community meeting, many people spoke in relation to the newly released report. Others contributed their time, knowledge, and expertise to the development of a new community-based reduction plan for Winnipeg.
The executive summary of the report explains:
Edmonton hosted Reducing Poverty: When Mayors Lead conference, where hundreds of people from across Canada attended. There is a need that has been expressed for specific levels of government to lead and take responsibility against poverty. Although some municipal governments are restricted, those who attended and showed interest, wanted to develop and implement a plan. This led Winnipeg to want to learn best practices through other cities examples, ensuring there would be a significant plan in place to address poverty here in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The inspiration and determination led others to move forward to make poverty reduction a priority for our Mayor and Council.
A true reconciliation, to me, would be closing the gap to poverty all together. My experience with this event left me feeling angry still. I truly believe the community has the best interests more than the Mayor and Council.
In my perspective, I am tired of talking the talk. The government needs to walk with us and lead us out of poverty. There is so much the City of Winnipeg could do to reduce poverty and social exclusion.
I would like to see safer, stable housing units, bug free with security on site. I believe we need to raise EIA’s basic allowance to lift Manitobans up to or above the poverty line, along with other provincial and federal benefits. Minimum wage is far too low to make any difference for paying bills and meeting basic needs. Childcare spaces are lacking and there are little to no resources or daycares led by Indigenous Early Childhood Educators.
I would truly like to see student loans decrease so it is not so overwhelming and stressful to think about post-secondary opportunities and training programs to become self-sufficient and less dependant on the government funding.
My interest is in social services. I can see firsthand the need for cultural and community spaces to learn and grow in order to thrive and flourish. I am a strong advocate for social justice. My heart is with the children, their families, and the community. Where is the fairness and equality? Who will implement change RIGHT now?
Macdonald Youth Services endorses this new report, which offers 50 recommendations to reduce poverty in Winnipeg. Thank you to Jessica for sharing her perspective on poverty in the City of Winnipeg.