On Wednesday, March 14, 2018, Vibrant Abbotsford facilitated small group discussions regarding the provincial government’s poverty reduction plan with participants of Sardis Doorway for Women. The groups comprised of single, working mothers who were also on either income assistance or disability.
Each group was asked to respond to two questions: What are the issues facing you and people living in poverty right now? What would address these issues and help you and others out of poverty? For more than two hours, women shared personal stories that brought to life the real barriers working poor face. They also offered thoughtful suggestions regarding legislation and systems evaluation.
There were definite themes that arose between all of the groups: rental housing reform; income and disability reform; increased government funding for direct service non-profits. Suggestions that were made to address these issues were specific and attainable.
Rental housing reform:
- Determine fair rental rates and establish rent control
- Accountability for landlords, especially private rentals
Income and disability reform:
- Raise the rates to cover local living expenses
- Evaluate and create specific and fair common law income assistance rules. Currently, if two people decide to live together, their incomes will be considered as pooled income by the government. Therefore, if the total is above the maximum amount to receive income assistance, the assistance will be deducted.
- Update income assistance rules for working individuals. If a person gains employment, their income assistance will be deducted. This causes the person to remain at a lower income level and therefore remains in poverty. Rather than work lifting them out of poverty, the individual remains reliant on assistance.
Increased government funding for direct service non-profits:
- Increasingly, non-profits provide services that bridge gaps in government services. Common examples are wrap around services for aged out foster youth and seniors, as well as food security for children. Individuals shared they tend to continue on a path of success because they receive community in addition to services by seeking support from local non-profits.
A report detailing their feedback, including ongoing barriers they face, will be submitted to the provincial government this month.