Something To Chew On This Thanksgiving


House of Friendship thinks you should vote for the community you want to seeOne of the first volunteer jobs I had in Kitchener Waterloo was doing non partisan outreach to encourage people to vote. One of my tasks involved standing on a corner, down the street from St. John’s Kitchen (back before it moved to it’s new location on Victoria Street) and handing out material to the men and women who were going in and out of the building to get a hot meal.

I saw a lot of people that day, and not all of them were thrilled to talk to me about why they should vote. While some were enthusiastic, I would say the majority of them expressed indifference, and occasionally, a fair degree of hostility to the political process, in which they felt they had no say, or representation.

Fair enough, the last thing you want to do is stand around with a stranger and talk about the how and why of voting when all you want is something to eat.

Which raises a big question: how can you engage with the political process when you have more immediate concerns in front of you, namely, no food, or even, no place to call a home?

Direct Feed back

There is a lot of discussion in the media and academic circles about the changing nature of politics in Canada and the world.  Is it getting nastier?  Why do fewer people vote?  Why do certain demographics vote more often than others? How do we think about governance in such a globally connected world?

For a few weeks in September we asked people what they would like to say to the candidates running in the election.  We hoped that it would get them thinking about voting, and was a chance to share information on how to do that.  But most importantly it was a low pressure way of engaging people the the political process, because, while voting is one of the big ways to be engaged, it’s not the only way.

The comments ranged from frustration

“Where is the AFFORDABLE HOUSING??? We don’t need any more condos, the poor cannot afford them”

to apathy…

“That no matter who we vote in, it will never get any better.”

But when we talked to people coming to us for help, here and elsewhere in the different programs of the House of Friendship, there was no shortage of discussion and strong feelings.  If you remember from the last provincial election we talked to people to get their thoughts on a variety of topics and shared them with the candidates who were hoping to get elected.

This time around, we made the same deal with people. I promised that we would share the insights that people had with all the candidates and share them with you, the readers of this blog….

Using your voice

This time we kept it to two questions “I want you to know/I want to know” and “I want to say.”

This is what residents of our supportive housing programs, community centre participants and food hamper recipients had to say:

Statement one: “I want you to know/I want to know”

  • Help more people in Ontario/Canada before you send all money to other countries. More help at home first don’t wait for a flood before we get help.
  • Lower taxes.
  • As a single mother of 3 young boys I find it very difficult to work, pay bills feed and have extra-curricular activities on a minimum wage salary.
  • Why is it so hard to get on disability?
  • That the poor are still drowning in poverty and it is not improving, what are you going to do about it?
  • Where is the AFFORDABLE HOUSING??? We don’t need any more condos, the poor cannot afford them.
  • That no matter who we vote in, it will never get any better.
  • That the welfare system is not right. A single Canadian girl can’t even get help when needed
  • If the government allows that all the capital and industries go away just to be in favour to a rich elite, then Canada will not be a peaceful country of opportunities for everyone. Motivate the local industry and service companies.
  • People do not have enough to pay rent, bills and food. What do you intend to do to help people on OW and ODSP.
  • The food bank is very well run and provides a valuable service. Not sure about staff salaries and how reasonable they are.
  • ODSP is not enough to live properly. This needs to be addressed.
  • That I think you should be lowering food prices to make it more affordable for people on disability to afford going to the grocery store.
  • …about the housing situation. There is not enough low income housing.
  • That I believe every person in our country has a right to the free health care allocated to each and every one. NO PRIVATIZATION!
  • Food banks are an important part of the community.
  • Why can’t I get help to attend the dentist? I have major problems with my teeth and can’t get any help.
  • About the environmental degradation happening in Canada.
  • I want to know why the money for citizenship is increased.
  • That Canadian government should be more caring to immigrants, environment, native Canadians.
  • I want you to know we want to live in Canada. So bring more immigrant people. Not only bring them, give them job. People know Canada is a big country.
  • I like Canada.
  • I have been in Canada since 2002. I was working full time until I got in a car accident.  Now I am living on ODSP and heard it will make it difficult to bring my wife to Canada.  I came to Canada as a  government sponsored refugee.   I want her to be able to come here.
  • … that government is intended to be a guide to the economy. Always remember that if a business fails, it is not a reason to intervene; the market economy is a correcting entity.  The strong survive, the weak are discarded by the votes of the public.
  • Do not forget that the greatest responsibility of any elected body is to know if you take care of those who can’t take care of themselves completely. The society is reached and the government will save billions.
  • Know that I care about lowering tuition fees and books.

Statement two: “I want to say…”

  • More jobs for KW, more time for food bank, been there 6 times a year.
  • More jobs need to make material that helps Canada going, no more sending things out of country to be made, more help at home is better.
  • Increase welfare cheque.
  • Change the money for welfare.
  • Stop working people to breaking point and still not have enough money to pay bills and feed their family.
  • [I’m] not sure what to think of all of them.
  • Stop outsourcing our jobs we need them for ourselves.
  • I vote every time and never see anything get better.
  • Canada is one of the most admired and powerful countries on earth. But, there is no perfect system. I would like to say that Canada needs to be strong and hard with their laws.
  • We need change so no Canadian goes hungry.
  • Please help those that have a hard time helping themselves.
  • Rent keeps going up. There is not enough money on ODSP. Rent at $800.
  • That I am very disappointed in the way Canada’s resources have been adulterated and misused to serve the rich and further marginalize the poor.
  • The government should be doing something to help people who is on disability more. More help for seniors.
  • Lessen the tuition expenditures for international students.
  • Work for improving health care and focusing on lessening the wait time.
  • I want to say everybody has a right to come to any country as a new comer.
  • Democratic government should listen, consult and care.
  • You are one of us. So don’t lie to people.


The final word

The Federal government has an important role to play in addressing a lot of the concerns and struggles identified by people who turn to the House of Friendship.  Canada lacks a national anti-poverty strategy.  The day to day struggle that people work through in Kitchener-Waterloo is not that different from other communities across Canada.  Right now charity and food banks keep a slowly simmering national crisis from boiling over, but there is a better way to address this crisis.

In the words of one of our food hamper recipients, “we need change so no Canadian goes hungry.”

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One Response to “Something To Chew On This Thanksgiving”

  1. Putting Hunger on The Map For The 2015 Federal Election | Hofemergencyfoodassistance's Blog Says:

    […] Extending the hand of friendship to our neighbours in need since 1939 « Something To Chew On This Thanksgiving […]

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