Posts Tagged ‘2014’

Who Represents Hunger, Part 3

April 1, 2015
Who represents the most food insecure households in kitchener waterloo?

Which local politicians represent the most food insecure households?

If you have been elected to political office, you have a big job.  You have to listen to your constituents, provide leadership, help a lot of people and try and invest in the neighbourhoods and businesses that make up your district.  All the while, you are also working with your political neighbours, reacting to events both big and small and trying to do the “right thing” by different constituencies, some of which, have conflicting views of the world.

People who struggle with poverty and live on a low income are one of these interests, and traditionally, they do not have a respected place in public discussions.  There are groups that advocate for and with them, but in talking about the issues, there are not always good numbers to use to describe the scale or impact of certain social problems.

Take hunger or food insecurity for example.  As I discussed in my previous post in this series, the number of people using food banks is hard to pin down.  It may be getting a little easier in Ontario, as I discussed in a recent post about Link 2 Feed, but if we want to talk to elected representatives locally about the number of people they represent that currently struggle to get food on their tables, it has been difficult, because those numbers haven’t really existed.

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Filling in the Blanks – Advocacy With Purpose

June 10, 2014

House of Friendship Advocates With Purpose For a Poverty Free Ontario

“Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” – Edmond Burke

Ontario residents vote for their provincial representatives tomorrow, June 12th. (Here’s how, by the way!) The idea of representing another person’s (or group’s) interests is tricky at the best of times, and it’s easy to be cynical: do our leaders really want to act in our best interests? Could they, even if they wanted to? Aren’t there just too many interests in the first place?

We could throw in the towel and leave politics to the politicians. This seems to be what Edmond Burke was getting at (see above quotation), arguing that his role as a politician was to do his job without accountability to the wealthy landowning men who elected him. However, many of the hardworking men and women who make up our government today would tell you that Mr. Burke was dead wrong.

Yes, we live in an incredibly diverse community, and no, we don’t all see eye to eye, sometimes on very basic questions. (And yes, it’s probably also true that there are some politicians with questionable intentions.) But today’s politicians are people who have decided to dedicate a huge part of their life to public service. They have a genuine interest and passion for listening to people and trying to plot a course to a better future for all of us. That is to say, they try to respond to their constituents and to public opinion.

Who Will Listen?

The problem is not that politicians never listen, but maybe, rather, that they are most likely to listen to the loudest voices. The loudest (and, relatedly, most persuasive) voices typically belong to the most privileged members of our community. We cannot buy full page ads in the Globe and Mail, or commercial time during the Stanley Cup, but my experience is that we should not discount the power of an email, phone call or letter as a means to shape political debate. By putting our views out there in letters to the editor, radio call in shows, impromptu debates around the kitchen table over dinner, letters and calls to your local politician, newspaper articles, things we post to our Facebook pages and other social media (if you are so inclined) we all get a bigger piece of the picture and take one step closer to a better community for all of us.

Filling in the Blanks

One way we have been trying to engage with people at the Food Hamper Program for the upcoming election is to provide a platform for them to share their experiences and discuss how they overlap with government services and programs.  We supplied our patrons with cards with four sentences on them, encouraged them to fill them out and committed to sharing the results with all of the candidates in the two electoral districts we serve hampers to: Kitchener-Centre and Kitchener-Waterloo (which we have already done).

Here are the four sentences:

  1. Living on Ontario Works (OW) or the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)* is…
  2. Every day I struggle with…
  3. If elected, please remember…
  4. I want to say…

A few people respectfully declined to fill out the card. One woman shared that she doesn’t vote, because she feels ignored and undervalued, and didn’t believe that a project like this made any difference. Following her comments, another woman, relatively new to Canada, took and filled out her card. “It’s small, but who knows, we should do it.” For the most part, patrons responded enthusiastically. Their comments provide a brief glimpse into the struggles that people face every day in our communities. See below for a sample of their responses. (more…)

House of Friendship Votes: What Does Your Community Think?

June 9, 2014

Today I am pleased to share a guest post by Fariba talking about her experience in the community and her hopes for the involvement of the community with the democratic process.

House of Friendship encourages you to vote for a poverty free Ontario

1. Tell me a bit about your work at House of Friendship.  What is your role?

I am a community outreach worker at Sunnydale Community Centre and my main role is to support low-income families with children, who live in my catchment area.

2.Who are some of the people that you might work with in a typical day?

Single moms with children, youth in the community, immigrant families old and new (refugees, new-comers), students, and visitors.

3. Do you vote?  Why?

Yes, I see voting as a fundamental democratic right which keeps me connected to the political process and  allows me to  express my opinion and address my concerns with politicians and the elected representatives in my community.

 4. What does the word democracy mean to you?  How would you define democracy in our day to day life as a community?

As its roots in Greek language the word democracy for me stands for “the government by people”.  That means all the people should be able to have their say in one way or another in everything that affects their lives and it’s not only limited to participating in voting but also expressing ideas and concerns on decisions and policies in all levels of government (federal, provincial and municipal).

5. In the communities you live and work in, do people engage with the democratic process?  Do they feel they have a voice?  Do they feel like they have power?  Why?

In my communication with members of communities that I am in contact with, the subject of politics is not a favorite topic. The most common concern raised is that people don’t feel they have a voice or that their input will be valued, and there are several reasons behind this kind of thinking.  To name some:

  1. Negative and painful past experiences with politicians and government in their original country
  2. Lack of knowledge of the Canadian political system and their individual social and political rights
  3. They feel their issues are ignored/not addressed during political campaigns

6. What barriers (if any) exist that get in the way of people participating in the democratic process at any level?  Why would someone in the community that you work with decide to vote, or decide not to?

Language barriers plays an important role in preventing the immigrant voters obtaining knowledge and information, which affects the development in interest and sense of purpose to vote.

Sometimes the location of the polling stations and the limited time/resources to get there is voiced as a barrier as well.

Those who decide to vote are mainly motivated by hope for positive change and want to support the candidate/party that address their concerns.  Also, the same reason of negative past experiences and the inability to exercise their rights in their country of origin, motivates many more to value and practice their rights in Canada and vote.

7. What would you like to see happen on Election Day in your community?

What I like and hope to see in all communities is more and more participation in voting and political decision-making in Canada

 

Vote For The Community You Want to See

June 5, 2014

Today I am pleased to share a post written by House of Friendship Chaplaincy Director, Michael Hackbush.

House of Friendship encourages you to vote for a poverty free Ontario

The Golden Rule is something aspired toward by most world religions. Put simply this is “do to others as you would have them do to you.”

This can be an approach to dealing with conflict in your own life and family, it can help you understand and approach problems in your work or business and it can help us ALL think about how to deal with problems we all face as a society.

Voting is one of many ways of expressing your values as an individual and when I consider who will get my vote on June 12th I will be measuring each party’s position based not on what I’ll get out of it but on what impact said platforms will have on my neighbours.

That’s because, a simple way that The Golden Rule is monetized (that is, how it is given a dollar value) is through taxes and how we collectively decide to spend money through our government. Funding for schools, hospitals, roads, community centers and unemployment benefits are something we all pay for as individuals but which benefit all of us everyday either by using them directly, or indirectly when you consider the broader benefits to health and social stability.

Do employers want to interview candidates for jobs who are sick, stressed out and starving? Or do they benefit from hiring job seekers who have not had to make hard compromises between food or shelter during a period of unemployment. What about choosing dental care for their children, or medical services for themselves or their spouse?

When I hear tax cut I interpret that as taking away from my neighbours with the least means and giving to those with the most. That sounds subjective I know. I happen to work in the not for profit social services sector and so have a deference for my neighbours who are struggling to make ends meet. But the facts are that taxes are an investment in you, my neighbour, either directly, or indirectly.

The Dollars and Sense of Solving Poverty speaks of taxes as INVESTMENT. Every dollar spent gets back more both immediately in programs supporting people but also in the future return on that investment: healthier lives, cleaner air and water, safer communities for all of us.

In Tax is Not a Four Letter Word edited by Alex Himelfarb (find it online here) Alex mentions the fact that for all the talk about cutting the 2% of the GST, not once did people ask “At what cost?”. That cost is $14 Billion each year (to date exceeding $84 BILLION) of lost social investment.

I want to collectively work with you to build better hospitals, roads devoid of pot-holes, good schools and institutions, to create a community where all can belong and thrive. My taxes afford me the privilege to partner with my neighbour and create such a place. The facts demonstrate that taxes can do that.

So when the politicians speak of tax cuts, I will ask the question, “What will this cost us?” How will this benefit my neighbour?

I try to live by the Golden Rule. I invite you to do the same.

Like a Boss

June 2, 2014

House of Friendship encourages you to vote for a poverty free Ontario

Politics is a thorny subject but an important one.  It consumes the public sphere (and perhaps the not so public sphere of your kitchen table) and love it or hate it, a very important day in politics is fast approaching: the Ontario General Election on Thursday June 12th.

The people I work with, often have strong opinions about politicians, parties and the tone of politics as it plays out in the news media and parliament.  Often, those opinions are formed from experience with a lot of government services.  They are complex, genuine and often involve the odd cuss word.  That’s because the people I meet each day have a lot to lose if someone cuts a few percentage points of funding out of a host of government provided services.

We will always encourage people to exercise their democratic right to vote, or to abstain from voting.  But election time is also a great time to talk to people about the role of constituency assistants, how to get things done in your community after the election, how to get help with government services and effective ways to advocate for yourself or others.  Not everyone realizes how enthusiastically your average politician embraces the concept of public service and how much pride they take in resolving the issues of the people who live in their riding.

In the coming days we will share a few pieces on this blog from people connected to or working at the House of Friendship on what politics and voting mean to them and the people they work with.  We will also share some of the opinions and comments that people who access our services have on the process and what they hope for the future of Ontario politics.  Join the conversation by hitting the comment button and remember, on election night, you’re the boss! Use your voice and decide who you want to give a seat to.

Myra’s Story

May 27, 2014

To share her perspective on the play Myra’s Story, we are pleased to share the following reflections from Jennifer Cornish,who assumes the role of Myra in the hilarious and heart-breaking one woman play. Myra’s Story chronicles the life of a homeless Irish woman who sardonically describes herself as a “wine connoisseur.”

When House of Friendship (HOF) set out to transform its women’s addiction services facilities, we also wanted to raise awareness about women and addiction as a way of reducing the stigma than can act as a barrier to recovery. Although the Under One Roof capital campaign to create a new recovery centre for women is complete, our commitment to raising awareness continues.  Myra’s Story is one way of continuing the important conversation about women and alcohol. Since Under One Roof was launched at HOF’s 2012 Annual Meeting, it seems only fitting to officially mark its end at the 2014 Annual Meeting, and to do so with a play that will provoke and inspire continued discussion.

You can meet Myra, at our upcoming Annual Meeting on Tuesday June 17.  RSVP online here, and soon, as space is very limited!  But be aware, this play doesn’t gloss over what it’s like to be in Myra’s shoes.  The play explores mature themes and contains mature language. (more…)

Hunger Awareness Week – May 5-9 – Who’s Helping in Waterloo Region?

May 5, 2014

Today, we are pleased to share a post from Kate, at the Food Bank of Waterloo Region about Hunger Awareness Week.

On my visits to The House of Friendship Emergency Hamper program I am always surprised how many of our neighbours need help with food assistance. There is no one type of person who requires food assistance. My visits remind me that many members of our community of different ages, genders and backgrounds need the help of a healthy hamper.

This week, May 5th to 9th, marks Hunger Awareness Week. (more…)