Poverty takes on many forms in the community and often goes unnoticed.
According to the United Way of the Central and South Okanagan the basic necessities of housing and food are out of reach to many in this province. More than 500,000 British Columbians live below the poverty line and more than 167,000 of those are children. The latest figures from Statistics Canada (2013) show one in five B.C. children are growing up in poverty, which continues to exceed the Canadian average. The Central Okanagan child poverty rate is at 17.7 per cent, meaning 5,790 children are growing up in poverty here.
By understanding these issues, we can start to alleviate them in our region, says the United Way.
So, in collaboration with the UBC Okanagan Student Union, it olans to host a poverty simulation in Kelowna March 1t to address the issues of poverty.
Facilitated by the United Way, participants of will experience the challenges commonly faced by those living near or below the poverty line. Decisions regarding rent, food and bills will show the participants the difficulties many in today’s society face in their day-to-day lives.
“What we’re hoping to do is start the conversation on what poverty actually is,” said Shelley Gilmore, executive director of United Way of Central and South/Similkameen. “Poverty could be anything from the extreme, homelessness related to financial difficulty, all the way to a working family struggling to live above the poverty line and make ends meet here in the Okanagan.”
During the interactive learning process of the simulation, participants will be assigned roles within family units and perform daily tasks, like sending kids to school, going to, or finding, work, paying bills, accessing community resources, buying groceries, interacting with financial institutions, and much more. These activities will give participants a chance to link their own experiences to the realities of people living in poverty in Central Okanagan.
“It’s very expensive to live and participate in the community.” said Gillmore. “If you’re a family it could be choosing to feed your family over soccer registration and some pretty tough life decisions. Poverty is a significant issue and it needs to be addressed.”
According to the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition, poverty is not just a hardship for those who experience it. It is costly to us all as a province. Poverty costs society $8 billion to $9 billion per year in higher public health care costs, increased policing and crime costs, lost productivity and foregone economic activity.
“Poverty affects us all and community awareness is a great first step to understanding how to alleviate it in our region. United Way CSO hopes to start the conversation,” says the United Way in a news release announcing the poverty simulation.
The community is invited to attend the Living On The Edge Poverty Simulation Tuesday, March 1 in the UNC Building on the UBC Okanagan campus in Kelowna. The event will run from 9 a.m. to noon and registration will take place at 8:30 a.m. To sign up for the event in advance, go to http://ubcosimulation.eventbrite.ca/.