One in three who use food banks — such as the one at Port Cares Reach Out Food Centre — in Niagara are children, Niagara Poverty Reduction Network’s Lori Kleinsmith told Port Colborne council this past Monday night.
Children, said Kleinsmith, also account for 13 per cent of the 67,525 shelter bed nights occupied in Niagara per year.
The health promoter from Bridges Community Health Centre, in Port Colborne, presented a number of statistics to council, including the fact there are 567 households alone in Port Colborne alone waiting for affordable housing.
Niagara Poverty Reduction Network is a group of over 30 social and health agencies, educators, business and government representatives, faith communities and individuals.
“Niagara Poverty Reduction Network is a network, not an agency. It’s people interested in wiping out poverty,” said Kleinsmith.
She said there is a lot of misinformation, stereotypes and stigma attached to poverty and Niagara Poverty Reduction Network is working to change that and shift people’s attitudes.
“We’re looking to get more people involved, engage them, and stay on top of the issues.”
Affordable housing, transportation, a living wage and what basic income might look like are issues that have been looked at since Niagara Poverty Reduction Network’s launch in 2013.
Kleinsmith said there’s a need for federal leadership when it comes to addressing poverty in Canada.
“Not any one level, not any one sector can tackle it. Our federal leaders need to take part.”
She credited Mayor John Maloney for reaching out during the 2014 election, asking what cities could do to help.
Local and regional government, Kleinsmith said, have important roles to play in addressing poverty.
“We look forward to strengthening ties with you and continuing to work to wipe out poverty in Niagara,” she said.
Ward 2 Coun. Yvon Doucet told Kleinsmith that poverty and affordable housing were two issues the city was looking at in its strategic plan.
“We’re very much in tune … we want to do something, we need to something,” he said.
Mayor John Maloney asked Kleinsmith if she had one ask of council, what would be the top priority.
“Housing … it’s a big one,” she said.