This week, Desert Sun opened a new office and held a forum on understanding poverty.
The meeting was very well attended (26 people) with a good cross section of the population attending – youth, seniors, new immigrants, employers and service providers who deal with people in poverty on a regular basis. There was 2 questions asked:
1) What is the biggest challenge that people in poverty face?
2) How can we possibly solve this problem?
We had very lively discussions at our tables and then the different tables reported out. The number one challenge was no surprise affordable housing followed closely by food security and then transportation.
One of the new immigrants told her story about living in a pickers cabin just outside of Oliver with no central heating and she pays $700 in rent a month and then her heating bill in the winter comes to $800. Many other stories like this were told so obviously some landlords are gouging the working poor and getting away with it because these people are so scared about losing their rental properties as there is nowhere else for them to go. Everyone agreed that if affordable housing was available it would alleviate the food security problem. Part of the answer (the audience felt) was coming up with some policies around affordable housing and hotel taxes – that a certain percentage of this tax is used to use to provide low income rentals.
People also wondered who controls rental units and how it could be allowed that landlords are able to rent out deplorable rental units without heat for the price that some of the people present were paying. All in all a very successful meeting with many feeling it should be followed up with another meeting that is attended by some policy makers.
Contributed by Marieze Tarr, Executive Director