Community Harvest Food Bank president Deb McIntosh says better social policies needed to feed the hungry.
As many of you know the food bank/drop-in centre and shelter have been a large part of what I do and certainly where my passions are the strongest. I have seen a change in the area over the last several years and I can say without a doubt that we are not ready for it.
There are more people from the community needing help to meet their basic needs of food and shelter. The cost of housing, utilities and food has outpaced what many can afford. We as a province should and can do better. Yes, some good changes have happened for lower-income folks on social assistance and disability. However when you are so far behind the eight ball it just isn’t enough. Our pensioners and working poor suffer and fall through the cracks. The opioid crisis continues to devastate and hearts are slow to heal.
Lack of affordable housing as well as subsidized housing, remains to be an ongoing issue. Our number one concern with our food bank clients is having to live in substandard conditions and or spend more than 50 per cent of their income on a rental.
Homelessness is on the rise in Castlegar, small tent communities are springing up. We have one small shelter, operated by the food bank and we cannot accommodate all those in need. This causes anger, anxiety and makes people feel a lack of community connection or that they are not valued by society. This also brings about feelings of contempt from the public for those seeking help.
I believe that with partnerships between municipalities and provincial government that housing needs can be met. Municipalities have a number of ways to help without it being a tax burden. I also believe that we need strong social policies to be in place so that we can help people move forward.
We cannot treat poverty, mental health or addiction as a crime or a hidden issue. It will take the city, agencies and social justice advocates to work together to provide a safety net for people. Our seniors community also struggles with housing and we need our city to be strong advocates for all.
It is my sincere hope that the report commissioned by the city and the Columbia Basin Trust will convince our city and province that they can lead the charge in Castlegar to be more proactive, show more leadership and be champions for all residents. Advocacy is an extremely important role for the city to play.
We are very grateful to those that donate each year to the Food Bank, Drop In and shelter. We thank you for making sure that those community members are being helped to the best of our abilities. We ask that you continue to support us and that you ask that our city advocate meeting the needs of all its residents.
I believe that Castlegar has the capacity to tackle these issues. I know that with strong leadership, community engagement and the willingness to allow for empathy and compassion we can build on our already solid foundation. Every community is facing these challenges, they are not new but the time has come to act.