The provincial government recently came out with a new strategy for reducing poverty and the Director of Steinbach Community Outreach is pleased.
“I do see this as a positive thing,” comments Irene Kroeker, “I was very impressed that the government went to the people who are actually living in poverty and asked them what they should do.”
The new strategy identifies children, seniors, and indigenous people, as those most commonly affected by poverty. Kroeker says all three demographics are present in Steinbach.
One goal of the government’s new strategy is to reduce the provincial child poverty rate by 25% by 2025. Kroeker says this resonates with her because poverty among young families is of specific concern locally.
“At Steinbach Community Outreach we see it every day: parents with kids struggling to provide them with their basic needs.”
Kroeker tells one story of a local mom with four kids who live in a small home with no furniture aside from three twin mattresses they all sleep on every night. This mother cannot afford rent and relies on social assistance.
Meanwhile, seniors make up another significant part of Steinbach’s impoverished population. Kroeker shares another example of how, just last week, an 80-year-old man was wandering around the city. “He wasn’t your typical homeless person," notes Kroeker, "he was just a senior who couldn’t afford a place to live and so he was stuck outside and did not know what to do.” With no place to lay his head, Kroeker says the man spent the night in an apartment lobby.
“It’s very sad,” she laments, “they’re like you and I, and they’ve worked all their lives, but the Old Age Security and Canadian Pension Plans kick in and it's still not enough to pay rent or buy food.”
Kroeker stresses that these kinds of living conditions are far more commonplace in Steinbach than one might think.
Outreach does what they can to provide these people with the necessary resources to have a higher quality of life, however, they cannot do everything, and Kroeker is thrilled that the government is taking intentional steps forward.
The provincial Poverty Reduction Committee is focusing on providing those who are struggling with five essentials.
• Everyday Living: the basics to support a modest standard of living
• Employment: work that provides an income
• Education and Training: the skills and knowledge needed for personal and professional advancement
• Health and Well-being: personal health and a sense of well-being
• Sense of Belonging: a sense of being part of the community
Kroeker adds that the government’s new plan recognizes the worth of community-based organizations, like Outreach, and admits that they are vital in the ongoing efforts to decrease provincial poverty.