In the past decade, the percentage of people living in low-income has increased across Hastings and Prince Edward counties, according to a report on poverty released Tuesday.
In preparing its report, the Hastings Prince Edward Poverty Roundtable spoke to 400 people in poverty stretching across the two counties, including Belleville and Quinte West.
Another 100 people working in community services were also interviewed.
The report lists eleven causes of poverty, including high cost of living, accidents and disabilities, mental health and addictions, and social safety net failures.
The group found that lack of affordable, safe housing is nearing or at crisis level.
In Hastings County 16.3% of households are living in poverty and in Prince Edward County that figure is 13.5%.
In Prince Edward County one in five children under the age of four are living in poverty, and one in four children under the age of four are in the same situation in Hastings County.
The Roundtable on Poverty will take its campaign to eliminate poverty directly to the upcoming provincial election,questioning candidates on their stand on various poverty-related issues.
Winding up a two hour presentation held at Maranatha Church, on its first report, some of the presentations by people living in poverty themselves, the Roundtable decided to question candidates on such issues as income inequality.
Spokesperson for the Roundtable, Brandi Hodge of United Way, says the group found that one of the main issues is gaining access to social services.
Hodge says the group will continue its work.
It found that poverty is stigmatizing, social assistance fosters continued reliance, and once in poverty people don’t have full social rights.
The Poverty Roundtable recommends that a poverty elimination strategy should be “rights-based, reflect that living in poverty is traumatic and there is an urgency to move people out of crisis right now.”
First names only were given as some people in poverty spoke to the crowd.
One of those, Tammy, said you can’t “pay $920 for rent when your income is $1,002 .”
Another, Elizabeth, said she has to share bathroom and kitchen in her apartment and “the last two tenants have been men. ”
Loretta said when you’re renting you’re at “the mercy of the landlord.” She noted, “It’s no way to live and it’s not thriving.”
They pointed to tourism and Airbnbs in Prince Edward County which they said were “turning housing upside down.”
The next two phases of the Roundtable work will include recommendations for acting, and a look at priority areas for action across the two counties.
The Roundtable presented Community Champion awards to Monica Piercy and Jay Gizuk of North Hastings and Loyalist College and Training Centre for its Elevate Plus program, for assisting people in poverty.
You can read the report at povertyroundtablehpe.ca