© MIke Carson/Journal Pioneer
Richelle Greathouse, project co-ordinator for Paths to Prosperity, outlines some of the challenges Islanders living in poverty face on a daily basis. The project, spearheaded by the Women’s Network P.E.I., surveyed communities to get opinions on poverty and how it can be ended.
SUMMERSIDE - The Women’s Network P.E.I is spearheading a project dealing with Islanders living in poverty and how changes can be made.
Projector co-ordinator Richelle Greathouse said the goal of the Paths to Prosperity project is to get people talking about poverty.
Greathouse said 409 people were involved in the project with 220 interviews being conducted in-person and 189 through online discussions.
“This document is the voices of the communities,” Greathouse said. “These are the ideas that are coming from the community.”
The report provides a look into Islanders living in poverty, the challenges they face and their hopes for the future.
Through the conversations, those living in poverty outlined some of the struggles they face on a daily basis.
They find it difficult to meet their basic food, housing and transportation needs.
Greathouse said oftentimes, money set aside for food has to be used for rent.
Some said access to early learning and education is inadequate and meaningful employment with a livable wage is often out of reach.
Many concerns were expressed by those interviewed that the social assistance system is inadequate and that it sets up roadblocks for people trying to get back in school or in the workforce by clawing back any extra money people earn.
Greathouse said that they learned that as of May 2011, 68 per cent of clients on social assistance had a disability and 25 per cent had a mental health or addiction issue.
She said this is important to note because a segment of these clients may not be in a position to seek out full-time employment.
Some of the solutions that came out of the discussions centered on informing, educating and training people.
Among the solutions offered were a review of social assistance guidelines and rules. Another was to eliminate wage claw backs and to increase the amount of income people can earn before tax deductions.
There was a need identified to increase wages to reflect the cost of living and have a guaranteed annual income.
Other ways of dealing with poverty included support programs to hire more disabled people and a universal benefit plan for full-time and part-time workers.
Respondents said clients should be provided with information on their rights, services, referrals and what is expected of them along with increased supports for clients transitioning from social assistance to the workforce.
There was a need identified for an ombudsman or advocate clients could turn to for support and support enhancements for caseworkers.
The overall report is 780 pages in length and Greathouse said it will be refined to bring out a series of recommendations to be given to government officials and municipal leaders, community organizations and the business community.
Geathouse said although Women’s Network P.E.I. is motivating the project they want as many organizations as possible to latch on and help identify and solve the issue of poverty on P.E.I.