By Stephanie Drummond
Jan. 29, 2014
The Women’s Network of P.E.I. is asking the government to take a stand against poverty on P.E.I.
Richelle Greathouse made a presentation at the monthly Summerside city council meeting on Jan. 20, asking the city to take a stand.
Greathouse said the network is currently working on past prosperity, a look into poverty on the Island, particularly for women.
“People are living in fear. Living in fear of complaining.”
“Rental rates are high. People are dipping into their food money.”
Greathouse said the network was shocked to learn of living conditions many Islanders face. They asked volunteers to take pictures of their friend’s houses. They got photos of 120 houses, many needing to be condemned.
City councillor Tina Mundy was shocked to see the pictures.
“Oh my gosh.”
Greathouse shared her disbelief.
“It didn’t sink in till I saw these pictures. The rent for this place is $800 a month. They just moved into this place. It was in better shape than their last place. They think this is normal.”
Greathouse worries about the impact on people’s health, living in these conditions. Many people are just above the poverty line, many on social assistance or employment insurance.
The women’s network helps women get training and counseling within the community. Greathouse told the councillors there is a lack of free transportation in the community. When women get involved in the community self esteem rises, she said.
Greathouse urged the council to sign a poverty charter, a promise to stop poverty and to support non-profit organization. She also urged the council to become an advocacy group, and urge the province to take action.
Mayor Basil Stewart was also shocked at the results, but admitted there isn’t much the city can do other than be an advocacy group.
“We don’t have much power, but we can be an advocacy group. We do support many non-proffit organizations.”
Coun. Cory Thomas agreed action must be taken.
“This is something I’m passionate about. We all have a role to play. Some of that can be advocacy. It’s all intertwined.”
Thomas led a committee in 2009, trying to come up with ways to combat the drug addiction epidemic. The committees report suggested the Island enact legislation for safer communities, improve services and create supports for families.
“Crime, poverty, and drug use is all together. It will take a community to fix the problems.”
“I know there was a report a few years back about most Islanders being below the poverty level, or just above the poverty level. It’s scary.”