Take a Positive Approach when Dealing with Poverty Issues

I attended the October 08, 2013 Halton Community Forum.

The danger of drug use as a response to something within us, or within our environment, can do much more harm than good: to the user, to the environment, and to other people.

Slums or Ghettos have been notoriously paired with drug use. These days not all people living in poorly maintained or hazardous living conditions use illegal drugs. The presence of chronic and potentially volatile substance addicts and abusers living among others creates a situation of fear. Unfortunately prejudice grows and creates a scenario where people can become isolated and afraid to take action to improve their quality of life because of their shared sense of volatility and unrest. It is also true that this fear of "rocking the boat" is evident in situations where illegal drugs are not a factor.

Poverty arises for both individuals and families and often it is the accepted condition, and this "culture of less" that causes us not to do more to improve our living environments and nurture the "Stigma of difference" back to health.

Living in any kind of Poverty can allow the human ingenuity of us all to accept the condition so that it becomes less disturbing or disruptive to us or others. Some people hide their situation while others employ a more aggressive approach.

There is good reason to lose hope from time to time - we live in a jumbled up world. I have learned that any action or cause to seek out change in something that serves to improve the quality of a situation for anyone is more wholly enriching than adding to our distress by adding non-controlled chemicals into our bodies and minds only to numb our senses while the damage has not been repaired.

Barb s.


Voices for Change members participated as Community Engagement Stakeholders in various health sector initiatives in Halton, including The Region of Halton Health Dept. and the Mississauga Halton Local Health Integration Network.

‘We need to collaborate with non-governmental partners in sectors beyond the realm of health as the factors that influence our health branch out into many areas.  Health communities are built through partnerships and leveraging the expertise of people with lived experience offers a sustainable and effective mechanism to optimize health.

To successfully increase healthy habits and prevention of disease, people’s health concerns need to be addressed in consideration of their living and working conditions as well as social supports.’

Mississauga Halton LHIN strategic plan

Voices for Change members continue to work with the health community, building partnerships and encouraging peer support opportunities.

Health Department Actions to Address Health Inequities

Current Health Department Report on Health Inequity 

For the Full pdf Report click here ...

Executive Summary

Health inequities exist in Halton and work to reduce these inequities is a priority for the Health Department. Efforts to reduce health inequities are contingent onaddressing the social determinants of health.

Health Department actions to address the social determinants of health and reduce health inequities in Halton include strategies that focus on strengthening departmental staff capacity, assessing and reporting on the social determinants of health, and promoting inclusion and equity through community partnerships.

Providing education and raising awareness of the social determinants of health within Halton is identified as an important next step to building equitable health status.

Guiding Values for Health Equity

The Halton Region Health Department believes that:

Health inequities are the health inequalities that are unfair and unjust. Health inequities are unnatural and avoidable and are the result of our social conditions.

Exclusion and discrimination contribute to socioeconomic inequalities. Therefore, inclusion and meaningful participation are necessary to foster greater equity in our community.

Health improves at every rung up the social and income ladder. A levelling-up approach is needed to reduce health inequities and improve population health outcomes.

Proportionate universalism means that our efforts are aimed at everyone, but more so towards the disadvantaged. This supports a levelling up approach and ensures that all citizens have equitable access to a full range of high-quality public health programs.

Mental Illness, Poverty and Addictions

As an individual who has a continuing issue with mental illness and addiction resulting in poverty, I was very intrigued by a recent workshop presentation linking the three.  The stigma, isolation and lack of understanding in the community were all similar.  Each issue was intertwined with the others.  Individuals who experience mental illness also live in poverty; those who live in poverty can also be affected by mental illness; mental illness can cause addictions and addictions can lead to people living in poverty.  There is a correlation between all three issues.  Society chooses to ignore it and also fear it.  I was relieved when diagnosed with a mental illness as it resulted in the conclusion that I had used drugs to deal with the poverty as well as my own personal issues.  The workshop provided the links and some answers to lifelong questions and not understanding the shame and loneliness from the poverty, mental illness and addictions.  I had also not understood the negative reactions from family and friends when disclosing my feelings. It felt like I was given messages that I should be able to cope with these issues and not make a big deal about it.  Today I realize that this was appalling and insulting behaviour.  I needed support, not to be made to feel different.  Society needs to be educated so that they realize that we, who struggle on a daily basis with these issues, are not different and have the right to be treated with the dignity and respect that the rest of society is accorded; not lumped together, treated like we don’t matter.

 Cathy Stokes

A Hungry Person is Not a Free Person

Food Bank Canada reported that in 2011, in Ontario alone, there were 395,106 people who were assisted through food banks and other food programs.   Broken down, there were 246887 adults and 148,219 children that were assisted monthly.

“Soup kitchens”, the predecessor to food banks, have been in existence since the mid 1800’s.  They became more prominent in the early 1930’s at the start of the depression, in response to the level of hunger due to employment shortages. 

The first “Food Bank” to open in Canada was in 1981, in Edmonton, Alberta. 

Nothing has really changed in 70 years except that there are a lot more hungry people and it is still not being addressed by our elected politicians.   It seems the government policy makers are incapable of seeing that Canadians are suffering in every region. Who is responsible for setting policies that will directly impact and result in the reduction of the need for food banks?

Canada is one of the richest countries in the world, yet the number of people using food banks is rising steadily.  Those that live in poverty are being forced to rely on food banks regularly in order to feed themselves and their families.  Change can happen, but only if our government is held accountable for this injustice. Let them know that the best food bank is the one that no longer needs to exist!

Cathy Stokes.

Challenging Stereotypes

Voices for Change recently participated in a focused conversation with a group of staff from Halton Region Health Department providing feedback on how poverty impacts in many areas of health care delivery in the region.  The Health Dept. is working to improve the delivery of services and to train all of their staff to better recognize and identify specific challenges that people living in poverty face when it comes to health care services.

The Voices participants each offered a unique perspective of the experience.  Viewing the day like a hospital stay or a specialist appointment, Barb compared the Regional health staff to the ‘Doctor’ and the Voices members as ‘the patient’ allowing that each individual there, including the facilitator, was human.  Voices members were heard and seen by the health specialists through the formatted process that brought the social determinants of health into a mutual light.

Entering a room full of strangers is never easy.  Joanne felt that at the beginning of the day the Voices members were the strangers as the staff were already seated and with people they knew leaving the Voices members on the ‘outskirts’.  However, as the day progressed and small working groups formed, anyone looking in would see health care givers and recipients as one, working together.  One Region participant felt comfortable enough to comment on the high level of intelligence of the Voices members and, rather than take offence, it was viewed as a victory; another stereotype broken.

Diane expressed the hope that sharing the lived experience of poverty with the health care providers in an exchange of opinions and ideas would contribute to successful outcomes.  The recognition that everyone carries wisdom and all should be heard as well as hear others provides a whole greater than the parts.

A "journey into unknown territory", where neither group is familiar with the subject matter or combined group dynamic requires dedication and commitment to achieve a common goal.  Joan believes the common goal was achieved as most participants agreed that awareness and attitudes had been permanently altered in a mutually respectful and positive light.

Remember, there but for Chance go any of us.

"Let's Start A Conversation About Healthcare' resource booklet from Halton Region Health Dept. is available to download.  Members of Voices for Change contributed to the content development of this resource.

Contributed by Joanne, Joan, Diane & Barb

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We do not accept poverty as an inevitable feature of society

Follow the work of the Voices for Change movement as we attend rallies, workshops, and conferences and create powerful awareness about anti-poverty progress in the Halton region.