It’s winter and cold and every message we hear tells us to stay warm and safe. And that’s fine for most of us but what about the high percentage of people in the Niagara Region who are homeless or live in poverty? What about the large percentage of people in St. Catharines that don’t have enough food daily?
For over 15 years I have been a volunteer in the Community Breakfast program which offers a free breakfast to anyone 365 days a year. CFUW made a donation to this program last year which goes towards purchasing food items that do not normally get donated. Recently, there has been a change in the client base and all the volunteers have noticed it. The clients are rowdier. It’s a younger group that is coming in and it is growing.
I attended the monthly meeting of the Council of Women where a panel discussed homelessness. It was disheartening to hear, not only the numbers, but about the lack of solutions for people who have nowhere to go. And then to hear about people living in desperate housing just reinforces the knowledge that the problem is systemic. Hearing the frustration of a landlord who has tried for years to provide housing exemplifies the complexity of the problem and even more difficult to hear is the plight of the children as their little bodies and minds are not being nourished to grow up to be healthy adults. I heard the general consensus that layering more programs on the problem, with the bureaucracy that comes with them, is not the answer and, further, is just a waste of money.
“For us, when you look at all of the percentages, it’s just a line in the sand. What we’re really dealing with here is the fact that 21 per cent of kids in the province and 23 per cent of the kids in St. Catharines are living in poverty,” said Glen Walker, Chair of the Niagara Poverty Reduction Network.
I don’t want this to sound depressing. As members of CFUW, we are mindful of the problems and we are working with organizations to lend a hand. There is no shortage of needs in our community. Our CFUW Interest Groups and charitable donations continue to help in lots of ways thanks to our creative members who want to help.
Let’s continue to be grateful for what we have and to do our part.
Nancy Ferris-Hostick, CFUW St. Catharines President, 2017-18