Poverty and the ethics of victimization

homeless by caremeter

Photo by Andrew Tan.

At some point in their lives, everyone will either experience or witness homelessness and poverty. It is a growing problem in Peterborough and across Canada, and one that needs to be definitively addressed.

According to poverty charity United Way, one in ten people in Peterborough City and County live in poverty. Furthermore, a report in 2013 states that at least 200 000 Canadians are homeless in any given year, in addition to at least 30 000 being homeless any given night.

Indeed, this problem is further complicated when 50 000 are in the shadows, staying with friends or relatives as they have no permanent solution.

This issue is one that affects local communities and concerns us all; we all know somebody in that situation. Every year spending on poverty equates to between $72-84 billion, yet the problem is far from being solved.

It would seem pertinent to suggest the problem is the fault of a failed government, though having witnessed it in other countries, it is no different in Canada.

People are unable to recognize the problem unless two conditions are satisfied, although not predicated; it only concerns us when we have to see it, when we are confronted with the raw suffering, or when we ourselves are in that situation.

Yet in 2012, 872 379 Canadians used food-banks. The problem surrounds everyone and we cannot go on ignoring it. To pretend the problem does not exist, and not try to help is detrimental to society; it is morally and ethically wrong, and anybody who likes to think they have liberties must recognize they have a duty to ensure the well-being of others as well.

Earlier this year Steven Harper announced three tax-cuts: the family tax cut, the universal child care benefit, and the child care expense deduction. Initially it would seem the tax breaks will provide an extra support for those that need it, however, I question Harper’s ethics.

This comes after an address to the UN in September in which he promoted free trade and capitalism as the road to freedom and world peace.

If free trade really were to solve the crisis of poverty and homelessness, it would have done so by now. Capitalism as an economic model does not work, the more volatile it gets, the better it works.

Harper is largely ignoring the two fundamental issues that are hitting his country with the standard ink blot demise of the liberal that ‘I should make you all temporarily happily, but by the way, you’re all about to get beaten down and the best part is, you cannot do anything’.

Solutions can be found, but not with a Conservative government. The point therefore is to structure society in such a way that poverty and homelessness become impossible.

Maddie Porter, staff member at Shelter House in Thunder Bay said in an interview on this issue, “One of the biggest challenges facing organizations dealing with poverty and homelessness is the common sense idea that everyone begins on an equal playing field and we can all achieve success if we just work hard enough.”

It is a sad fact that homeless shelters even exist, that society has degraded to such an extent that we are unable to provide those individuals with a permanent solution.

More funding needs to be placed into social housing initiatives and programs, increased spending on welfare and a greater focus on community support and action. When walking around Peterborough, it often makes me wonder just how many buildings are abandoned, not used, and so on that could feasibly, without much work, be either bought by an organization, rented, or donated for the cause of housing. It is not difficult to imagine the potential.

Pressure needs to be placed on Daryl Bennett; he needs to be forced to take action. If he loves the city as much as he says he does, then he simply cannot continue with his eyes closed.