Break the Cycle of Poverty

participant_talksMany of the women who walk through our doors at YWCA Toronto have firsthand experience with the realities of urban poverty, making them well informed to weigh in on the City of Toronto’s TOProsperity: Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy, due to be released in late 2015.

When the City asked YWCA Toronto for feedback on how to effectively tackle poverty, we asked our program participants and tenants what they needed to break the cycle of poverty. We held Focus Groups with the diverse women living in our affordable housing units. We’d like to share some of their insights with you.

Poverty Reduction = Affordable Childcare
Our participants told us that they cannot afford child care in Toronto, where the costs are the highest in the country. Childcare would allow them to take skills training and find better jobs, so they can build a stronger financial future for themselves and their children. They pointed out that finding childcare for women who do part-time, evening or overnight work is nearly impossible. A childcare system that understands the realities of today’s employment climate, including both wages and hours, would help many women break the cycle of poverty.

Poverty Reduction = Employment
Many of the women who come to YWCA Toronto are trapped in precarious, part-time jobs that pay poorly and offer few benefits. Secure, full time employment with dental and medical benefits means stability to women-led families. They spoke about the need to raise the minimum wage, which only brings a take-home pay of about $800 every two weeks – an amount that is not enough to pay the rent and feed their families.

Poverty Reduction = Accessible Education
The high price of educational upgrading is a challenge for many workers, particularly women who are new to Canada and women returning to the workforce after taking time off to care for children. With rapidly changing qualifications in a variety of fields, women can quickly find themselves no longer in the running for jobs in their area of expertise.

Women who want to upgrade their skills don’t have the funds or child care they need to prepare themselves better for the job market. Our participants fully support the idea of free and/or affordable education for adult learners, as well as intensive skills-based training programs for in-demand careers (e.g. skilled trades) and accessible internship programs and employer incentives to help women re-enter the work force.

Poverty Reduction = Everyone Pitching In
If we truly wish to eliminate poverty, government, non-profit organizations, residents at all income levels, and corporations need to join the movement. Our participants spoke passionately about the need for employers to play a bigger role in poverty reduction through better wages and working conditions, more community programs, and realistic taxation to uphold their end of the social contract.

They want the government to institute a minimum wage that reflects the true cost of living in Toronto, and eliminate the social assistance claw-backs that trap our participants in a never-ending cycle of poverty. Most importantly, our tenants want discussions about poverty reduction to prioritize the voices of those who live the realities of poverty every day – from seniors and single mothers to newcomers and youth.

YWCA Toronto supports our tenants’ vision. Together, we are working to build a city that is liveable for all residents – a city without poverty. You can support us in this endeavour today.

Sasha Dymond, a YWCA Toronto employment program participant created a video clip of the mathematics of urban poverty. Watch what happens when she does the math.