Breaking the poverty cycle

OttawaSun.com – news/Ottawa&Region
November 23, 2013.   By Michael Aubry

The main focus of community housing is to break the cycle of poverty that lingers with many low-income families.

Living below or on the very fringes of the poverty line is all many of residents who call social housing home have ever known.

That’s why it’s important to not only offer generous rent subsidies for tenants, but also back that up with meaningful programs to keep kids out of trouble, offer career advice for parents and get residents back on track with their life.

Programs like the Youth Futures program offered throughout the city help children living in social housing get out of the rut.

“Many of the kids, their parents never went to high school, so they don’t know what else is out there,” explained Coun. Marianne Wilkinson.

The seven-month program offers high school kids leadership training, CPR courses and paid part-time jobs to let them get their bearings.

Each teen can also spend two weeks at a university or college campus taking courses that show them their options after graduating.

“That makes it easier for them to demystify what it’s like to go beyond high school and gives them the supports they need to be successful,” said Jo-Anne Poirier, CEO of Ottawa Community Housing.

The program graduated 70 students this year.

OCH also started launching fundraisers in 2013 — like the Ottawa Food Truck Rally — to raise money for post-secondary bursaries.

There are also 15 community houses — usually one or two converted social housing units — spread across Ottawa that offer English as a Second Language courses, job search help and homework clubs.

“It’s hard for first generation Canadians when they arrive, even if they’re well-educated, but their kids are really Canadian kids and they have more opportunities,” said Poirier.

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