… Destitution Day
TheStar.com – news – Social Planning Toronto releases first-ever poverty profiles of the city’s 44 wards on Destitution Day
Published On Wed Jun 06 2012. Laurie Monsebraaten, Social Justice Reporter
Today is D-Day in Toronto.
The D is for destitution, and it is the date a single person on welfare would run out of money if he or she were living at the poverty line, according to Social Planning Toronto.
Dwayne Scriven is one of them.
The 40-year-old man of Cree heritage is among more than 157,000 single Ontarians, including almost 72,000 in Toronto, on Ontario Works.
His welfare cheque is a meager $599 a month and with tax credits adds up to about $8,100 a year.
Statistics Canada’s low-income cut-off, after taxes, for a single person living in a large city like Toronto is about $19,800.
“We have dubbed June 7 Destitution Day to highlight the severity of poverty in Toronto and the inadequacy of government benefits in light of the upcoming provincial social assistance review,” said John Campey, the agency’s executive director.
Social Planning Toronto has also chosen the day to release the first-ever detailed poverty profiles for residents living in the city’s 44 wards, along with stories about agencies or initiatives that are making a difference.
Since income data from the 2011 census won’t be available until next year, the profiles rely on 2006 census data and before-tax incomes that don’t reflect tax benefits that help many living in poverty.
But Campey said the information is valuable because federal changes to the 2011 long-form census will make the information less accurate. If anything, poverty has probably worsened in the city since the 2008 recession.
“What is striking is that even in the most affluent wards of the city there are still substantial numbers of people living in poverty,” he said. “In every ward there is a good-sized small town living in poverty.”
Scriven lives in Ward 30, Toronto-Danforth, where poverty rates for all groups, including children, youth, newcomers, seniors and singles are higher than the city average. He is among some 14,150 people in the ward, or 28 per cent of residents, living in poverty, including 43 per cent of aboriginal people. Across the city, one-quarter of Torontonians are living in poverty, including 37 per cent of aboriginal residents.
“The money we get sure doesn’t go very far after rent,” said Scriven, who relies on several neighbourhood food banks to survive.
The avowed technology geek says he has pawned used laptops and other “toys” on occasion to buy food at the end of the month.
Scriven says he is lucky because he lives in subsidized housing run by an aboriginal organization and pays just $368 a month for a room in house he shares with two other men.
But his remaining $231 doesn’t go very far after paying for his cellphone, toiletries, transportation and other daily living expenses, he said.
The affable and well-spoken man blames himself for “bad choices” as a youth that led to a string of property crimes and trouble with alcohol. But he says he has been sober for 15 years and is eager to work in a distribution centre or anything to do with the public.
“I am a good speaker, I write well and I have a conscience,” he said.
Although social assistance rates are set by the province, each level of government has a role to play to reduce or mitigate the impact of poverty, Campey said.
The agency, in partnership with the Alliance for a Poverty-Free Toronto, is calling on the city to establish a local poverty reduction strategy and to push senior governments to do their part. So far, more than 20 city councillors support the idea, Campey said.
To view the ward poverty profiles, go to socialplanningtoronto.org
PERCENTAGE OF TORONTONIANS LIVING IN POVERTY*
24.5% of total population (604,000 out of 2.6 million)
46% of recent immigrants
41% of single people
37.4% of aboriginal people
36% of lone-parent families
33.1% of racialized groups
32.2% of children under 15
31% of youth age 15-24
30% of people with disabilities
21.6% of adults age 25-64
20.6% of families
*Based on the 2006 Census using Statistics Canada’s Low-Income Cut-offs, before tax
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