© MIke Carson/Journal Pioneer
Richelle Greathouse from the Women’s Network P.E.I. tells Summerside city council about the concerns of people living in poverty in the city.
SUMMERSIDE — The Women’s Network P.E.I. is spearheading a project dealing with Islanders living in poverty.
Projector co-ordinator Richelle Greathouse said the goal of the “Paths to Prosperity” project is to get people talking about poverty.
Greathouse was at city council’s recent monthly meeting to present the concerns of those living in poverty in Summerside and to seek council’s support to advocate for low-income families.
“People were really concerned with their basic needs, food, housing, transportation,” she said. “On Prince Edward Island, between 2005 and 2013, food prices have gone up 37.9 per cent and, if you look at fruits and vegetables, it’s up 42 per cent.”
She said another concern that was raised was rental rates on P.E.I.
“Rental rates are quite high, especially if you’re on social assistance. People are dipping into their food money to be able to get a decent place to live.”
She presented council with posters depicting some of the rental properties that low-income families are living in. Some had mold on the walls and ceilings and others were in need of repair.
“It was pretty shocking,” Greathouse said.
She added that some people were paying more than $800 for this type of housing.
One of the recommendations that came out of the consultations with low-income people was a need for checks and balances.
“There needs to be standards across the board - rules and regulations that people need to follow and then inspections of places,” said Greathouse. “Even though people are told they can complain to IRAC (Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission) . . . one of the main things we heard is people is living in fear. There is a huge amount of fear out there for what will happen if they complain.”
Greathouse said many have young children and fear if they do complain they would have difficulty finding another home to rent.
Transportation was another concern raised by those in the study.
“If you can’t afford a car or the gas for a car, you are very isolated and not just from work, but from social activities, all of the things that make you fell part of the community,” said Greathouse. “You can have the best programs out there in the world but if you can’t get to them how is this going to help?”
She added, “Social assistance allocates $25 a month for transportation and if you lived in Charlottetown you couldn’t even afford the bus. Women we worked with, once they get out in the community their self-esteem goes up. They want to get involved in things.
“Transportation is not just about getting from A to B. In my mind it’s being a part of the community.”
Greathouse requested that the city become an advocate for low-income people with the province and in its own policies.