All Islanders deserve help with energy costs and access to medical treatment
The Society of St. Vincent DePaul is part of a worldwide organization whose mission is to serve the poor with love, respect, justice, and joy. Presently, there are four conferences of the society on Prince Edward Island who offer assistance to those in need in many different ways including financial assistance for food and clothing.
We rely on donations within our churches and community to provide the financial help, and though we concentrate on helping those in our geographical area, we are often called upon Island wide by those in need. Our four conferences alone spent over $70,000 in 2012 helping families with food, energy costs and medical travel.
What started out as help with food and clothing during emergency situations has become a daily demand for assistance of every kind by low income Islanders who are struggling to pay their bills. Increasingly, we are besieged with requests for assistance in more expensive ways as families try and cope with high energy costs and/or medical expenses.
High heating and utility costs leaves little money for other necessities like healthy food and clothing, and this in turn leads to poor health and more financial strain due to loss of work and/or medical expenses.
We have many families seeking help with travel costs for medical reasons both on and off Island. Some families have to make frequent trips while others are required to stay off Island for longer periods thus losing work time and pay but still have to struggle to pay bills.
We know that our government has given annually to The Salvation Army home heating assistance program but this program is unable to meet the real demands of Islanders. We strongly feel that it is the duty and responsibility of elected officials to administer programs to low income Islanders rather than placing the burden on social and charitable organizations like us and The Salvation Army.
The Poverty Reduction Strategy recently introduced by the Liberal government is to assist Islanders to move out of poverty and to improve the social well being of all Islanders. Islanders who are making low wages cannot keep pace with the high cost of energy in our province and if they are further burdened by someone with health issues there is no chance of being financial stable or improving a family's well being.
Therefore, we ask that Premier Ghiz and our government consider implementing programs for low income families to help with high energy costs and assistance in medical travel both on and off the Island as needed. We should not be penalizing people who work for low wages by denying them the right to keep their families warm and fed and every Islander deserves equal opportunities to medical care needed.
All Islanders must work to shape a caring and inclusive society but we need our government to take the lead in giving the financial support to low income families and those who are heavily burdened with high medical costs.
With respect and concern,
By Judy Barrett
Judy Barrett is president of Holy Redeemer Society of St. Vincent DePaul (SSVP). She is writing on behalf of Cynthia MacDonald, president of St. Puis X SSVP; Dave Schneider, president of St. Dunstan’s SSVP; and Brenda Perry, president of St. Paul’s SSVP.