There is a lot of talk currently about the idea of whether or not there are still homeless persons living in Medicine Hat. I don’t know if I am willing to throw my opinion into this discussion. I know that we continue to serve an average of 85-90 guests each Sunday at the Hope Street Family Safe Meal. A number of our guests would still say they are homeless if you asked them the question. The definition that is being used to define homelessness becomes the defining factor:
- Chronic VS Actual
- Sleeping on the Street VS Sleeping on a Couch
- Accepting Help VS Choosing to do it Alone
The issue I see and deal with almost daily is the fact that Medicine Hat is now known world-wide as the first place to eradicate Homelessness; and this title brings with it a overbearing idea that because we have eradicated Homelessness, we must not have any poverty either. Because living in poverty and being homeless are one in the same! RIGHT??… WRONG!! The fact that Medicine Hat has done an awesome job in dealing with Chronic Homelessness has no bearing on whether or not we have impoverished or disadvantaged persons living in our city. We do… have disadvantaged… and impoverished people in Medicine Hat!! Probably more than anyone wants to admit… and this is why we need organizations like Hope Street operating each week!
So how do you identify an individual or family that would be labelled as disadvantaged or impoverished?
- Is there a club they attend?
- Are they all living in one area of the city?
- Is there a way to tell?
The Answer is that there is no tried or true way to identify poverty. It has many shapes and forms. Some are obvious but some are almost invisible to most of us in Canada.
As of 2010, 7,360 people in the greater Medicine Hat area were living in poverty, 2,590 of whom were children – representing a 10% poverty rate, and a 16% child poverty rate. (http://livingwagecanada.ca/files/6113/8539/6936/Medicine-Hat-Report-Mar-4.pdf)
These stats might seem dated but I believe the reality is that the numbers have actually increased since 2010. With cost of living increases and the addition of new taxes that do not discriminate between the haves and have-nots in society have continued to increase these numbers. The price drop of a barrel of oil had a huge impact on jobs for Hatters and we know the increased need in our city put a strain on all the agencies that help those in need. Poverty is occuring all around us in our city. Do you know that?
I started writing this article with a different goal in mind. I wanted to express my concern over the label of “Ending Homelessness”. I actually have been praying and discerning this post for almost 2 months as I came to terms with the message I wanted to share. I do want to say a HUGE Thank You to those people and organizations that have done so much work in helping those who were considered homeless. Good Job Medicine Hat! But let’s just not forget that there is still a huge need for compassion in our city. There are still many organizations that have feet on the ground and are helping impoverished or disadvantaged people. There are still many ways you , the reader of this, can help!
- Find a way to make a difference in your community
- Open your eyes to see
- Reach out in LOVE…
Hope Street is one organization that would love to see you get involved with us and our goal of Increased Potential Through Breaking Cycles of Poverty. There are many organization in our city that could also use your help. All you have to do is open your eyes and look… Be Blessed!
Murray Kumm is the Executive Director of Hope Street CMC