Poverty

Child poverty in Nova Scotia continues to grow: report

“I’ve been working any job I can get my hands on…but it’s not enough”

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Feed Nova Scotia donations help children and families across the province   Nicole Gnazdowsky

More than 1 in every 5 children in Nova Scotia live in poverty, making it the province with the third-highest child poverty rates in Canada and the highest in Atlantic Canada. That’s the conclusion in a report released Tuesday by the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

The CCPA’s report said not only has Canada failed on its commitment to eradicate child poverty by the year 2000, but the child poverty rate has increased immensely 26 years after the promise was made in 1989.

Lesley Frank is a critical health psychologist and author of the study. She has spent years studying the trend. She said she was not surprised to see these numbers continue to increase.

Frank said many citizens aren’t interested in seeing their tax money going into the welfare system.

“It’s an issue of political will, but also collective will,” she said. “Do we have the collective will as citizens to think family and children matter?”

Frank said the health and wellness of poor children is much lower than that of children who grow up in more affluent families.

“We create a whole lot of social problems from neglecting the welfare system,” Frank said. “Poorer children are more susceptible to disease, mortality, less education, and higher engagement with crime.”

Difficult Realities

Thirty-five year old Shannon Graham and her 11-year-old son DJ are among those who have been left hungry and scared, with nowhere to turn as they face the brutal and growing realities of family and child poverty in Nova Scotia.

Graham moved to Halifax from Pictou County to finish her business diploma at Nova Scotia Community College. She was on income assistance, but said she was forced to drop out of school when her government cheques did not cover the cost of daycare for her son.

Without a diploma, Graham is finding it difficult to maintain a steady income.

“I’ve been working any job I can get my hands on – pizza places, McDonalds – but it’s not enough,” she said. “It’s getting serious, it’s hard to feed him. Even when I have a place to live and am working, it’s hard.”

Karen Theriault, the director of communications at Feed Nova Scotia, says poverty is a reality too many Nova Scotians face.

“The data we receive from our member food banks throughout the year shows that 43,885 individuals were assisted by food banks in 2014 across Nova Scotia,” Theriault said in an email. “Of these, 13,846 were children.”

Shannon Graham and her son recently saw their situation worsen even more. They lost their apartment when the lease ended earlier this month. Since Graham was unable to pass a credit check to get a new apartment, the family has become homeless along with their dog.

They are currently staying with friends.

“I can’t find room at any shelters in the area and I can’t access a food bank because to do so you need a health card, but I don’t have an address they can send the updated cards,” she said.

Graham turned to Kijiji and posted an ad looking for anyone willing to help her and her son. She hopes to find anyone who can offer them some assistance.