AN anti-poverty coalition beseeched the Selinger government Thursday to "have a heart" and raise the rental allowance for those on welfare.
The allowance -- $285 for a single person -- has not been hiked in two decades.
A handful of members of a group called Make Poverty History Manitoba (MPHM) staged a protest in front of the legislative building during the noon hour.
They stapled hearts, reading, 'Have a heart, raise the rent allowance,' onto boards placed on the building's front steps. The coalition's members include the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, Winnipeg Harvest and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, among others.
Kirsten Bernas, a spokeswoman for MPHM, said the organization is pushing for a hike in the rental allowance in this spring's provincial budget. "It has been 20 years since we've seen an increase," she said.
The government has continually rejected the idea of increasing employment and income assistance (EIA) rental rates. Instead, it has focused its efforts on education, training and employment opportunities to lift Manitobans out of poverty.
Bernas said while her coalition applauds these efforts, they don't help everyone. Besides, she said, people need a decent place to live while they're going to school and preparing themselves for the workforce.
"There's no way people are going to succeed on that education, training, and employment path if they don't have housing," she said. "It's a prerequisite for success."
There are more than 60,000 people on social assistance in Manitoba, about a third of whom are children. Many recipients are single parents, and many have disabilities that make it difficult for them to work.
The coalition said government-built low-income housing is in short supply. And there are few incentives for the private sector to build such units.
Premier Greg Selinger arrived at the front of the building, along with an aide, as the demonstration wound down on Thursday.
"I love the display; it's very appropriate," a smiling Selinger told demonstrators, referring to their Valentine's Day theme. He then ducked into the building without addressing the group's concerns.