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Shoe donation inspires rally against poverty

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Dozens of pairs of shoes lined the front of the Legislature today at an event to call on the government to raise rental allowances for people on welfare.

The event, organized by Make Poverty History Manitoba, was attended by about 150 people.

"People have to decide, 'Do I eat or do I pay rent?'" said Marianne Cerilli, a program and policy analyst with the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg.

"The people are living very over-crowded situations, or really substandard housing, because they can’t afford the rent."

The coalition behind the rally is made up of more than 145 community organizations, said Kirsten Bernas, Make Poverty History's spokeswoman.

The shoe protest was inspired by Kris Doubledee, the Winnipeg Transit driver who gave his shoes away to a homeless man last year and earned widespread attention for his generous act.

They’re asking the province to raise the rental allowance to 75 per cent of median market rent, to keep pace with what they say have been skyrocketing rents.

Minister of Housing and Community Development Kerri Irwin-Ross said since 1999 there have been "major investments" to reduce poverty, including increasing benefits and stopping a "claw-back" of the National Child Tax Benefit.

"I’m not going to tell you that our work is done. We know that there are many Manitobans still living in poverty, and we need to continue to address those issues, and we know the best way out of poverty is through employment and education," she said.

According to the Manitoba Family Services and Labour website, single parents with one child getting income assistance receive anywhere from $700 to $1,256 per month.

That amount is based on both provincial and federal benefits.

That amount increases to $1,712 to $1,762 for single parents with two children.

A single person between 18- to 65-years-old without children gets $587 per month, says the website.

The person receiving the benefits chooses how to dispose of the money on things like clothing, food and rent.

Deanna Ng, a rally participant who was at the rally on behalf of the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities, said she had relied the EIA rental allowance in the past.

The 28-year-old legally blind woman had to rely on food banks to make ends meet.

"I soon got a job... so I was lucky. A lot of people don’t get as many opportunities and it’s very unfortunate for a lot of people," said Ng.

Derek Legge was at the rally because he said the amounts people on welfare get are "sadly low."

"I see around my neighbourhood in St. James more and more of the lower-rent buildings going condo, taking those units off the market," he said.

"I’m not relying on the system, I’m just looking at it and realizing that there’s a lot of people out there scrambling to find some reasonable, safe housing."

gabrielle.giroday@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Friday, January 4, 2013 at 4:28 PM CST: Updates with quotes.

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