Manitobans rally to help the poor

Want anti-poverty measures in budget

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ANDREW Allary isn't asking for a lot.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/04/2015 (2774 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

ANDREW Allary isn’t asking for a lot.

The 57-year-old lives in a rooming house on Furby Street. He’s lived there for about a year. The house is generally clean, he says, but it’s cramped. It gets loud sometimes, too. He likes the people there, but it’s not what he wants.

“There are 23 rooms in the place, right now 20 people live there,” he said on the steps of the Manitoba Legislative Building Thursday afternoon. Allary was one of about 200 people who attended a rally asking the province to ramp up social housing and rent-assistance efforts for those living in poverty.

Anti-poverty advocates gathered near the steps of the Manitoba legislature Thursday to demand the Manitoba government make housing and rent assistance for the poor a priority in its 2015 provincial budget.

“I just have my own room,” he said. “There are four bathrooms, three showers, one bathtub, one stove in the kitchen… we have to all share that.”

Allary isn’t complaining, but for what he gets on a $306 monthly rent payment, it isn’t enough.

“I challenge anyone to live on what I’m living on right now. And with my rent going up again in June, it’s going to be that much tougher just to put food in my mouth.”

Thursday’s spirited rally, organized by the Make Poverty History Manitoba and Right to Housing groups, called on the NDP government in advance of the 2015 provincial budget to help the growing number of people in Allary’s precarious housing position.

Make Poverty History spokeswoman Kirsten Bernas said about 100,000 Manitobans are living in poverty — a nearly 1-in-10 ratio that resonates inside and outside Winnipeg.

“Not all those households are going to be on Employment and Income Assistance (EIA), not all of them are going to be living in social housing,” she said. “But housing is a fundamental piece of lifting people out of poverty. If you don’t have access to housing, it’s a lot more difficult to get into an education or training program, or to go to work every day.”

While the province has made strides in social housing over the last few years (a commitment to deliver 1,500 new units of affordable housing was met in 2014, plus the promise of an additional 500 units by 2016), Make Poverty History says more needs to be done, specifically with the rent-assistance benefit program.

Rent assistance, which came out of the 2014 budget, is a program that specifically helps low-income families cover private rent costs. According to Make Poverty History, those benefits increased to a high end of $70 last year — well short of the $150 to $350 range for EIA recipients under the 75 per cent median market rent goal. The province promised to hit the 75 per cent target in 2018.

Anti-poverty advocates gathered near the steps of the Manitoba legislature Thursday to demand the Manitoba government make poverty-reduction measures a priority in its 2015 provincial budget.

“People are barely getting by now,” Bernas said. “Our hope is for the government to speed up the process so that it doesn’t take three years to get there.”

Event organizers also called on the province to top up the housing and community development budget by $30 million to help sufficiently sustain existing social-housing programs this year.

Finance Minister Greg Dewar attended Thursday’s rally and addressed the crowd briefly on the steps of the legislature.

Dewar didn’t make any promises, but he did hint anti-poverty groups and low-income families would be “very happy” when the budget is released next week.

adam.wazny@freepress.mb.ca

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