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This article was published 23/4/2015 (2144 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Anti-poverty groups called on the Manitoba government to ramp up efforts in addressing the gap in housing assistance for those living in poverty this afternoon.
Make Poverty History Manitoba and Right to Housing groups, as well as members from Canadian Mental Health Associations around the province, gathered on the steps of the Legislative Building with a simple request to the NDP government: make poverty reduction a priority in the next provincial budget.
"We are making good progress in Manitoba when it comes to (social) housing and now is not the time to go back," Make Poverty History spokeswoman Kirsten Bernas told the over 200 people in attendancem nay sporting signs like "Jets have a home. I don't" and "Fight poverty. Not each other."
Bernas said that well over 100,000 Manitobans are living in poverty, a nearly 1-in-10 ratio that is unacceptable by any measure.
"Not all those households are going to be on Employment and Income Assistance, not all of them are going to be living in social housing," she added. "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.
"Low-income housing and rent assistance remains a big priority for the community."
Thursday’s message from Make Poverty History was two-fold: they are asking for an increase the Manitoba housing budget by $30-million and an increase the maximum benefit to 75 per cent of the median market rent.
The Rent Assist benefit, which came out of the 2014 budget, is a program that specifically helps low-income families cover the cost of rent. According to Make Poverty History Manitoba, those benefits increased to a top end of $70 last year - well short of the $150 to $350 range needed to reach the 75 per cent benefit target.
Finance Minister Greg Dewar will present the 2015 provincial budget next week. The Minister did address the crowd briefly on the steps of the legislature but didn’t make any promises by way of funding increases.
Dewar hinted that anti-poverty groups and low-income families would be "very happy" with the coming budget announcement