The existence of poverty in our local community affects us all.
Poverty noun pov·er·ty /ˈpävərdē/
Poverty is a complex, systemic issue that involves financial, technological, educational, and mental health challenges, often compounded by racialization, discrimination, and inequity that disproportionately impact marginalized communities.
There are different ways to classify poverty, ranging from generational poverty, situational poverty, to urban poverty. Here is an excerpt from Dr. Kenya Wolff, PhD (Early Childhood Education)1.
Another type of poverty we want to be aware of is chronic poverty, it is ongoing and can last for many years or even a lifetime. Chronic poverty is often associated with multiple factors, such as limited education, poor health, and inadequate access to economic opportunities.
1 Continued. What Are The Different Types of Poverty? (Kenya Wolff, PhD)
The distribution and depth of poverty among Youth and their families in the Greater Toronto Area is
- Percentage of Youth (16-29) with low incomes across the Greater Toronto Area ranges from 8.3-27%, which is significantly higher rates of poverty than adults and seniors2.
- Social characteristics and risk factors that are often related to a person’s low-income status include:
- Age, gender, and family type (lone-parent families, and even greater likelihood of being in poverty when it’s female-identified lone-parent)3.
- Youth from racialized and immigrant communities are more likely to experience poverty in the GTA (34.5%) compared to non-racialized youth (21.4&)3.
2 Social Planning Toronto. The 2018 Toronto Child & Family Poverty Report. (Beth Wilson, Raglan Maddox, Michael Polanyi, michael kerr, Manolli Ekra, Anita Khanna)
3 Social Planning Toronto. Unequal City: The Hidden Divide Among Toronto’s Children and Youth (Michael Polanyi, Beth Wilson, Jessica Mustachi, Manolli Ekra, michael kerr)
The Poverty Trap is a vicious cycle where mental health problems, lack of opportunity and low self-esteem increase the likelihood of on-going or recurring poverty.
When we think about poverty, our minds turn to a lack of food, shelter and basic needs, but to escape the poverty trap, our Youth need to overcome additional barriers than simply getting the necessities.
Being racialized is the process where individuals or groups are classified and treated as different based on perceived racial or ethnic characteristic. It can occur even if there are no biological or genetic differences between the groups being classified.
Discrimination refers to unjust or prejudicial treatment of individuals or groups based on their membership in a particular social category, such as race, ethnicity, gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. It can take on many forms, from interpersonal, institutional, and systemic – and it can affect various areas of life from education, employment, housing, healthcare, and criminal justice.
It’s nearly impossible to not have unconscious biases. They create additional barrier for many of our Youth in obtaining the successful future they dream of. Canada has had anti-discrimination legislation since before any of our youth were born4 and yet 69% of our Youth participants say they have experienced being racialized on one or more of these bases.
4 Government of Canada. Rights in the workplace. (2022)
Even before the pandemic pushed so much of business, learning, and life online, access to secure, reliable technology and internet service was a necessity to
🍎 reduced food & health vulnerabilities
📈 increased economic opportunities
📚 enhanced educational opportunities
💰 greater access to government services, financial services, news, other information and resources
Low-income household and racialized communities are among the groups that are disproportionately affected by the digital divide in the GTA. These groups may experience limited or no access to high-speed internet, lack of digital literacy and skills, and insufficient across to the digital devices.
Some essential life skills (such as communications and problem solving) are developed early in life through interactions interactions with family members, peers, and caregivers. Others (such as financial literacy and time management) may be developed later in life through formal education, work experience, or personal pursuits.
In our teen and early-adult years. We learn them at school, from family members and within our communities. We may make mistakes, with the security of that ‘safety net’ to catch us. This might be something as simple as how to open an account or pay a bill, how to apply for a job or make a simple presentation; or developing more involved skills in budgeting, investment and self-presentation.
But for the most vulnerable members of our society, there is no safety net and those years are lost in the struggle for necessities.
Our lived experience is a strong factor shaping our mental health. When we reflect on how we grew up and what were the messages we’ve been told growing up about if we belong, if it fit in (or not fit in), if we are valued (or not valued), what we did to be praised, or how we were treated when we made a mistake. Examining if those belief are
If Youth are struggling with their mental health, with feelings of hopelessness or a lack of self-confidence, no amount of practical skills training will enable them to build a story of success and to achieve their innate potential. Our coping skills start to develop as soon as we are born, and continue to expand through our lives. The neuropathways we build are directly impacted by the support we receive and/or the trauma we experience, and – like the more practical skills we learn – are learned from role models in our peer group, family and broader society. The demand for Youth Mental Health services is urgently required. Approximately 1.2 million children and youth in Canada experience mental health challenges, yet fewer than 20% receive appropriate treatment, yet Ontario’s mental health care system is underfunded by about $1.5 billion.
Is this the world we want to live in?
Or do we dream of a society where every person is able to dream of, and supported to achieve their own version of success?
The good news is that while it is possible to fall into the poverty trap at any point in the cycle. It is also possible to support young people from our local community to break the cycle of that trap by addressing each aspect of the cycle.