The Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition launched a week of activities raising awareness about poverty and homelessness on Oct. 17.
The Poverty and Homelessness Action Week activities are being organized around the theme “healing hearts, building relationships.”
Representatives of groups working to alleviate poverty and homelessness in Whitehorse spoke about the problems the territory is facing but also the importance of healing and heartfelt contributions from community members.
Ulrike Wohlfarth Levins, who identified herself as a graduate of the anti-poverty coalition’s Voices Influencing Change, a group that trains people who have experienced poverty to assist with advocacy work, described the coming week as YAPC’s busiest of the year.
“In the last six years, I have experienced many different things that I never ever thought I would. Poverty, homelessness and food insecurity can happen to any one of you at any moment,” Wohlfarth Levins said.
She suggested that the week be used for people to consider what they can do to help end poverty.
Jason Charlie, another Voices Influencing Change member also reflected on the theme of the week’s activities.
“Healing is life-long. It’s for the rest of your life. We need to talk about the root causes of the trauma that these homeless people go through on a daily basis. They’re in survival mode. They need support,” he said.
Charlie added that the territory’s homeless population is disproportionately First Nation as are the Yukon residents who are incarcerated and involved with the child-welfare system. He said acknowledgement of the history of First Nations people in Canada and the lingering stereotypes and harmful effects of the cultural genocide they faced is important.
He said cooperation among everyone in Whitehorse is required to build a community that is safe and healthy for everyone.
Jack Bogaart, another speaker at the kickoff event, also expressed the need for cooperation.
“We cannot be separating anything anymore, we’ll have to come together we have to work together. Everybody from every level will have to find that balance. healing begins with that balance. We move forward together. We don’t leave anyone behind. We have to walk together strongly. We can feel everyone’s pain equally,” he said.
He said increasing efforts to end homelessness should be seen as a point of pride that the Yukon can aspire to.
Also on hand for the start of the Poverty and Homelessness Action Week was Leila Sarangi, the national director for Campaign 2000, a coalition of organizations working towards the completion of a federal government promise dating back to 1998 when an end to child poverty by the year 2000 was pledged. She said Campaign 2000 is in Whitehorse to meet with community leaders and those facing poverty to identify challenges and solutions that her organization can help to amplify at the federal level.
Sarangi said the Yukon faces many of the challenges seen nationwide: An affordable housing crisis, issues with food affordability and access as well as minimum wages social and disability assistance programs that do not meet people’s needs. As for issues exacerbating poverty that are more specific to the Yukon, Sarangi said she has observed geographic disparities and services that are spread out and hard for people who need them to access.
On the other side of the equation, Sarangi said the Yukon’s self-governing First Nations are an asset in the fight against poverty that the rest of the country can aspire to.
The Poverty and Homelessness Action Week activities included a presentation to Whitehorse city council by Charlie and Wohlfarth Levins on Oct. 17. Council heard three potential actions that Wohlfarth Levins said “could make a huge difference” in tackling poverty in the city. Among them was welcoming and supporting a Goodwill clothing store in the city that would resell the large amounts of used clothing that now go to Raven Recycling and are shipped down south. The Goodwill model, she noted, also includes a model of hiring, training and employing people who can otherwise have difficulty finding employment.
She also suggested the city open a free store that would also employ staff using the Goodwill model as well.
Finally, Wohlfarth Levins called on the city to work towards speeding up building permits, inspections and other processes for building, particularly for affordable housing projects.
“There are many other suggestions and ideas that could be implemented by city council,” she said. “We at Voices are very interested in sharing our time and expertise if anyone on city council or administration would like to talk with us.”
Other Poverty and Homelessness Action Week events in the first half of the week included the all-day Whitehorse Connects event at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre and housing trivia at the Blood-Ties Four Directions drop-in.
Coming up later in the week is an unpacking child and family poverty in the Yukon panel discussion to be held at Yukonstruct from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 19. Campaign 2000 will be hosting a community conversation in Whitehorse on Oct. 20 and there will also be a wrap-up event for Patrick Jackson’s walkathon from Dawson City to Whitehorse held at the United Church on Main Street from 5 to 7 p.m.
A community conversation similar to the one in Whitehorse will be held in Carcross on Oct. 21.
Also on Oct. 21, a community barbecue will be held at the Sarah Steele Building, 609 Steele Street, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
A full list of events is available online.
Contact Jim Elliot at email@example.com