On April 25th, 2014, Freedom 90 York Region partnered with Kairos York Region to sponsor a workshop on poverty entitled "Turning the Tide on Poverty - From Charity to Advocacy in Ontario". The evening was a huge success. Thirty five people attended Trinity United Church on a rainy Friday night to discuss the issue of local poverty and what can be done about it. The discussion was lively, intense and meaningful as members from foodbanks, church groups, Habitat for Humanity, Homes First, schools government and activists tackled the complex issue of poverty and discussed new ways of addressing it.
Kairos is a coalition of 11 churches in Canada that works on social justice issues through research, policy development, education and advocacy. Their focus is ecological justice and human rights.
The evening started by profiling the level of poverty in York Region and was followed by a viewing of the movie "Turning the Tide on Poverty" produced by the Anglican Church of Toronto. The film was great and provided insight on a number of issues; social assistance rates, minimum wage, hunger, attitudes towards the poor, levels of poverty in Ontario, personal experiences of poverty and efforts to change government policy to better protect those living in poverty. The information was inspiring but also troubling. We learned that in affluent York Region:
We also learned there are a number of dedicated groups working tirelessly to improve the quality of life of people living in poverty through social action and education. The evening ended with two speakers: Debora Kelly, President of Belinda's Place, and Yvonne Kelly, Chair of Freedom 90 York Region.
Debora outlined the history of how the community mobilized to start the construction of a homeless shelter in York Region. The creation of Belinda's Place is an inspirational example of how the community can address the issue of poverty in a positive practical way. Yvonne outlined the goals and objectives and initiatives of Freedom 90 and how this group is working to reduce poverty in the community through advocacy, social action and education.
Overall the workshop and discussion was excellent and the members of Freedom 90 hope there will be other opportunities to partner with Kairos and other groups to lobby the government for systemic changes to reduce poverty in our community.