The real cost of poverty in Caledon
By Monty Laskin/Caledon Community Services
Inequities in the provision of services to communities exist, that is apparent. For example, a particular health service in one community might not exist in another. In Caledon, accessibility to healthcare relative to the south is more limited, due in part to the lack of public transit. Further, the provision of local specialist care has developed far more quickly to the north and south of Caledon than in our community. CCS is mindful of these challenges and we continue to work with our partner, the Central West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), to address them and improve healthcare for Caledon.
The health of our community’s residents is affected through myriad variables. From the vantage point of CCS, we believe that poverty has a particularly profound impact upon the health of our community’s residents. Those living on meagre incomes, people in Caledon who live in poverty, have their health compromised.
CCS is particularly interested in issues of social justice. Things like well-paying jobs, affordable housing, rent geared to income, food security, children’s nutrition, seniors’ isolation, youth employment and newcomer resettlement. There is indisputable evidence that when these things receive scant attention from a community, they literally kill people on a grand scale. Exaggerated rhetoric? Consider the facts.
Poverty is increasingly being viewed as a disease by healthcare professionals. Ask your local physician about their patients whose income is at poverty level and they’ll tell you that their health is being compromised by an inadequate diet, an inability to afford proper medication and a neglect of moderate health concerns that gradually become serious health concerns. All of these things knock years off your life; they compromise a child’s health; they cascade through a family like a cancer left untreated.
At a recent Halton conference on poverty, the opening remarks were delivered by a businessman. He made a compelling case for poverty reduction. His was not a moral imperative but rather, an economic one. He argued that we pour billions of dollars into healthcare but have a dismal record in providing an effective social safety net. He asked: What good does it really do to treat illnesses, only to then send patients back to the conditions that made them sick in the first place?
Undoubtedly, there is an economic argument for reducing poverty. Those who live in poverty get sick more often and their illnesses are of a longer duration. And the strain on healthcare is apparent. People who live in poverty have poorer nutrition, live in inadequate housing, routinely cope with increased levels of stress and have limited opportunities to take advantage of the good things that Caledon has to offer. The economic cost of these things is staggering.
But beyond the dollars and cents of this, the real cost to the community of Caledon is the opportunities lost. People living in poverty aren’t able to participate in Caledon, economically and socially, as much as they could were they better earners. Their lack of earning power might be about a lack of skills. So it’s no surprise that CCS is constantly focused on training. We work to create opportunities for those we serve. Rarely if ever do we just provide resources and send people on their way. “Helping people help themselves’ has been our monikers since we opened our doors back in the early 70′. Things haven’t changes that much.
Case in point: The Exchange, the new community hub we’re launching in Bolton, is a poster child for this CCS moniker. It reflects the popular Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” The Exchange will draw in our entire community and create opportunities for all slices of Caledon to partake in activities, develop new skills and create opportunities. It will reduce poverty in our community by working alongside many community organizations, service clubs, faith communities, businesses and champion residents. It will connect the dots between healthcare, nutrition, housing, employment, etc. It will inflict a serious dent in the costs of poverty.
The call to action on poverty in Caledon is one issued by many in this community. Those at the forefront, people who are talking, contributing and taking action, are people, businesses and groups who aren’t satisfied with a few initiatives that ensure survival but not much more. Surely Caledon wishes to reach higher than a benchmark that has hundreds of people in our community eeking out a survival existence.
That Halton conference businessman I alluded to earlier ended his remarks with a compelling story. It went something like this: Imagine you have an infection and see a doctor. She says you need 10 ml of an antibiotic for 15 days to clear things up completely. But because of poverty, she prescribes you 5 ml for 10 days. You’re going to feel a bit better but there’s no doubt you will need to be back for on-going refills of the antibiotic.
Do any of you run your business this way? Do we run our healthcare system this way? Is the Town this way? Why would we think it is okay to tackle poverty this way, with half measures and inadequate solutions? The real cost of poverty in Caledon is staggering. When the Exchange opens its doors this summer, we hope you’ll come aboard and help us put a serious dent in those costs to our community.
Monty Laskin is the Chief Executive Officer of Caledon Community Services