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Income assistance recipients in Halifax to receive free bus passes

People on income assistance in Halifax Regional Municipality will receive free bus passes to help get them to appointments, jobs and school.

'A single parent who carries groceries home to save money ... can now hop on a bus,' says Mayor Mike Savage

More than 16,000 residents with low incomes in the Halifax area will receive a bus pass as part of a poverty reduction strategy. (Robert Short/CBC)

More than 16,000 low-income people in the Halifax region will get free bus passes under a new poverty reduction program.

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said extending transit passes to people on income assistance will help meet a basic transportation need while all three levels of government work together with the community to address broader systemic causes of poverty.

"Public transit performs a vital role in helping residents get to work, appointments, child care, school, along with enabling them just to engage more fully in their own community," Savage said.

"It's about mobility, it's about independence … it's about a single parent who carries groceries home to save money who can now hop on a bus, even if it's just a few blocks."

Bus passes in high demand

Rev. Elias Mutale represents the African Diaspora Association of the Maritimes, an organization that helps recent immigrants settle in the province.

He said newcomers face even more difficulties with poverty because they have fewer supports. In his office, which sees about 10 people visit a day, there's a high demand for bus passes.

"We have a lot of young immigrants whose resources from their parents are so limited that that bus pass is a prize item, so there will definitely be benefit," Mutale said.

On Wednesday, Communities, Culture and Heritage Minister Leo Glavine also announced $600,000 in funding that will be split among anti-poverty groups from now until the end of March.

"This is about communities being empowered to develop community solutions," he said. "This year, the focus will be on initiatives that ensure that Nova Scotians have adequate access to food and transportation.

Poor people often feel isolated

Marjorie Willison is chair of the Spryfield Community Association. One of the devastating aspects of poverty, she said, is isolation.  

"And if you don't have the money to pay for a bus trip, to get your groceries, to go for a job interview, to go to a doctor's appointment … then you are further isolated," Willison said.

"There are families that aren't able to pay for medication because it's either food or rent or medication. They have to make these horrible decisions. So if we can support them by reducing the need for money to get around to participate in society, that's one piece of the support system that low-income families can make such good use of."

The province will invest $20 million over the next four years into programs to reduce poverty.

About the Author

Sherri Borden Colley

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Sherri Borden Colley has been a reporter for more than 20 years. Many of the stories she writes are about social justice, race and culture, human rights and the courts.