Saint John tied with Toronto for highest child poverty rates
The Romero House soup kitchen serves hot food to about 300 people each day with more child clients.
The city of Saint John has tied Toronto for having the highest child poverty rates in Canada and groups working with those living in poverty say change is slow to come.
A coalition of community groups recently released a study showing 29 per cent of children in those two cities are now living in poverty. Saint John's rate had been stuck at over 28 per cent for a number of years.
The analysis is based on Statistics Canada’s After-Tax Low-Income Measure. It measures households living on less than half of the median household income after taxes.
The Romero House soup kitchen serves hot food to about 300 people each day and volunteer Phyllis Beckingham says more and more of the clients are children.
"A lot more children. Used to be more men and women, a lot of single men," she says. "But now we're getting single men, single women, parents with children."
The soup kitchen is only one of many. Lunch Connection feeds 500 Saint John school kids with help from business and church sponsors. The local Boys and Girls Club feeds another 100.
I've just seen them completing the cycle of poverty.- Shelly McCready, Salvation Army
The Salvation Army's Shelly McCready says those hurting most are single-parent families. She's now seeing kids she took to summer camp just five years ago who are now youth in trouble.
"And I've just seen them completing the cycle of poverty," McCready says. "I've seen one that's homeless. I've seen another that's a teenage pregnancy. So it's not stopping it's just continuing."
In recent years, more resources have been directed toward combating the problem. The business community is actively involved with the schools and students from UNBSJ are mentoring children. Living Saint John is an umbrella group made up of dozens of community organizations trying to tackle the problem in a coordinated way.
The groups agree, none of it will change the poverty rate in the short term but it should make lives better in the long term.