Yukon homelessness and poverty getting worse, group says

A new study in Yukon says more people are struggling this year to get food and shelter and demand for food banks and social housing are on the rise.

A new study in Yukon says more people are struggling this year to get food and shelter.

On Thursday the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition released new figures that offer an insight into the lives of many people in the territory from the homeless to the working poor. ​

The Whitehorse Food Bank is providing food for more than 1,300 people per month this year. That's an increase of over 300 people from last year.

The Salvation Army serves an average of 5,000 meals per month this year. That figure is also 1,500 more than last year.

A program-on-wheels called the Outreach Van, which patrols the city of Whitehorse offering help to the homeless, is also reporting more encounters.  In 2011, the Outreach Van served 1,811 people. In 2012, they served 2,004
people. Organizers say this included 184 youth and 220 children.

Increased need

The report's authors say the conclusion is obvious — there is more need than in years past.

"Poverty is deepening, and hitting more families with children, and particularly women-led families," Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition's Charlotte Hrenchuck says. "That is the same as the trend throughout Canada. Women and children are the fastest-rising population of the homeless."

On his recent Northern Tour, Prime Minister Stephen Harper singled out training programs as being the most useful tool in fighting poverty in the North. He pointed to a new mining school at Yukon College as an example of that.

But poverty experts says programs like that can only go so far.

"Some people can't participate in the job market for a variety of reasons, for a variety of conditions," YAPC's Bill Thomas says. "They can't participate. So good jobs, more jobs, would have a big impact, but it's still a limited impact."

The biggest issue facing Yukon, the group says, is housing. YACP says people need a place to live and the waiting list for affordable housing is too long.

"We can continue to support people through food and emergency shelters and income security measures but we're not making for a healthier community overall," says Kristina Craig. "We need to start talking about the root causes and what we do about them."

Government help is a part of that solution, but the group says what's also needed is for people to go a little bit out of their comfort zone and volunteer.


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