Nova Scotia

'The depths of the despair': CBC Cape Breton explores poverty in Northside communities

Information Morning Cape Breton visited North Sydney and Sydney Mines to explore the challenges faced by vulnerable people. CBC spoke with people living the experience and the groups and agencies that offer help and support.

'I don't think we have conversations about pride and dignity,' says anti-poverty advocate Dorothy Halliday

Rob Dolomont, a director of the North Sydney Food Bank, is one of the people trying to help vulnerable people in the area. (Yvonne LeBlanc-Smith/CBC)

Anti-poverty advocate Dorothy Halliday says poverty has reached a crisis state in two of Cape Breton's Northside communities, and people need to mobilize against it in the same way they would respond to a natural disaster.

"The depths of the despair, that's what I've seen really change in the last couple of years. That's a hell of a lot harder to get out of," she told CBC's Information Morning Cape Breton.

This month, Information Morning spent two days in North Sydney and Sydney Mines exploring the challenges faced by vulnerable people, including issues of housing insecurity, food insecurity and poverty. CBC spoke with people living the experience and the groups and agencies that offer help and support.

Besides the need for food and shelter, people spoke about a need for compassion toward those who are struggling.

Halliday is the executive director of Community Cares Youth Outreach in Sydney Mines, a non-profit organization that provides programming and assistance to people living in poverty.

She said the conversation around poverty is missing an important element.

'Pride and dignity'

"We talk about food and we talk about shelter, but I don't think we have conversations about pride and dignity," said Halliday.

Darcy Hemmings recently moved back to Cape Breton from Alberta. He lives in North Sydney and said it's a struggle to find work.

He, his wife and two children are getting by on social assistance and he said sometimes the most difficult part is the way people in his situation are treated.

"You go certain places and people like to judge sometimes," said Hemmings. "You know, the only one who can judge us is God, nobody has the right to judge anybody."

Stigma is also a big issue for people struggling with addictions, said Brenda Jessome. She lives in Sydney Mines and raises money to help struggling addicts with things like food, clothing and transportation.

Lack of compassion

Her daughter was addicted to drugs.

"Nobody has compassion for struggling addicts, nobody," said Jessome. "They treat them like they're nobody and they are, they're somebody ... addiction takes over, but they're still somebody, they're still in there."

In both his work as a Cape Breton Regional Police officer and as lead volunteer with the Clifford Street Youth Centre in North Sydney, Paul Ratchford sees the effects of poverty daily. 

"The collateral damage is, 'Do we have any toothpaste? Do we have any toothbrushes?' I mean, we've got kids who are 10-12 years old who have never had a toothbrush," said Ratchford.

"You know, what's their laundry going to be like? If you can't afford food, well, they're not worried about soap to wash the clothes."

Listen to the interviews below. They are listed in the order they were broadcast.

We begin our series focusing on the challenges faced by vulnerable people on the Northside. When some Cape Bretoners fall through the cracks, the Clifford St. Youth Centre in North Sydney is there to help lift them up. We visited the centre... Paul Ratchford is a constable with the CBRPS and the lead volunteer there; Brandy Burke and Jason Hawley live in the Clifford St. Housing development. Their children attend the centre. 14:49
As part of our series focusing on North Sydney and Sydney Mines... we explore the challenges faced by vulnerable people on the Northside. Do you know where you're going to have lunch today? Thanks to the work of the Community Cares Youth Outreach Centre in Sydney Mines, many Cape Bretoners can say--with great relief--yes. Meet an outreach worker and volunteer with the hot lunch program at the Centre. 6:10
We continue our series exploring the challenges facing people who are dealing with poverty and housing insecurity on the Northside. Today, we highlight one of the pillars of support for people in the community: The Sydney Mines Food Bank. Sharon MacLean is the Chair of the Sydney Mines Food Bank Society. 5:56
 
Our series exploring the challenges faced by vulnerable people on the Northside... including issues of housing insecurity, food insecurity, and poverty, continues... we meet two women struggling with housing insecurity. Dawn Porter lives in Sydney Mines, and Katie Sampson lives at the Clifford St. Housing Development in North Sydney. 11:20
Many people face issues of housing insecurity, food insecurity, and poverty on a daily basis. As our series on the Northside continues, we hear from people in the community who offer help and support to our Island's most vulnerable. One of them is George MacDougall, President of the local chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Sydney Mines. 4:44
We continue our series looking at life on the Northside for many vulnerable Cape Bretoners... Dr. Joan Salah is a family doctor in North Sydney, she works in the youth health clinic at Memorial High School in Sydney Mines and sees first hand the challenges young people face. 7:51
 
In this part of our Northside series, meet a pair of Grade 10 Memorial High School students who are encouraging younger students to volunteer in a program they call - "Kids Care". Founders and organizers of the unique project, Rebecca Handley and Lily Murphy are seasoned volunteers in their communities. 7:46
We have been spending time on the Northside exploring the challenges faced by vulnerable people. The Family Place Resource Centre in Sydney offers programming at the Community Cares Youth Outreach Centre in Sydney Mines. Family resource workers Vicky Sheppard and Debbie MacLeod run a group called "Connections" - helping Moms who experience or have experienced inter-personal violence, develop healthy relationships. 6:52
As part of our series of Northside interviews, hear a conversation with two young mothers who are working on breaking the cycle of violence or unhealthy relationships in their lives, especially when it comes to dealing with their children. They are participants in the "Connections" group through the Family Place Resource Centre. 8:28
 
Now, more from our Northside series... yesterday, we heard about a program offered by the Family Place Resource Centre that helps Moms. Today, learn about a similar support program for dads. Lisa Carr delivers parenting education programs for the Cape Breton Family Place Resource Centre. 6:26
In our series on vulnerable people on the Northside... meet a Cape Breton dad... back from Alberta, managing his way through some family tragedies... out of work and trying to find a way for his family to get by... Darcy Hemmings is originally from Whitney Pier, and now, lives in North Sydney. 7:07
An in-depth conversation with Dorothy Halliday - executive director at Community Cares Youth Outreach in Sydney Mines - about what she sees on the ground when it comes to the real effects of poverty, and the daily experience of the people she serves. 10:34
 
In our continuing series focussing on the Northside, we meet a couple of key figures at the Nova Scotia Works office in North Sydney who go beyond just helping people find employment. Jackie Holmes is the Executive Director, and Sharon Ings is a certified career practitioner. 6:45
In our special series of interviews exploring the challenges faced by vulnerable people on the Northside... meet a Cape Bretoner who's been trying to come back from a life of crime and drugs... and trying to help others to do the same. BJ Holland is a recovering addict in North Sydney. He maintains a facebook page and a YouTube channel called "Soberlife Livelife". 7:17
While spending time on the Northside, we spoke to many people about the various issues facing vulnerable populations, including addictions. Brenda Jessome is a small business owner in Sydney Mines, in her spare time, in part to help her deal with the death of her daughter, Dana, she raises funds and helps people dealing with addictions in her community. 6:34
 
One of the most pressing problems for parents with young children is finding affordable child care. As we continue our series of snapshots of the lives of vulnerable people on the Northside, we visit Munro Academy's Early Learning Centre in Sydney Mines which is the first in the area to offer licensed day-care services for infants and toddlers. 6:33
Our Northside series continues... earlier in Part 13, we introduced you to the people at Nova Scotia Works in North Sydney, an agency of the province that helps connect people with employment. Today, executive director Jackie Holmes, and mental health champion Sharon Ings, tell us about a unique feature in their office... an idea that has caught on around the Province. 5:22
As part of our special series exploring the challenges faced by vulnerable people on the Northside... we've been meeting the organizations who provide supports to these communities. Today, we visit the Five Eleven Youth and Family Centre in North Sydney which provides space and after-school programming for local youth. Megan MacLeod, a volunteer at the Centre, gave us a tour of the building. 16:30
 
More from our Northside series... today, we catch up with a few more of the kids from Clifford St. Youth Centre in North Sydney to talk about a project called "Hope Soap" - to help build emotional intelligence around issues of domestic violence. Landon Clark along with his friend Jack Caron attend the free after-school programs at the Centre. 6:06
As part of a special series exploring the challenges faced by vulnerable people on the Northside... we spent time at the Clifford St. Youth Centre in North Sydney, it provides free youth programming for kids. Youth worker Taylor MacDonald and some of the kids... tell us about a project called "Hope Soap" - to help build emotional intelligence around issues of domestic violence. 4:51

Please follow the links for the final four episodes in the series.

https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-24-information-morning-cape-breton/clip/15764382-northside-special-22-north-sydney-food-bank

https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-24-information-morning-cape-breton/clip/15764392-northside-special-23-ally-centre-outreach

https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-24-information-morning-cape-breton/clip/15764697-northside-special-24-northside-rising

https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-24-information-morning-cape-breton/clip/15764701-northside-special-25-the-pitch-for-a-community-hub-in-sydney-mines

About the Author

Nicole MacLennan

Associate producer

Nicole MacLennan is Information Morning Cape Breton's associate producer, responsible for pitching and chasing stories, interviewing and booking guests. She welcomes story ideas and information at nicole.maclennan@cbc.ca.

with files from Information Morning

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