1 in 4 Windsor-Essex youth living in poverty, United Way says

The United Way says that about one quarter of the youth in Windsor-Essex is living in poverty.
The United Way says that about a quarter of the youth aged 17 and under in Windsor-Essex are living in poverty. (CBC)

The United Way says that about one quarter of the youth in Windsor-Essex is living in poverty.

That startling statistic is included in a new report entitled Overcoming the Odds, which provides a snapshot of this group of people and the challenges they face in their day-to-day lives and on their path to adulthood.

According to the United Way, there were 19,900 children under the age of 17, who lived in families where the income was half the median after-tax income, or less than that, during the 2013 tax year. To put that number in perspective, a group of that size could fill nearly half of the seats in Detroit's Comerica Park.

The United Way further says that when looking at children who come from single-parent homes, the proportion of youth living in low-income households climbs even higher. More than half these kids are in this low-income group.

Lorraine Goddard, the CEO of the United Way in Windsor-Essex County, said the scope of poverty within the region is "really very substantial" and lasting.

"It is intergenerational. Poverty is a real issue for us in Windsor," she told CBC Radio's Windsor Morning in an interview, which can be heard here.

'A growing problem'

Unfortunately, the poverty issue has deepened in Windsor-Essex over the years. Goddard said the region has lived with a higher rate of poverty when compared to other parts of the province.

"It is a growing problem and we know that our economy in Windsor is really stagnant and often the jobs that are coming into our community are much lower-paying as well, putting more and more pressure on families and on children," said Goddard.

Frazier Fathers, the manager of community impact and learning at the local United Way, said the one-in-four statistic in Windsor is "staggering," leaving the region above the provincial average.

"Poverty is somewhat hidden in Windsor-Essex County," he said. "One in four kids is growing up in poverty and that kid is a step behind those other three kids in achieving their potential."

The report from the United Way outlines the many challenges children living in poverty face. Some have to do with the obstacles they face in their personal lives, while others extend into their work at school.

"When you think about the impacts of poverty and our report really starts to kind of dissect that, you know those challenges that these young people face as it relates to, you know, the time that parents can spend with their children if they're living in poverty," Goddard said.

"If you think about families who are, you know, worried about whether they have enough food on the table for their kids and a roof over their heads, you know the ability for them to focus on other things in terms of helping their kids in school becomes really compromised."

Goddard said these children also face stresses of living in poverty that put pressure on their lives as well. That can hurt their ability to achieve in school.

Education key to future success

With education providing the main pathway out of poverty, Fathers said the opportunity for a child to go onto post-secondary education can "have a dramatic impact on their potential life."

The report says that students who attain trade or apprenticeship training, without any college or university study, will make more than $11,000 a year, on average, than a high-school graduate.

Fathers said that jump in income can be life-changing.

"For that one more year of education [in trades], ...they'll have the additional income that'll be able to lift themselves out of poverty, be able to lift their families out of poverty and ensure that they break that cycle of intergenerational poverty."

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