By Aida Sadr
Now that the holiday season has come and gone, many Calgarians are getting ready to slip back into the apathetic slumber in which they reside for the other 11 months of the year. Every December, we are temporarily reminded that despite our "strong and vibrant" economy, there are plenty of Calgary residents who struggle to make ends meet. The local media does a great job of heavily promoting various good-will agencies, calling on Calgarians to donate food, clothing, toys and money to those in need. Being the "season of giving" and all, many rise to the challenge, often surpassing the agencies’ expectations with their generous donations.
However, come January, we somehow conveniently forget that the poor, homeless and/or hungry people who desperately needed our donations and who we were more than happy to help just a month ago need to be fed, clothed and sheltered all year round. Many organizations make it through the first few months of the new year by stretching the donations collected during the holiday season. But by August, the same agencies that were showered with donations in December struggle to meet the unwavering demands for aid. Why is it that we are so willing to give and so concerned for others’ well-being for roughly 30 days out of the entire year?
Despite what seems to be a popular belief, poverty is not eradicated every December, only to return in a year so we can all feel good by doing our part to help those suffering from it. It’s an issue that plagues our city 12 months of the year, year after year. In fact, poverty in Calgary is on the rise and our poverty rate exceeds the provincial average. Children and youth under the age of 24 and senior citizens over the age of 75 are hit hardest by poverty, as are women, single parent families, Aboriginal people and people with disabilities.
I am not suggesting that short-term measures, such as making a conscious effort to keep our Food Banks well-stocked and our Drop-In Centres well-funded year round, will permanently reduce the level of poverty. Obviously, strategies and policies, ones that work to either increase the income of families or to increase families’ earning power, must be implemented in order for any long-term impact to be made. However, like any long-term solution, it takes time. In the meantime, it is the collective responsibility of the haves to try and help the have-nots meet their basic needs… and not just during one month of the year.