United Way sees hope in addressing city’s issues

Poverty in Calgary is real and needs the co-operation of all levels of government and aid agencies to beat it says a United Way report released June 12.

“Agencies feel powerless to move families out of poverty given the complexity of the multiple issues facing families alongside major structural challenges” says the report From Getting By to Getting Ahead .

The findings are based on research primarily from the years 2011 and 2012 and comes at a time when local efforts to combat poverty are ramping up.

It contains a variety of recommendations to governments and stakeholder agencies.

“More employers [should] take a leadership role in ensuring individuals’ skills and education are adequately compensated with wages and benefits that enable families to meet their needs and save for the future” it reads. It may sound promising but it’s still up to businesses to decide whether they want to pay a living wage.

Dr. Loreen Gilmour is the director of Poverty Initiatives and Research for the United Way. She says government does have the power to affect some of the fundamental obstacles to getting ahead in Calgary such as income education and the cost of living.

“The premier and the superintendents and police force and ourselves are all very committed to really trying to get at some of the issues” says Gilmour.

She says the attitude that poverty is the victim’s fault is changing and that Calgarians are “savvy” enough to understand how difficult life in an expensive city like Calgary is for many.

“The time is right to make a dent on this. The provincial government has a poverty reduction strategy; we have one at the municipal government level. I think the agencies and United Way are very interested in working on this” she says.