The Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the Mosaic Interfaith Out of the Cold (pictured) have planned a “Walk Against Poverty” May 12 to raise both awareness about poverty in the area. Photo from miotc.ca

York region charities work together to raise poverty awareness

By  Erin Morawetz, The Catholic Register
  • April 18, 2012

RICHMOND HILL, ONT. - Two York Region charities are joining forces to get the word out about an issue they say goes mostly unnoticed — the poverty that exists in this suburban landscape.   

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the Mosaic Interfaith Out of the Cold have planned a “Walk Against Poverty” May 12 to raise both awareness about poverty in the area and some much-needed funds.

Dawn Hayes is a volunteer with the St. Patrick-Markham conference of the Society of St. Vincent, a charitable Catholic organization that provides financial and emotional support to families in need. Her parish, St. Patrick’s in Markham, provides support to more than 30 families.

Hayes says many families in York Region suffer financially, more than people realize.

“Most people think that because the neighbour beside (them) has a home, the neighbour can afford the home,” said Hayes. “People don’t see that (many) people are buying homes that they can’t really afford. A lot of families are really over-mortgaged, or overfunded through credit cards.” 

Rehana Sumar is the executive director of the Mosaic Interfaith Out of the Cold, a coalition of faith-based communities that provide winter shelter to homeless people in the area. She says despite the growing demand for shelters in York Region, people are still oblivious to the need.

“People in York Region just don’t understand homelessness and don’t think it exists,” said Sumar.

Sumar says the way the area looks has a lot to do with the lack of awareness.

“Most of the homes in York Region are detached homes,” said Sumar. “We don’t have a lot of townhouses, we don’t have a lot of rental units, so I think the perception is that this is an affluent area.”

But Sumar said that isn't the case. Demand for shelters in the area is growing by 30 per cent each year as more and more families are finding themselves without a place to live. Mosaic is seeing the need for a daytime drop-in shelter that is open year round, but the problem, she said, is the funds are lagging behind the demand.

Both Mosaic and the Society of St. Vincent are hoping their Walk Against Poverty will make some positive change. Money raised will be split evenly between the two non-profits, and will go towards getting projects like a daytime shelter off the ground.

Both groups believe just getting word out about poverty in the area will make the walk a success.

“We really wanted to have a public event where we could bring all the coalition together plus the public to start the dialogue about poverty in York Region,” said Sumar.

Hayes hopes the inaugural walk at Richmond Green Park — which she also hopes will become an annual event — will also bring to light what the Society of St. Vincent can do for people in need.

“We want to open the eyes and the doors to the society in York Region so people in these basement apartments struggling and not getting assistance that could probably use us are aware that we’re there,” she said.

“We are here, we’re available, and we’re more than willing to help.”

For more information about the walk, see www.miotc.ca.

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