Poverty pockets growing in suburbs

Published inToronto Star on Thursday October 25, 2012

Noor Javed
Staff Reporter

Behind the sprawling subdivisions and glossy condo towers being built in the GTA are the people who go unnoticed: The homeowner working two jobs to pay his mortgage, the single mother living in a basement apartment or the newcomer sharing a home with another family — or two

But policy makers and charitable organizations stress that because the problem is invisible, doesn’t mean it is non-existent.

In fact, it not only exists but in some cases — Markham-Unionville, Mississauga-Cooksville and Bramalea-Gore-Malton —poverty rates and child poverty rates are higher than the provincial average.

On Friday, Social Planning Toronto, the Alliance for a Poverty-Free Toronto and its sister alliances across region will release 53 riding profiles showing poverty goes beyond the downtown core.

“There is this perception that poverty is a Toronto problem, but this shows that there is poverty all across the Golden Horseshoe,” said John Campey, executive director of Social Planning Toronto.

“Who would expect that Markham would have highest rate of child poverty in York region?”

Last year, the group released detailed Toronto riding profiles, which showed that almost all had poverty rates above the14 per cent provincial rate. Child poverty rates soared above the 18 per cent provincial rate.

The city’s poverty rate is 24.5 per cent and child poverty rate is 31 per cent.

And now, the suburbs are catching up.

“It’s great to live here . . . but making it when you are here is getting increasingly harder,” said Daniele Zanotti, CEO of United Way of York Region. “I’d say it’s even harder to be poor in a place that is affluent.”

The biggest problem, said Zanotti, is that while York Region is booming, supports are lacking to help those in need. This is why there are only 120 emergency beds available in a region of one million.

“Last year, one shelter had to turn away 1,000 people because they had no space,” Zanotti said.

Peel Region, which has poverty rate of 14.5 per cent and a child poverty rate of 20 per cent, is focusing on issues of food and income security, affordable housing and transportation to address the problem.

“When you come to Mississauga, you don’t see poverty or people working in precarious employment,” said Anita Stellinga, vice president of community investment for United Way of Peel. “You see houses and neighbourhoods where these issues are hidden behind the four walls.”

Poverty rates

Markham-Unionville:

population living under poverty line: 17.2%

children (under 18) living in poverty: 22.5%

Bramalea-Gore-Malton:

population living under poverty line: 16.3%

children (under 18) living in poverty: 22.1%

Mississauga-Cooksville:

population living under poverty line: 22.2%

children (under 18) living in poverty: 31.6%

Oshawa:

population living under poverty line: 13.8%

children (under 18) living in poverty: 19%

Toronto:

population living under poverty line: 24.5%

children (under 18) living in poverty: 31.8%

*Based on the 2006 census using Statistics Canada’s low-income cut-offs, before tax

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