More than 40,000 people in the Okanagan live below the poverty line.
And, according to the United Way, 21 per cent of households spend more than half their income on rent.
The shocking statistics include more than 3,000 people using local food banks last year–one-third of them children–and 1,600 children at Central Okanagan elementary schools who start their day with a donated breakfast because they don’t get one at home.
“The cost of living here in the Okanagan is high. Juggling competing demands from housing and food costs, to childcare and transportation, creates challenges on a daily basis. The added pressure of the holidays can make it impossible and extremely stressful,” says Helen Jackman, executive director of United Way of the Central-South Okanagan.
The United Way is an umbrella organization that supports more than 50 charitable agencies in the region.
It recently connected corporate donor GRM Inc. with a single mom and daughter to help give them a very special Christmas. And its Pushor Mitchell United Way Day of Caring saw 23 corporate and student groups tackle 50 charity projects, involving 310 volunteers.
Just last week, a group of UBC Okanagan students from the JDC West program volunteered at Karis Support Society, a home for women in recovery. They prepared and served a holiday dinner for more than 50 residents, staff and alumni.
B.C. has some of the worst poverty rates in the country, and the federal government has set a target to reduce poverty by 50 per cent by 2030. To help meet that goal, the United Way is committed to building a local strategy to tackle poverty in our community.
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