Reprinted with permission from the Kingston Whig-Standard, December 1, 1995
There is a major crisis brewing in Kingston that you can help to avert. We've been reading about Premier Mike Harris's welfare cutbacks. You may wonder how people on welfare will manage with 21.6 per cent less money each month. You may wonder how you would fare with that kind of drastic drop in your income.
You'd have to pay for the roof over your head first. Then you'd have to pay your PUC (Public Utilities Commission)) bill, or you'd be without water, without heat in the cold weather, without light. After that would come food. You'd think: "Well, if I run out of food, I can go to the food bank." But that is where the crunch lies.
Right now, the food bank gives out food to between 900 and 1,000 families each month. It anticipates that by December or January, the requests for food will increase by something like 300 per cent. With its present resources of food and money, the food bank will not be able to cope with this demand.
People will become desperate to feed their children and themselves. Criteria will have to be more stringent to determine who can receive food, and who cannot. As it is now, the food that a family receives can only be given once a month, and the food only lasts between three and five days, so it hardly can make up for 20 per cent less money to spend.
By January or February, we may see people being evicted from accommodations they can no longer pay for. We may see hungry children in school, unable to concentrate and learn because they have had no breakfast. We may see people who have always managed to stretch their small income now unable to do so, and, for the first time, knocking on the food bank's door. We may see people who have not been able to find work (and how many of us know well-qualified individuals who simply cannot find a job?) casting about desperately for money, taking anything at pitiable wages and awful working condition just to survive.
What would you do if you were starving? Would you steal? Would you get depressed? Would you turn to drink? Would you have to move in with other people and face all the challenges that presents? Would you be more apt to get sick? Would you end up stiff and cold in a snowdrift?
Are we painting a bleak picture? Yes, we are. Do we want starving people in Kingston? Is it possible in our fair city? Yes, it is, because the food bank simply does not have the resources to cope with the coming deluge.
Can you do anything about this? Yes, you can. The first thing is to write to Premier Mike Harris, telling him what you think of his taking money from the people with the least income and least political clout.
Secondly, think about whether giving a cheque for $10 a month (or $20, or more) to the food bank would be a big sacrifice for you. Maybe it would. Maybe you call this compassion. Maybe it is what Canadians are known as all over the world - a compassionate people. You could mail these cheques to the Partners in Mission Food Bank, 412 Bagot St., Kingston, Ontario K7K 3B9.
Tanya Beeler, director of the food bank, provided the information in this letter. One of her concerns is that people in Kingston will give less because they are worried that the next cheque they get may be the last one. Certainly, more organizations whose fund have been cut will be competing with each other for donations. We'd like to prove to her that Kingstonians do not forget those who are hungry. Our theory is that with a bit of thought and planning, each of us can afford $10 a month, and if things get worse, we can call up the food bank and get back our post-dated cheques until our situation improves. Ms. Beeler is very worried. So are we.
This is your chance to do something directly to help your community in a tangible way. It will benefit you as well. A good deed multiplies.
It is important to remember that this is a stop-gap solution. More food banks and soup kitchens are not ultimately the answer to balancing the provincial budget. We urge people to become more and more informed, to get involved, to give money, food and time to the food bank while also sending a deluge of letters to Mr. Harris. Do it. Now is the time.
Ontario Association of Social Workers