It has been a busy week for poverty research. Tuesday, Winnipeg Harvest and Campaign 2000 released their annual child poverty report card. The report found child poverty to be among the highest in the country, with nearly one in three children below the Low Income Measure in 2013. Their research showed poverty to be increasing in Manitoba at a rate above the national average.
Wednesday, the Winnipeg Street Census, a project coordinated by the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, released its preliminary results. It found that on the night of October 25, 2015, there were at least 1,727 people experiencing homelessness in Winnipeg, including 475 people either without shelter, staying outdoors or in temporary emergency shelters. Three quarters of those surveyed identified as Indigenous. Low income was cited as their biggest barrier to finding housing.
Thursday, the Manitoba government released its ALL Aboard 2014/15 Annual report. The report charts progress on 21 different indicators of poverty in Manitoba, including housing, education, jobs, families, and health. The report shows that since 2009 “there has been improvement or stability in 17 out of 21 indicators,” and that there were 5,000 fewer people in poverty in 2013 compared with 2012.
These results may seem contradictory. They measure different variables and show somewhat divergent trends. Different surveys, indicators and family compositions, as well as whether on-reserve First Nations populations are included, can affect the results of poverty measurements. These data remind us statistics can provide only partial depictions of the reality of poverty.
The stories of people who live with poverty tell us their experience can often be harsh and dehumanizing. Angelica, a participant in a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives research project informs us: “It takes all day to be poor, and night also.” Poverty “can also bring back memories of hunger, thirst, being so alone, shame I’m broke. Sometimes I’ve cried because of the other illness that I have.”
So long as stories like Angelica’s need to be told, Make Poverty History Manitoba will continue to advocate for the eradication of poverty, regardless of what other numbers tell us.