A Cumberland County organization remains committed to raising awareness about those living in poverty or facing barriers in their lives.
AMHERST – While significant gains were made in raising awareness about poverty, members of Empowering Beyond Barriers know their work is far from over.
“Empowering Beyond Barriers has an ultimate goal of eradicating poverty, but since we seem to have difficulty meeting that goal we spend a lot of energy creating awareness around poverty in our community, reducing stigma that accompanies poverty, advocating and trying to make life a little easier for those living with poverty or other barriers,” society president Colleen Dowe said during the organization’s annual meeting on Friday.
Dowe added the organization also works to empower people to advocate for themselves, use the resources available to them and look for ways to offer a hand up not a hand out.
The past year saw Empowering Beyond Barriers hold its fourth Pumpkins for Poverty event last fall and its third Imagine No Hunger event at First Baptist Church in November.
The largest project, the fifth Coats for Cumberland, was a huge success and continued to grow.
Dowe said homelessness has become a focus of Empowering Beyond Barriers.
“Last year our AGM focused on the reality of homelessness in Cumberland County, and from there housing has become one of our primary focuses,” Dowe said. “As we continued having conversations we realized dealing with homelessness was much more than emergency housing. To have an impact on homelessness we had to also consider affordable housing and safe housing.”
The group hosted three meetings on the subject including a July meeting with community partners to discuss housing concerns in the county, a meeting in September to discuss landlord-tenant rights and responsibilities and a meeting in February with representatives from the affordable housing association.
While some people may not think there is poverty in Canada, when compared to the Third World, Dowe said the organization must continue to raise awareness of the plight of those living at or below the poverty line.
She said statistics show child poverty rates have barely moved since 2006, while four million people in Canada used a foodbank in 2012 (1.15 million of these were children). Also, the 2013 Report Card on Child and Family Poverty showed 29,000 children living in poverty, while Nova Scotia has the fifth highest poverty rate in Canada.