Thursday, 4 June 2009

Action on poverty and homelessness

This morning we had the opportunity to tour some of the organizations working with poverty and homelessness in Halifax. I spent the morning with John Hartling of Community Action on Homelessness, and Green candidates David Croft (Dartmouth South-Portland Valley), Kris MacLellan (Halifax Needham), and Sarah Densmore (Preston) visiting a number of organizations on Gottingen Street.

This campaign has seen the parties talk about the global economic crisis, but precious little has been said about those living in day-to-day economic crisis. It was a pleasure to hear about the good work that organizations like the North End Community Health Centre, Community Action on Homelessness, and Metro Nonprofit Housing Association are doing.

We can do more for the most vulnerable members of our communities, and we must do more. In the immediate term, we have to start providing core funding to the organizations working to help the homeless. Too many of the social workers I met today were spending their time in the torturous process of grant writing, rather than actually using their training and skills to help those in need. If we are serious about supporting the essential work that these organizations do, we simply must provide them with stable sources of funding.

In the longer term, we have to do more as a province to develop holistic policies. Economic development strategies need to directly address poverty issues. Increasing our food security and our access to healthy local food will stimulate our agriculture sector and reduce health care costs, as well as addressing the challenges of those facing economic hardship. Iniatives focused on energy conservation and renewable energy will create jobs, decrease our dependence on expensive fossil fuels, and decrease the risk of heating emergencies and energy insecurity. This kind of holistic thinking is what the Green Party brings to the political process.

The work to eliminate poverty in Nova Scotia is a tremendous challenge, but it is a challenge that we must rise to meet. We have great wealth in our province, and we must make the political choices to value each person and ensure that we all have access to the basic necessities and the opportunities we need to build our lives.