Sendzik takes next step in addressing poverty in St. Catharines
Mayor introduces poverty reduction advisory group
ST. CATHARINES — St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik has fulfilled a campaign promise by bringing stakeholders around the table in a bid to fight poverty in the city.
Sendzik has been working with an advisory group to look at the causes and symptoms of poverty through the Mayor’s Poverty Reduction Initiative. The advisory group includes participation from Community Care of St. Catharines and Thorold, Southridge Community Church, the Raft, the Niagara Public Health System, and local business leaders. The group has been meeting regularly to identify local, workable solutions to poverty.
“It’s an important component of building strong communities – tackling poverty and trying to stop the cycle,” said Sendzik.
The mayor said poverty is a complicated issue many people in the community live with on a daily basis, and it’s time to focus on solutions to assist those who find themselves living in poverty.
“I understand that we cannot quickly solve this problem and that there are many factors. I am committed to working together with community partners, service providers and the private sector to find creative solutions to the everyday challenges of poverty,” said Sendzik.
Bringing together not just the organizations that deal with the issue on a daily basis, but also local business and other stakeholders, is key to finding those solutions.
“It’s about focus. We brought leaders from different sectors to the table to help with the focus on getting to the systematic root causes of poverty,” said Sendzik. “With the representation of the different segments of the community we bring different ideas to the table.”
Some of the numbers locally are eye opening. According to the Niagara Poverty Reduction Network, 185 people are homeless each night in Niagara and 78 per cent of people living in poverty work full time. Last year, the YWCA housed 685 women and 155 children but still had to turn away 527 women from emergency shelters due to lack of space. Community Care distributes 20,000 lbs of food in St. Catharines and Thorold each week and 40 per cent of the food bank’s clients are children and youth under 18.
Earlier this year Sendzik, along with other partners, attended a national Poverty Reduction Summit in Ottawa to observe how municipal governments can work with community partners to address poverty with a local approach. The Mayor’s Poverty Reduction Initiative has been influenced by the successes shared by participants at the Summit.
“While there are no quick fixes, as a city we have the tools within our means to lead in areas like public transit, affordable housing, job creation and developing a compassionate approach to those caught within the poverty cycle,” said Sendzik. “We need to be innovative in how the city approaches its role to break the cycles of poverty, and that has been the advice provided by those working on the front lines of poverty in our community through the Mayor’s Poverty Reduction Initiative.”
Sendzik said there are many groups and networks doing great work to provide housing and support in St. Catharines, and the advisory group will continue to meet with service providers and community groups to develop a work plan for the Mayor’s Poverty Reduction Initiative over the coming months. The plan will be one that can be implemented outside of whatever support comes from upper tiers of government.
“We need to build something in our community — start grassroots and focus on building a compassionate city,” said Sendzik. “This is the critical piece, I think, is missing right now. We need to look within our direct scope at how we can have an influence.”