09 Sep Who is hit hardest by rising inflation?
Low-income households are being hit hardest by inflation; more people forced into homelessness
According to Statistics Canada, the increased rate of consumer inflation this past June hit 8.1% year over year. This represents “the largest yearly change since January 1983.” Over the past few months, we have seen increases at the cash register in everything from the cost of groceries to car parts. We are all feeling it as our purchasing power has been negatively impacted; as a result, have had to make decisions both big and small as we manage our household budgets.
For many, this means trying to save at the grocery store by choosing the cheaper brand of macaroni over the name brand stuff. Or, making a cup of coffee at home before heading into the office rather than picking up their daily double-double at the drive-thru. Or, even putting off that family vacation or buying a new car for another year.
Are these decisions inconvenient? Yes. Is it annoying? Yes. Can it be disappointing? Absolutely.
But who is it that is most impacted by soaring interest rates? Sadly, although probably not surprisingly, it is those of us least equipped to weather the storm that are being hit the hardest.
The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness recently shared an article with the headline “Low-income Canadians are hit the hardest by rising inflation rates.” It was based on a report by the University of Calgary entitled “Income Support, Inflation, and Homelessness“. Some of the key findings from the report are as follows:
“…the benefits (OW/ODSP or fixed income) paid to a single person living on their own is rarely sufficient to meet the cost of rent and food, never mind the cost of other necessities.”
“…if there is little income left over for other of life’s necessities, one might rationally choose to forgo conventional housing and try one’s luck doubling up with relatives or friends or temporarily using a city’s shelter system.”
“…a healthy diet is a more expensive diet both in terms of cost and the time required to prepare meals … adjusting to a less healthy diet, while saving our hypothetical family on their food budget, eventually imposes costs on the health system as the consequences of that diet appear in the form of poorer health outcomes.”
These findings are mirrored here in Simcoe Muskoka. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit reports that the number of people in our community dependent on social benefits, experiencing food insecurity, and in need of housing/shelter has worsened over the last two years. Increased inflation rates only make the situation worse.
We see this every day.
Recently when I was out running some errands, I came upon a gentleman panhandling outside of a local storefront. I handed him a toonie; he looked me in the eyes and said “Thank you. The last person who walked by called me a ‘junkie’ and told me to ‘get a job’.”
“They don’t understand,” he continued “I’m just going through a really rough time.”
There are so many in our community ‘just going through a really rough time.’
So, what can you do?
Advocate for change
Let your elected officials know that you want to see public policy that works for everyone. For example, even with recent increases to Ontario Disability Support Program and Ontario Works, those dependent on social benefits still can’t make ends meet. We need all levels of government to lean in and find solutions that will lead to long-term systemic change to support those experiencing homelessness and living in low-income households.
Support a charity
If you are in the position to do so, please consider volunteering or donating to a charity that is working to address these issues in your community. According to Canada Helps, 26% of Canadians “expect to use or are already using charitable services” this year. Coming out of the pandemic, charities are already over-extended with charitable giving declining by 12% from 2019 to 2021. Charities need your help so that they can help those with the greatest need.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, act with kindness and grace; at the end of the day, everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. More and more of our neighbours are “going through a really rough time.”
Chief Executive & Philanthropy Officer
United Way Simcoe Muskoka
When we work together on important community issues, the results are game-changing.