Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly took part in a poverty challenge as part of a project seeking solutions around poverty in the region.
As part of the CommUnity Together to End Poverty project, community members were invited to take part in one of three challenges: Live off a food allowance budget based on social assistance for three days, use only public or active transportation for three days, or spend 12 hours in the community with no place to go. Manly chose the ‘nowhere to go’ challenge and spent 12 hours outdoors around Ladysmith, keeping to a budget of $5.40 for food.
“It went pretty well. It was a different experience,” Manly said. “The experience is a good one for leaders to take so they can see what it’s like to have nowhere to go for 12 hours and see how that feels.”
In a Facebook post, Manly acknowledged that his experience was not typical of someone experiencing homelessness. However, he did encounter some challenges being outdoors all day.
None of the public water fountains that Manly tried to use were operational due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He was able to use public washrooms at businesses without purchasing anything but acknowledged that many people experiencing homelessness cannot access washrooms as easily.
He attempted to work throughout the day but had trouble keeping his phone alive in the cold weather. The cold weather also made it difficult for him to stay in one place for too long.
“When I went to Transfer Beach I found the concrete picnic tables were really cold. Sitting on that cold space made my body cold and the breeze was cold … once you lose your body heat it’s hard to get it back. I had to walk around to warm up and try to find a place where I could be.”
Manly said the only warm place he could go was the Vancouver Island Regional Library branch. While there he was able to charge his phone and use a computer but was under a 30-minute time limit. Manly said that he was looking for places in town where he could pass time comfortably without being unwelcome.
For food, Manly grabbed a veggie chow mein, an apple and a banana for $4.52 from 49th Parallel Grocery.
“That was the one thing in the deli that I could afford,” he said. “I was trying to figure out what would keep my belly fullest for the rest of the day.”
By the end of the challenge, Manly was hungry, tired and cold. But he said the ‘miserable’ experience will inform his approach to poverty reduction policy.
Manly has long advocated for a guaranteed livable income for all Canadians. He said he will continue to push for a GLI to create an income floor for Canadians to meet their basic needs like food, shelter and clothing.
“The other thing I’ve been working on a lot is affordable housing, not just government funding for affordable housing, but structural changes to the way our housing market operates,” Manly said.
Another poverty reduction issue top of mind for Manly is making sure that people have access to healthy food. Manly said of all the poverty challenges, the food allowance challenge would have been the most difficult for him and his family to do.
Manly hopes the challenge will be replicated in other municipalities so community leaders have a better understanding of how it feels to live in poverty.