Inequalities in Niagara And How You Can Help Eliminate Them

Blog Contributor: Margaux Turk

The United Nations (UN’s) has developed 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals are important for everyone to have a better understanding of how climate change, inequalities and health issues affect everyone around the world, in a multitude of ways. Understanding all of the UN’s SDGs is important to be able to accomplish these goals, and bringing them to a local level can help make them more manageable and easier to tackle.

There are many steps that people can take to help accomplish these goals but in this blog I will talk about economic inequality. I will be focusing on income inequality, how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected people’s income as well as how income affects housing challenges, and what we can do in the Niagara region to help.

Before COVID-19 hit; the Niagara region was already one of the toughest job markets in Canada with an average of 73 applicants per job listing. As of May 2020 over 21,500 people in Niagara1 have either lost their job or been laid-off for the time being during lockdown . Businesses are shut down or have had to change how they operate because of the restrictions put in place by the government. These restrictions aim to try to get a handle on, and prevent COVID-19 from infecting more people than it already has. This unfortunately has greatly impacted the region’s economy as well as its residents.

The impacts of COVID-19 have been felt worldwide, it is estimated by the international Labor Organization that “nearly half of the global workforce is at risk of losing their livelihoods” 3. It is also estimated that we are likely at the verge of another global recession just as bad, if not worse, than the one that occurred in 2009. The potential damage will only increase during these unprecedented times where marginalized and poor people have been hit the hardest and have become more vulnerable and susceptible to these issues. Those who were already experiencing financial instability have had their issues exacerbated by the state of flux caused by the COVID-19 Lockdowns.

When businesses are able to open up in the future, the lasting effects of COVID-19 could potentially lead to even less job opportunities. This means that the numbers of people experiencing poverty will continue to grow instead of shrink, unless there is something we can do to help the people experiencing hardship. COVID-19 has had a far longer and drastic impact than anyone could have predicted at the beginning stages of this pandemic. It has lasted longer and affected everyone in different ways. Even those who were not affected financially from the pandemic likely have had their mental health impacted due to the stress and isolation caused by the ongoing lockdowns and restrictions.

In Niagara there are a plethora of things we could and should be doing to try and prevent the marginalized from suffering. One of the struggles individuals in Niagara face is the lack of affordable housing units. We have a severe lack of rental properties and are witnessing the continued increase of rental costs that are occurring across the region. One solution is to have municipalities in Niagara build houses and apartment buildings with the sole purpose of having them being affordable housing for local people and their families. Ways in which we can do this is petitioning, calling our local government to let them know this issue is not going unnoticed and we expect them to do something about it. The more attention we give to this issue the more likelihood of those in charge will pay attention and make a change.

With more affordable housing we will also be able to address and help those who are experiencing homelessness. There are over 500 homeless people in the Niagara region, almost 150 of them being children2. If we can provide adequate housing and better the shelters already in place for them it would be the stepping stone needed to start bettering their situation. The first step of this is ensuring that the current homeless shelters in place already are welcoming to all, treating people with kindness and respect, and have the resources and knowledge necessary to connect the homeless with appropriate social services and help anyone with mental health issues, disabilities or any other issues which may be making their progress harder.

If you yourself are a resident of Niagara or St Catherines and have walked downtown on St. Paul, chances are you have walked past many people who are suffering from homelessness. You may have talked to them, you may not have, but if you have then you may know just how human these people are. Something many people seem to forget when driving or walking past them.

While this blog has mainly focused on one aspect of the UN’s 17 SDGs (economic inequalities and housing issues), and while reducing inequalities and ensuring no one is left behind are integral to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (United Nations, 2021), it is important to note that all SDGs are interconnected and rely on each other. In other words you cannot complete one without also working on another.

To really eradicate the inequalities people are facing here in Niagara (and all over) we have to consider many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. These include SDGS one

(1) through ten (10) shown in the photo below. By focussing on all of these SDGs we can ensure that everyone has an equal start. And can ensure more can help the progress of sustainable development and all of the SDGs.

If you are interested in helping be the change but are unsure of how to start, take a look at this link to help give you some ideas on where to start. For more information on the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals follow this link to gain more information on the topic. If you are wondering what your business can do to participate this is a good place to start your research on the topic, and if you’re looking for another blog type post on the topics be sure to come back to read more blogs about the topic and check out this one which is already posted!

Please take time out of your day to view the UN’s website about the SDG’s and how YOU can change your daily life to help make life better for everyone and the planet we live on.

Things You Can Do

If you can, we should all carry something on our person in case you see someone who needs help, especially during the cold winter months.

Items can include but are not limited to: winter boots, jackets, mitts and hats, a new toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, dry shampoo, feminine products, non-perishable food or easy snacks such as granola bars or fruit like oranges, bananas, apples etc.

Donate to a local organization that brings these items right to those in need. If you don’t already, making these changes are necessary because “greater efforts are needed to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, and invest more in health, education, social protection and decent jobs especially for young people, migrants and refugees and other vulnerable communities”3.

References

1. Howard, G. (2020, May 08). Study shows 21,500 Niagarans have lost their jobs During COVID crisis. Retrieved January 17, 2021, from https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/news/niagara-region/2020/05/08/study-shows-21-500-niagarans-have-lost-their-jobs-during-covid-crisis.html

2. Niagara to get a count on homeless population. (2020, February 25). Retrieved February 17, 2021, from https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/news/niagara-region/2020/02/25/niagara-to-get-a-count-on-homeless-population.html

3. Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere – United Nations Sustainable Development. (2021, February 3). United Nations Sustainable Development; United Nations. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/poverty/