London Community News
By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
According to finding in the latest Vital Signs report, London has a growing gap between rich and poor, troubling issues of child poverty and a significant lack of affordable housing.
The report, officially unveiledon Tuesday (Oct. 2), is undertaken every two years and is used to drive the grants that are the foundation’s main role in the community
Martha Powell, president and CEO of LCF, said the report looks at several key areas that have helped form the picture of a city that is in trouble.
“I would have liked to have seen some really great success stories. London has the potential for those, but I don’t think we are a community again,” Powell said. “We need to come together. We used to be a vibrant, cohesive community, but we have slouched.”
The Vital Signs report looks at six local issue areas, including the environment, gap between rich and poor, health and wellness, getting started, and the arts. There is a significant amount of information contained in the report, much of which paints a troubling picture.
Children’s Aid Society provided 865 children with in-care resources and provided prevention services to an additional 2,042 families in the community representing service to more than 4,000 children and youth.
Almost 11,000 households totalling an average of about 24,000 people, including all adults and children, received Ontario Works income each month in the first half of 2011. This represents approximately 6.6 per cent of London’s household and total population.
“This year, what we have seen is a growing gap, in London, between the rich and poor. We have higher incidents of child poverty in our community, it has doubled since two years ago, which is unfortunate,” Powell said. “We see our immigrant population, we have a huge and wonderfully vibrant immigration population coming to London, but we aren’t doing a very good job of helping them find work or integrate into our community.”
There are many what Powell would call “key findings” in the Vital Signs report.
London youth (ages 15-24) face an unemployment rate that in the first half of 2012 was 18.7 per cent compared to 17 per cent in Ontario and 14.8 per cent in Canada.
Despite statistics that show over 50 per cent of London’s immigrant population have a university degree — twice the proportion of the Canadian born population at 22 per cent — 51 per cent live below the low-income cut-off.
Forty per cent of homeless shelter users in London present with mental health and addiction issues.
The average wait time for affordable housing in London (meaning social housing or rent-geared-to-income) is 8.2 years.
In 2010, the incidence of child poverty in the London census area was 12.1 per cent compared to eight per cent in Ontario and 8.2 per cent in Canada.
There are areas, Powell said, where London is fairing better. The city’s senior population “isn’t doing too badly when it comes to poverty,” is doing “fairly well in the environment” despite having “unacceptable” air quality issues and “a huge and vibrant arts and culture community that we don’t do enough to embrace.”
That arts and culture community as a whole is something Powell said the public needs to engage and develop. Powell also suggests that community could go a long way to creating a sense of enthusiasm and vibrancy in London.
Powell also said there is a food sustainability, or food security, issue in London. However, she also said that same issue is also an opportunity where creation of a food system that celebrates local farmers and producers could be used as a tool for replacing the losses in the manufacturing sector.
All the findings in the Vital Signs report paint the picture of where London’s problems are. What it doesn’t do, Powell said, is give solutions. However, Powell said the report does present opportunities for London residents to step up and make a difference.
“What I believe is that we need to come together as a cohesive, civic-minded community again. We need to really raise the bar in how we deal with the issues we have,” Powell said. “I hope this report is a call to action. We have a community that is wonderful, textual, has so much to offer, and I don’t think we are doing a good enough job at supporting that.”
For that to happen, Powell said London residents need to change a mindset that has developed where people become “very inward focused” and all-to-often show a troubling “not-in-my-backyard” mentality.
“This report isn’t meant to be a we can’t do anything, woe is us. We are asking people to go to our website, see what is there, talk about it, blog about it, tweet it, do what you can. If everyone has that kind of positive mindset, I think we can make a change,” Powell said. “We need people to be philanthropic, but we need to come together, work smarter, think smarter. That comes with leadership. We need to foster that seed in our community.”
Find us on Facebook: London Community News