What's Going On? Poverty in london

How can something so loud still go unheard? One of the things that shocked me the most when I came to London was the stark wealth disparity in the city. Driving through some of the more affluent neighbourhoods, you forget that just on downtown Dundas is a completely different view. Recently an article was published that put into perspective just how real this problem is.

There’s poverty in every city, but not to the extent it appears in London compared to other cities of the same size. Poverty is measured as living below the “low income measure” (LIM) after tax. LIM is half the average Canadian’s income and

  • For one adult without children, the LIM is $17,824 per year
  • For one adult with two children, the LIM is $30, 301 per year
  • For two adults and two children, the LIM is $35, 648 per year


In London, 11,000 people are categorized as the “working poor” which means their income is below the LIM. You can have a job and still not make enough to live comfortably. London also has the second highest rate of working poor in Ontario. London is on the higher end of the spectrum for the percentage of low income households in Ontario, being 2 per cent above the provincial average. However, it gets worse. Extreme poverty is another issue in London. Extreme poverty is determined by halving the low income measure.

Poverty does not affect everyone equally. Poverty is just one of the symptoms of a legacy of unequal systems and oppression. The Mayor’s report London For All: A Roadmap to End Poverty (2016) found that indigenous peoples and newcomers are bearing the brunt. Around 41 per cent of indigenous people in London live with low income, while 21 per cent of newcomers live with low income. Other Londoners most likely to experience poverty are lone-parent families, children and youth, people with disabilities or mental health issues, older adults, and the LGBTQ community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer).

Even though multiple groups are affected, geographically London follows a pattern. Research done by Global News maps income and postal code. It is a useful resource for getting a glimpse into Canada’s richest and poorest neighourhoods. In London, it’s no surprise Masonville and Westmount area have higher incomes while the stretch between Adelaide St. and Highbury has the lowest. The concentration of low incomes in the East could be a result of a once-booming manufacturing and industrial strip that has moved out of the neighbourhood with no replacement.

The darker shades of purple show the higher income brackets, while the lighter shades of purple denote the lower income brackets.

It is important to note that while it may seem like poverty hangs in the background of London – many are aware of it. In fact, it has recently made its way into the day-to-day conversation of Londoners. With efforts such as the Mayor’s panel on poverty and the Poverty Over London awareness campaign, more people are talking about the issue instead of ignoring it. As the conversation flows, solutions start pouring in.

"While poverty affects individuals, it is not merely an individual problem. We all pay a price, both in the real dollar costs of healthcare and social services and in the emotional and spiritual burden that the existence of poverty places upon us." (London For All, 2016)

The Mayor’s panel on poverty created a report that listed 100 recommendations to help end poverty in London within one generation. It was a cumulative effort that came out of six months of research, student, and community consultation. It takes a local approach to the issue of poverty. It seeks to understand its impacts and the community opportunities for change.

One of the recommendations in the report was to develop an awareness campaign. Poverty Over London was the result. The website (www.ifyouknew.ca) and social media campaign has been widely shared. The platform shares statistics about poverty from local perspective, and hopes to “raise awareness about barriers and debunk myths and stereotypes” about poverty. However the overarching goal is to “make the middle class care so that they will be willing participants in the plan to eradicate poverty in a generation.”

One of the most effective parts of the campaign is hearing from those with the lived experience of poverty. The Circles Initiative run out of Bridges Out of Poverty is a highly successful program helping people break the cycle of poverty. Middle-class mentors, equipped with new perspectives and understanding of poverty through Bridges training, work together with individuals to help change their realities. It’s not a top-down structure, it’s people who’ve been there, helping people who are in a position they once were. It’s not a hierarchy, it’s friends helping friends. The Circle, made up of Allies (mentors) and Leaders, meets periodically to share success and resources, everything from interview skills to job searching. Issues brought up by the Circle then become areas for exploration by leaders and community influencers, fostering long-term solutions. Outside of formal meetings, allies and leaders meet in more casual settings like going for coffee or grocery shopping. By working together, with relative freedom, both parties can create their own path out of poverty. Circles has seen people go on to secure employment, start their own businesses, enroll in college, or other paths. Circles breaks down poverty alleviation back to people helping people. It’s all about building relationships across class lines, and everyone involved is transformed in the process.

Below is an interview from a Circles member that really highlights the lived experience.

Overall, the more we talk about poverty and bring it up in conversation, hopefully the harder it is to ignore and solutions will follow.

Created By
Stephanie Gordon

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