Laura Harris

Laura Harris

Poverty increasing

Poverty has become more visible in the community, according to those who work with the Summerland Food Bank and Resource Centre.

Poverty has become more visible in the community, according to those who work with the Summerland Food Bank and Resource Centre.

“There are lots of people living in not good conditions,” said Tara Hollas, resource coordinator at the food bank.

These include people living in motels or rundown accommodations, including some paying $700 a month plus utilities for homes with mould on the walls and broken windows.

She said one Summerland woman had to move her bed into the living room of her home, since she could not afford to keep the bedroom heated last winter.

In addition, Hollas said some of the food bank’s clients earlier this year included a homeless couple and two single homeless men. In addition, three single men were living in their cars.

While most of these people have since left the community, Hollas said she knows of two who are still living in vehicles.

John Bubb, president of the food bank, said the food bank’s homeless clients were temporary residents.

“They are by nature transient,” he said.

The couple had hoped to remain in Summerland since they felt safer in a quiet community than in a shelter environment.

Hollas said there are many more food bank clients who have housing, but are not able to afford the food they need.

“When people come to the food bank, they literally have nothing in their cupboards,” she said.

Cash donations are appreciated, since food bank staff are able to buy in bulk, at a better price than residents who purchase food items to donate.

Food donations, especially donations of canned goods and food staples, are always in demand at the food bank.

Hollas also suggested donations of jam, peanut butter, ketchup and cookies — items someone would forego on a tight budget.

“What really breaks my heart is when the kids come in with their parents,” she said. “People don’t realize the kids are hungry. There is actually no food for them to eat.”

Bubb said the number of people using the food bank has been increasing over the years.

From Nov. 1, 2014 to Oct. 31, 2015, there were 272 Summerland households served by the food bank.

The total number of people who received food bank donations was 581, up from 557 a year earlier.

Bubb said the biggest increase was in the number of single people requiring assistance. Over the past year, the food bank’s clients included 118 singles.

While social assistance is available for those in need, Bubb said the rates are low and have been locked in at the 2007 figures.

Since that time, costs have increased by 12 to 15 per cent.

“We need a fix,” he said. “The system isn’t working.”