Poverty is… food for the poetic impulse

By David F. Rooney
It’s not often that City Council gets to hear poetry; in fact, in 14 years of covering our local politicians I’ve never once seen them listen to poetry… that is until last Tuesday.
That’s when Social Development Coordinator Jill Zacharias and Michelle Cole made a brief presentation to Mayor McKee and Council.
Here’s the poem Poverty Is, written by Michelle and Madeleine Cole:
Poverty is… exhausting
Insidious behind everyone’s best efforts
People anxious, lining up outside the food bank on Friday
mornings half an hour or more before the door opens
Old men praying their trucks will keep running because
they can hardly breathe let alone walk to where they
need to go
Grandmothers taking care of grandchildren while parents
work more than one job and still find childcare a challenge
Families living in substandard housing, rotting roofs with
hanging ceilings in trailers too old to sell
Young people being creative working two or three jobs to
make it or even just stay in this town
Educational upgrading packing up and moving out to
bigger centres because it’s missing the mark
People giving up and becoming stereotypes
People who aren’t stereotypes wondering why it’s not
working, why they can’t work year round or make a living wage
It’s time for us to walk our talk about resilient Revelstoke
and make poverty reduction a reality.
Local governments are, as Zacharias noted, the closest level of government to the people and their all-to-real needs. Poverty and poverty reduction are on many people’s minds this winter. Gas for your car may be cheaper than ever, at least for a while, but the price of many products, especially imported foods are rising.
There is also no decline in the numbers of local families that need a helping hand from the Community Connections Food Bank to feed themselves. Zacharias told Council that local governments like Revelstoke’s are taking some steps to soften the impact of poverty on residents but more can always be done.
She is on her way to Ottawa in a couple of months to attend a national summit on poverty reduction and hopes to return with suggestions on what can be done in the future.