Students take action against poverty

It may have been a rainy Tuesday evening on November 16, but several UTM students gathered for a discussion on poverty in Peel. The Women and Gender Studies Action Group hosted a café conversation to discuss issues of poverty and homelessness in Peel with light snacks and refreshments provided.

The WGS AG is a student-run group focussed on raising awareness about the WGS program and issues pertaining to feminism, gender, race, sexuality, politics, etc., just to name a few. Every year the WGS AG supports a local charity group with money raised from various events.

The café conversation was an attempt to wipe away negative stereotypes of poverty and homelessness. It aimed to share strategies to help with this issue.

After taking small donations and giving a brief introduction of the WGS AG, students delved into issues of poverty and homelessness. A short quiz was presented illustrating some of the facts surrounding poverty that many do not know. For example, in 2006, 15% of Peel residents were living in poverty.

There were many activities to help students become engaged with the seriousness of poverty. One activity included students receiving Monopoly money adding up to $585; this sum is the maximum amount of social assistance an adult can receive from the government on a monthly basis.

After distributing the money, various scenarios were provided to represent the various allocation of money and to acknowledge the divergent range of people involved in poverty. For example, an unemployed single mother of one has to pay rent (which in Peel starts north of $500), buy food, clothing, and medicine, pay for transportation, pay other bills, and take care of both her and her child’s necessities—all with just $585 a month.

Another scenario observed a disabled senior man without family and sufficient pension with less than $585. Very quickly students found themselves with no money and realizing the adversities.

The aim of this activity was to observe the various types of people who are subjected to poverty. There are many misconceptions that people in poverty and/or who are currently homeless are drug addicts or suffer from mental illnesses. However, this is not necessarily true. There are many factors that could lead to poverty, such as gender, race, age, class, disabilities, language barriers, newcomer status, and more. For many of these, it seems like a simple solution to just find some job for them; however, sometimes that’s not enough, since one can be employed and still homeless.

During the 2010/11 school year WGS AG are supporting the Peel Poverty Action Group, a non-profit organization functioning in Peel whose aim is to combat and raise awareness about poverty and homelessness in areas of Mississauga, Brampton, and Caledon. PPAG provides resources and services to people who are affected by poverty and the community at large.

Students wishing to find more information about the WGS AG are welcome to attend general meetings every Monday at 12 to 1 p.m. in NB 143, or they can find the WGS-Action Group on Facebook.

For more information on PPAG, students are asked to visit its blog at

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