The Kaien Anti-Poverty Society (KAPS) is calling on the City of Prince Rupert to create a plan to address the many social issues facing the community.
Speaking at the April 28 meeting of council, KAPS chair Simona Ionita and KAPS manager Colleen Hermanson said the situation in the city is worse than residents may be aware of.
“I see people living in poverty every day and for me, coming from a third world country, I don’t want to see poverty in Prince Rupert. I don’t know how you sleep, but I don’t sleep well at all when I see seniors and children coming to our office on McKay Street to get food because they can’t afford it … everybody is saying ‘LNG is going to come we’re going to have millions of dollars’. LNG may be coming, but there are people living in poverty now and I don’t want to see them left behind,” said Ionita, pointing to one 70 year-old who has no money left after paying rent for the month.
“We recognize that we are on the verge of a boom, but with a boom bad things can come to the most vulnerable,” said Hermanson, who noted up to 50 bags of food can be handed out during one session of the group’s food share program.
The issues surrounding poverty resonated with those in council chambers, with some councillors agreeing to volunteer to help KAPS find solutions.
“I don’t think poverty is on our top five list for the community, but it should be … people talk about what they see in third world countries, but then you come back here and see people living in similar conditions and it is not talked about in Prince Rupert,” said Coun. Judy Carlick-Pearson.
Other councillors agreed and put much of the blame on the shoulders of the provincial government.
“We have to go after the province for social services because the system right now is broken,” said Coun. Gina Garon.
“We have already had one tragic event in Prince Rupert and we need to start coming up with solutions from within the community. I would like to see the province get involved, but they don’t seem to want to step up … people don’t realize just how much need there is in this community,” said Coun. Barry Cunningham.
Before leaving the speaker’s table, Ionita encouraged council to push harder for a treatment centre in Prince Rupert so those facing addiction don’t need to travel to Prince George for assistance.